The Forge Website: Taming the Beast

 
Brian Nicholson

The Forge is a massive adventure park southeast of Chicago. Actually, calling it an adventure park doesn’t quite do it justice. 

There’s plenty of adventure to be sure, with towering climbing structures and ziplines, as well as water sports, scavenger hunts, biking trails, and competitive fun like axe throwing. But the Forge also hosts events like races and concerts that bring the community together. Guests can also enjoy one of the dining options, including the very cool globe dining.

Growing Pains

The Forge had recently emerged from their first full year of operations, so they were still adding and removing activities and events, and adjusting their operating hours. As the website experience started buckling under the weight of choices and changes, the staff found that visitors were struggling to understand exactly what The Forge offered and when. It was time to take a step back and rethink the website.

4 Ways To Grow Website Revenue

The goal of the new website was—as expected—to generate as much revenue as possible. There were 4 main ways to do that for this client:

  • Improve the conversion rate. While this is a general goal, we had a very specific way to tackle it: reduce confusion and help people quickly understand what their options were. (We also set out to improve page load time.) The conversion rate can have a huge impact on revenue; see your own potential revenue improvement with our Tourism Website ROI Calculator.
  • Increase the average order value. Cross-promotion could help with this. For example, anyone looking at the adventure tower or kayaking should also be aware that food is available. 
  • Increase traffic. As with any website project, we wanted to optimize the site for search engines. 
  • Increase the lifetime value of a customer. While we wanted to help people navigate quickly, we also wanted every visitor to be aware of what else The Forge offered, so that they would revisit the next time they wanted an outdoor experience.

5 Parts To Solving the Website Navigation Challenge

1. Let Users Shape The Navigation

We inventoried all of the pages—including the 16 activities, the races and events, the dining options, and dozens of other pages. We categorized them all and added secondary groupings for the activities (e.g., “Water Sports” for fishing, water tag, kayaking, and canoeing).

But that was based on how we (Blend and The Forge) thought about these things. We needed fresh eyes on this, so we ran a navigation study using Treejack to see how easily people could find certain pages based on our proposed navigation. We found the pain points and made adjustments, preventing those pain points from being experienced by prospective customers.

2. Design For Skimming

We wanted to ensure that people quickly understood the 3 types of experiences The Forge offers: Activities, Events & Races, and Dining.

Giving too much attention to any one of those—especially on the mobile version of the home page—could make it difficult for people to get an overview of the park. So we chose to employ horizontal scrolling to allow people to dive deeper into a section they’re interested in while ensuring that they see what else is offered. We sometimes used 2-column layouts on mobile for a similar reason.

Scrolling
The old site required people to scroll through a number of activities, making it difficult to understand the 3 main categories of experiences offered by The Forge.

Swipers
The new site strategically uses horizontal scrolling where appropriate, so that the next category is surfaced.

Multiple Columns
2-column layouts on mobile can also help users get a quicker overview, vs. single-column layouts.

3. Surface Timely Information

There are 3 categories of timely information that we wanted people to quickly and easily see.

Park Hours

Portions of the park have public trails and are always open, but other parts of the park are open only at certain hours and on certain days. The staff can now maintain this information easily, and customers can access it from any page on the site.

Upcoming Events

Events are presented by category, so that people wanting to access, say, races can easily do so. But since events are time-based, we surface upcoming events in a few ways:

  1. A filterable event calendar
  2. A Featured Events strip on both the home page and the events page
  3. An Upcoming Events strip

Park News

The Forge continues to evolve, creating new activities, refreshing events, and adding new ways to enjoy the park (such as the new Day Pass). This information is surfaced on the home page.

4. Cater To First-Time Visitors

The Forge had already created a First Time Visitors page. We redesigned the page with category navigation to provide a quick overview of all that’s offered. We also added additional entry points to this page, including making it easily accessible in the primary navigation.

5. Cross-Promote For Awareness

We hope that through both our SEO efforts and our navigational structure, many people find what they’re looking for quickly—possibly skipping over any content about other things The Forge offers. That’s where cross-promotion comes in.

Someone looking at kayaking might be the kind of person interested in races. Or maybe they just need to grab lunch. Each activity has 3 cross-promotion slots, allowing website editors to choose what to show.

And Now We Iterate

No website project is ever done. We continue to measure and modify, looking for ways to connect more people with the outdoor adventures The Forge offers, and create more revenue for the client along the way.

Feeling Like You’re Stuck With Your Website? We Can Help.

We’re proud of how we’ve helped dozens of tour and activity companies make a lot more money by improving their website’s conversion rate. If you’d like help taking the next step towards optimizing your website, we’d love to hear from you.

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About The Author

Brian Nicholson

Brian is a partner at Blend Marketing. He focuses on brand strategy, positioning, and analytics for the tourism industry.

Email Brian

About The Author

Brian Nicholson

Brian is a partner at Blend Marketing. He focuses on brand strategy, positioning, and analytics for the tourism industry.