Redesigning a website can be as difficult as you want to make it. You can create a new design, port over the old content and you can be done.
Rebooting a website is much tougher. Because rebooting a website is about more than just redesign. It’s about rethinking how you do things, what you’re selling and what your visitors need. Rebooting a website is about architecture and building a digital brand that reinforces the best parts of the physical brand.
The Missouri State Parks website was a very static site. It got the job done, but it was hard-to-update, hard to navigate and, consequently, hardly updated and hardly navigated. It was a serviceable web site that didn’t reinforce the fantastic customer-service ethos of Missouri State Parks staff. The digital brand communicated a message contrary to the physical brand.
A look at user patterns in Google Analytics saw a terrible bailout rate. It also showed very focused use: People would click on ‘Stay Overnight,’ enter the online campground reservation system, make their reservations and leave. That was fine for a transactional system, but the site wasn’t getting many serendipitous experiences: Users weren’t seeing other state parks they might be interested in.
Interviews surveys with users found they also wanted more pictures and better directions. Studies of user behavior with ClickTale showed us even more. People weren’t looking at any of the accessory information on parks at all.
Surveys of internal staff found that the site wasn’t getting updated with fresh information because of the pain involved. Another disturbing survey result: Staff at parks were spending lots of time on the phone with potential visitors trying to get them “unlost” from parts of the park that popular web mapping services had sent them to.
It was time for a total rethinking of the site.
Surveys and interviews gave us our starting points. ClickTale gave us more evidence of intent. And so we set about making the site much more useful:
We added 2,300 points in Google maps so that users could navigate to where they wanted. We made it selectable by activity to try and encourage serendipitous behavior.
We created easy-to-update content boxes, that were a mix of permanent features and fresh content. That gave us a combination of constant and dynamic content elements on the page. We created a branded section — “The Power of Parks!” to communicate featured messages to readers.
The interior park pages on the old site had one picture and were very text heavy. User surveys told us that people wanted pictures of the park and rated the importance of those on par with mapping information. So we made an interior park page type that reflected that.
The site launched Feb. 28, 2011. Over 18 months, the average time spent on the site by visitors has increased more than 50 percent, the average number of pages viewed has increased by nearly 50 percent.
And the anecdotal data collected by ClickTale and CrazyEgg tells a story of a digital brand that now supports a physical brand.