When a family is looking to book a long weekend or extended vacation at a water park resort, the website user experience can be the deciding factor where they book. To demonstrate this relationship, Ascedia conducted user testing on two popular water park websites, Great Wolf Lodge New England and CoCo Key Water Park Boston. The result? A winning water park, as well as 6 tips for how you can improve your water park website user experience design.
TIP 1 – PHOTOS, PHOTOS AND MORE PHOTOS
We hear it time and time again when testing destination websites – users want to know what a place looks like and photos are one of the best ways to do that. A destination has a few seconds to create a first impression. What kind of impression does your website homepage make in the first few seconds? What kind of impression does it make for a mobile visitor? How does it compare to your competition?
In this usability study, desktop users commented on the vibrant photos and colorful imagery on both parks’ websites, but when it came to the mobile users, the lack of imagery on one site impacted the overall impression and swayed preference.
TIP 2 – LET THEM SORT, SEARCH & FILTER
Users often seek specific information about attractions to determine if it is the right destination for their family. They want to know what a place offers for their 3 year old child versus their teenager without having to view details on tons of attractions. Make it easy for your users by providing sorting and search functionality that allows users to narrow activities by age, type, location or even time of year. Your visitors will thank you.
TIP 3 – MAKE NAVIGATION EASY & INTUITIVE
A destination website needs to support the customer journey through each stage of travel. This includes making it easy for them to research and plan their visit on your website, not just book. Make it easy for them to locate important park information, including size, location, directions, hours and attraction details. User testing is an easy and fast way to validate the usability of your site’s navigation. What may seem obvious to you does not always ring true when you ask a new user.
User tests revealed strengths and weaknesses in navigation. While users easily found some park information, like hours and events, they found it more difficult to find a primary landing page or realize that a mobile menu was expandable.
TIP 4 – SIMPLIFY YOUR BOOKING PROCESS
The most successful travel companies have always focused on the transaction, and the ability to book is central to that success. The booking process should be simple and straightforward, and users should be able to easily begin the process from any page on the site and from any device.
While we did not test the full booking process in this study, we did ask users where they would start to book a trip and if they would be interested in booking with either of these water parks. Users were able to identify where to start the booking process for both websites, but mobile users said they were more likely to book on one park’s site. One reason – trust.
TIP 5 – INCREASE TRUST TO INCREASE BOOKINGS
Online bookings will continue to rise as long as user’s trust with online booking continues to grow. A website with a more current, sophisticated design is often seen as a more trustworthy website where users feel comfortable booking.
TIP 6 – DON'T SKIMP ON MOBILE UX DESIGN
Mobile travel planning and booking will continue to grow exponentially over the next few years. According to eMarketer, in 2015 alone, nearly 75 million US consumers will research travel information via mobile, and about 46 million will book there. As mobile establishes itself as the norm among travelers, companies must create experiences that satisfy travelers on these screens.
As reported by ThinkWithGoogle, a poor mobile experience forces travelers to go elsewhere for information, and ultimately has a negative impact on brand and brand’s bottom line. The user test results demonstrate this potential effect. Mobile users had a lower overall impression of one park over the other.
AND THE WINNER IS...
To see which park came out ahead, including a video highlight reel of the actual user tests, download our free whitepaper, 6 UX Design Tips for Water Park Websites.