Arapahoe Basin
 
 

Could One (Major) Change to Resort Websites Skyrocket Conversion Rates?

2726
  • January 30th, 2013
  • Gregg Blanchard

I’m a fan of simplicity. And by fan, I mean massive fan. Huge fan. Addict.

And that’s where this idea started: simplicity.

You see, the average resort website has 8.12 elements in their nav menu. I first published that number over two years ago, but ever since I’ve been wondering if there is a better way. These are my early thoughts on what I’ve come up with.

State of the Website
Picking on Solitude because it’s one of my favorite resorts on a powder day, I think their navigation bar is fairly representative of most resorts:

solitudeBEFORE

First, there are eight elements – lift tickets, the mountain, the village, lodging, dining, trip planning, events & meetings, summer.

The second thing I notice is that each of these items are nouns. What’s wrong with nouns? Well, nouns are boring. They don’t direct my path they’re just there, waiting for my thoughts to match a keyword in the nav.

The third thing is if I click on “lift tickets” what do you know about me? Virtually nothing. I could be a destination guest, a local, or a newbie and you’d have no idea. Because of this, the copy on the next page has to be super broad. Broad copy doesn’t convert well.

So, three problems: lots of options, boring nouns, and little info on the visitor.

A Better Way?
Below is my super-fancy mockup of what I’d do instead:

solitudeAFTER

First, I’ve grouped these actions by visitor type rather than activity. Activities can overlap 4-5 times. Visitor type can be narrowed down to only one or two options (destination guest, local, newb, non-skier). Clicking on these links would be like the guest filling out a mini-survey about themselves. With that knowledge, I can customize the copy they see on the next page.

Second, instead of using nouns, I’ve used verbs to make each nav element a “call to action”. Calls to action direct the visitors thoughts and actions. They are active rather than passive. This alone should increase clicks on the nav menu (and in turn tell me more about each guest), but because actions are grouped by visitor type, I can now shrink that nav to just four elements, further increasing clicks.

The Bottom Line
So, group by activity to turn each link into an insight on the visitor, shorten the list and make every link a call to action to increase clicks, and use what we know about the visitor to write copy matched to their needs.

In other words, take more control over each visitor’s path and line it with relevant info and offers along the way.

Would it make a difference? I really think so. Everything I know about customized copy, calls to action, and simplified navigation tells me that bounce rates would drop, pages viewed would increase, and most importantly, website revenues would grow.


 

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  • http://twitter.com/joeartdotcom Joe Myers

    Great idea Gregg. The sub-level helper text is a nice touch. We did that on the Waterville site but mostly as a general list of what’s in each category. But I totally agree with the verb approach. Great for tasking the user with clarity of purpose.

    • http://www.slopefillers.com/ Gregg Blanchard

      Thanks, Joe. Like I said, my brain has been chewing on this for a while, and this is the best I’ve come up with which shows that the problem is not as simple as I had hoped, but we’ll see if now that it’s out of my brain it can make any progress.

  • http://twitter.com/frxnz Derek Wheelden

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to improve our navigation for a while now, and I think this is a great approach. It focuses on the user’s goals, rather than internal structure, which is a problem I think a lot of websites have.

    How would you deal with things that overlap, or things that don’t really belong in any of these categories? For example events or resort maps could fall under 2 or 3 of your categories. And do you risk have more complicated menus with this approach? Presumably you’re not culling pages, so you’ll end up with larger menus.

    I think it’s a great start, and focusing on the user is a trend that I hope starts really picking up steam this year. But like you said, navigation is one of the most complicated problems when designing a website.

    • http://www.slopefillers.com/ Gregg Blanchard

      Great questions. My thoughts right now on that issue are very early but are as follows.

      Instead of having “pages” with each of those pieces of content (events, maps, etc.), I’d turn them into blocks of content with areas of personalization (eg, the directions page would be from the airport for a destination guest vs nearby town for local) that each page then calls and assembles to provide the information a user may need. A nav at the top/side would let the visitor skip to any part, though each part would be fairly short and to the point to it would all flow like a sales page.

      If I’m on the “come for a day” page, that might assemble the “story of the mountain” at the top, followed by the “trail map” block, then the “recent photos” and “webcams” block, a block of testimonials, then a block with a resort’s Liftopia Cloudstore calendar for the next month.

      Instead of 100 pages about 100 different things, I’d make a half dozen pages organized by types of visitors, and populate it with a few of those “100 things” that any specific visitor type may need.

      • http://twitter.com/frxnz Derek Wheelden

        This is really interesting. With some really rock solid user personas this could make for a great UX. Edge cases might pose a bigger challenge, but this idea is definitely worth exploring.

        • http://www.slopefillers.com/ Gregg Blanchard

          Very true, the key is knowing who the visitor is. Sending them to the site from an email that can be tagged with guest traits? Doable and solid. But the key really lies in the fact that once anyone clicks on one of those 4 nav links, they are telling us a lot about themselves. The more they click, the more the site can make a solid guess at who they are…especially when you toss in some IP addy location data.

          I’m exploring it, every week or two I go in and tweak a resort site design that I’ve been use to put random site ideas into for the last few months. We’ll see where it goes.

  • Eric Wagnon

    Of course, my pet peeve that I ran into again just yesterday is that lots of resorts make their hours of lift operations hard to find. To me, when you are open is pretty basic information for any business (restaurant or whatever) that should be on the home page somewhere such as next to the phone #. Just something like “Lift Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.” in small text as a link to another page with more detailed info– some lifts generally close a little earlier, start a little later etc.

    • http://www.slopefillers.com/ Gregg Blanchard

      That’s a great point, Eric. There are a few pieces that are important to list but probably not critical to “making a sale” or at least moving someone down the funnel. Hard to balance, but I agree, it’s tough when you can’t find basic info like hours (or parking information, which is usually the one I can’t find).

    • http://www.opensnow.com/ Joel Gratz

      I agree! This is THE MOST frustrating piece of information to find (frustrating because I can’t find it). I was very impressed when visiting Park City in December that this information was readily available, split by lift. I was so impressed I remember mentioning it to Eric Hoffman. This is A-#1 info that needs to be easily found on a website!

  • Keirsun Scott

    Gregg – I like the “Come for the Day” vs. “Plan a Vacation” visitor choices. That’s a great way to differentiate intent. We recently switched from nouns to verbs in our main navigation at Crystal Mountain Michigan in the hopes of directing our visitors to their ultimate goal more efficiently. While the response has been good we still receive lots of emails from people saying that they can’t find something on our website. That includes our Snow/Slope Conditions Report which is featured on our homepage and includes a link to the full report. I think it comes down to what is simplistic for one person can be completely confusing to another.

    • http://www.slopefillers.com/ Gregg Blanchard

      Awesome feedback, Keirsun, and very interesting. With a change like this I guess I should be too surprised that there is some level of visitor “training” that needs to go on or at least a transition to help people used to the old system get used to finding things in the new.

  • http://www.opensnow.com/ Joel Gratz

    It’s funny you wrote this … did you write something like this months ago? I feel like you did. In any case, just before we launched our new sign-up page (https://opensnow.com/user/register), I thought about you and your kick for simplicity and making things easier on users. So at the last minute we added some text below each plan option to talk about why this plan would be appealing. Instead of having to scroll through the “feature matrix” to figure it out, we tried to isolate what benefit each plan brings to a certain user segment and highlight that (i.e. “Save time by setting favorites and alerts”). This is not as dialed as your examples above, but it’s on the same track. I like where your head’s at!

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