Brand Development; Research; Strategy; UX/UI Design; Art Direction
In a world dominated by AirBnB and VRBO, VisitBreck serves as a local booking engine for those looking to rent vacation homes in or around Breckenridge, CO. Local property management company, Pinnacle Lodging, uses VisitBreck.com as a supplementary marketing tool that complements efforts across various other booking sites (including the aforementioned industry leaders), as well as an in-house sales team. In addition to booking capabilities, the site is a one-stop-shop for all things Breck. Our 4 person in-house marketing team has cultivated an extensive library of content that provides local knowledge and insider tips for those traveling to this mountain destination, drawing continued interest and repeat visits to the website. After a few years with the current site in place, our team set out to re-imagine the look and feel of the site, using internal resources for the redesign and working with an outside development team.
Visually, the site was in need of an update. After a brand refresh, new design standards had been put into place that required re-examining photo, font and color usage, sitewide. Additionally, a high-level UX audit revealed problematic areas within the complicated navigation, duplicate content, accessibility and general user flow. The site was meant to be a booking engine, but the large amount of content and various pathways often resulted in dead-ends that didn’t bring users back to the bottom line. Often, users would contact our sales team (either via a direct phone call, email or the site’s livechat bot) to clarify information about Breck, without any intention of booking with us. While the lines had always been somewhat intentionally blurred between our organization and a local tourism bureau, in order to encourage site visits, we were more frequently being confused with the latter, detracting from the ultimate goal of booking our owners’ properties. Due to solid SEO efforts and the continual content updates, the site received a high search ranking and a fair amount of traffic (676 visitors per day, on average), but had an abysmal conversion rate, with very few visitors actually booking a property. Ultimately, we identified our singular goal with this redesign to be increasing this conversion rate.
Following the internal UX audit of the current site, we created a customer journey map, identifying potential pain points and opportunities through the lens of our established target demographic personas. We supported our initial hypotheses with user data from current site analytics, which gave us a better idea of where our users were coming from, which pages they were viewing, and how long they were staying on the site. User observation and surveys on the current site, along with competitive analysis, helped us formulate more solid takeaways about what could be done with our site and experience to further differentiate our brand and help guide users towards conversions. Finally, our research concluded with internal stakeholder interviews and card-sorting exercises, so that we could learn what kinds of road-blocks our sales representatives were observing and any opportunities they might have already identified.
This intensive research yielded a variety of takeaways, including many small improvements that could be made to verbiage, imagery, layouts and information presentation on the website, in addition to a much more streamlined and linear UX. Most importantly, we concluded the best way to improve the experience for online visitors would be to provide personalized recommendations that make it easier to quickly choose the perfect property. narrowing down the wealth of choices for consumers and providing more targeted and easy-to-use search options.
We determined the best way to personalize the experience was to create a series of questions that would lead to pointed recommendations based on each user's needs. This experience became the central component of the site, leading interested parties down the funnel toward conversions. With Sketch, I created a working prototype using low-fidelity wireframes to test the new concept internally with stakeholders. After receiving the green light, we proceeded into site design, including a comprehensive design system and full-fidelity prototype. Our development was outsourced to a group of off-site contractors, which led to its own challenges regarding communication, shared goals and expectation management, but the site came together to launch in conjunction with our post-travel-ban re-opening in June of 2020.
Before the launch, we went through a series of beta testing phases using a staging site, beginning with our marketing team and expanding it to stakeholders, our parent company, select former guests, and eventually our email list. The response from our real-world testing group yielded some ideas for future iterations but overall was positive, giving us the confidence to proceed to the launch, which saw marked success.
Within the first 2 months of launch, online bookings were up consistently over the previous year’s numbers, at an average increase of 59%. Our goal to drive visitors towards conversions over general info-gathering was proven successful, receiving over triple the amount of lodging-specific views that we did in the previous year’s same period. Session duration increased by 171% from 3 minutes the prior year to 8 with the new site. Finally, our singular goal to increase conversion rate was successful, at an increase of 79% over the prior year’s numbers. Further, the information collected through the question/answer experience informs decisions for further UX improvements, content creation, and even marketing efforts beyond the site. Based on opportunities identified during beta testing, a phased approach was put into place for further improvements to the UX, including further development of the mobile site. As more feedback and information is collected, especially as we enter different seasons and circumstances, the site will continue to evolve to address the needs of the business.
See the current site at visitbreck.com