In this digital age, the best way for people to find your service or product is through your website. But how do you turn your ordinary website into an extraordinary one? By improving user experience.
In September 2016, County of San Diego Parks and Recreation launched a brand new website to streamline and improve communications with the public. The website make-over was a key component of the department’s award-winning marketing strategy to help rebrand County Parks as an agency that promotes regional recreation, preservation and sustainability in a colorful, fun and lasting way.
The new and improved sdparks.org is organized by function, with easy-to-use navigation that can direct users to the perfect park based on personal preference. The structure of the site reflects a months-long process to identify, combine and remove content redundancies and to realign text with the department’s mission and vision. New sections were added and new ways of searching for that information were developed, resulting in a site that improves user experience, is more succinct and better represents the department’s key projects and offerings.
Analysis of user behavior on the site was used to identify top searches and frequently visited pages. Additional feedback was collected from park customers, park rangers, the County Parks reservations team and a Countywide Needs Assessment Survey. All of this information shaped decisions around the site’s menu, header, footer and interior page design.
County Parks’ core revenue generating opportunities – like sponsorships, donations, class and program registrations, parking passes and gift certificates – are now highlighted with custom imagery. As part of the re-brand, many of the parks in the County’s 120+ location system have individual logos that establish a visual personality for each park. These same logos appear on other department communications and merchandise to reinforce the brand and to foster brand ambassadorship.
An innovative new addition to the website includes an orange alert banner designed to share urgent information like park or trail closures and boil water orders. The alerts banner appears on all pages and activates immediately. Another key addition was an interactive park finder. GIS data feeds into a Bing map, allowing users to navigate to parks in certain areas, or navigate to parks that offer certain amenities like playgrounds, restrooms or sports fields. Pop-up windows from each location allow users to get driving directions to and from their park of choice. Other add-ons that contribute to a better user experience include a designated County Parks News Center component that highlights recent news stories alongside County Parks videos and social media feeds.
The website’s search engine optimization (SEO) was also improved through better page tagging and descriptions which help make sdparks.org rank higher in search engine results but also improved internal search results when making an inquiry on the site itself or when searching through the County’s overarching site, sandiegocounty.gov.
The project has taken about a year to come to fruition and feedback so far has been incredibly positive. A second phase of customer feedback collection was set to begin in January 2017. By putting the customer at the forefront of all design and content decisions, County Parks has since experienced a noticeable uptick in calls, reservations and event bookings. Thanks to the new site, County Parks is in full pursuit of cost recovery is well-positioned to fulfill its mission to maintain and enhance the quality of life for residents in San Diego County.