This is the 2nd instalment of our reimagined series, in which we review the websites of well-known brands and make suggestions as to how we could enhance and improve the user journey.
Today we’re reviewing the Alton Towers site, which I have had the pleasure of struggling through as I tried to book a short break for my family, in that tiny bit of post-lockdown freedom we had last year!
Alton Towers was analysed and reimagined by:
As with our previous blog we’re using EyeQuant, a unique eye-tracking business born out of a decade of academic research. Their visual attention analysis and design metrics help you create a website that consistently converts, by ensuring the most important information is right where your customer’s eyes are.
Starting with a short break...
When it comes to booking a short break or holiday, we all know everyone has different preferences. Some people will know the exact dates they want and make decisions purely on what is available on those dates, whereas others will be more flexible on date selection so they can secure other features like a specific location, type of accommodation or even price.
Understanding this, it is important that a short break website caters for all user buyer behaviours, an area which is extremely problematic for Alton Towers. As it stands the current user journey is based entirely on date selection first and only displays accommodation options available on the dates selected.
Shoehorning everyone into a single user journey like this is a sure-fire way to decrease the number of sales or conversions produced. Alton Towers is a big enough brand to get away with this, as it benefits from being the only place you can book the Alton Towers hotels. However, the point of this series is to show that even well-known brands can improve their user journeys and therefore, smaller companies can take learnings from our observations to do the same.
Let’s explore the short breaks homepage in more detail. There is plenty of attention on this page in the right areas, mostly at the top, however, if you look at the heat map below you can see there’s only a small amount on the sticky bar at the bottom.
Perhaps, given it’s the same purple as a lot of the site it doesn’t really stand out that much, which is a shame as this is the search function you would want users to start with.
It could definitely be more obvious, even loading it in slightly later with a subtle animation would help.
Which hotel shall we pick?
Okay, so let’s move on and browse which hotels we can book on the dates we want; this is where things start to get kind of clunky. Once I’ve selected my dates I’m able to browse through all the available hotel options. On this page, you can see on the heatmap that there is some attention in important areas; the number of available options, the names of the hotels, but an important part that isn’t getting much attention at all is the CTA button. It’s gold and doesn’t really stand out.
Clicking on one of the options takes you through to its own page where you can see further details, photos and book your stay. Let’s try the Stargazing Pods (they sound kinda cool). According to the heatmap, there’s a lot of attention on the top left of the page when they first land, which is strange because actually, the most important part of the site is on the right-hand side, the sticky booking box with the dates and the CTA ‘View Accommodation’.
There is a gallery of photos but it’s not obvious at all and a lot of the photos are low quality or not really that clear, especially when you look at the page for the Splash Landings Hotel.
Big room, little room?
As we browse the different room options in each hotel the user journey starts to become frustrating. For example, if we’re looking at the Stargazing Pods but we want to check availability and prices for an alternative date, after clicking “amend” on the sticky booking box, rather than re-loading just the options for Stargazing Pods, we end up back on the full list of hotels.
When browsing the hotel rooms available in each option, it’s not clear what the differences are between the rooms and there’s not much detail about the features. It appears that the price difference is based on the styling of the room and it’s a missed opportunity to highlight the USPs of each room type.
When I first looked at this site for my own family trip, I wanted to book the Treehouse as this sleeps 8 people, but it told me each time I looked at different dates it was sold out. There was no option to see the dates on which it was available. Plus, as I said, every time I altered the dates I ended up back on the main hotel list, rather than on the Enchanted Forest Hotel page which is where the Treehouses are.
One size doesn't fit all when it comes to short breaks...
Missed opportunities to upsell
Looking at the heatmap further down this page, the information available is easy to digest. However, it could look a lot nicer with a design upgrade. Once we confirm which accommodation we’d like to book, and click “Book” we are then offered some upgrades. These passes and additional nights are actually listed below the “Proceed to payment” CTA, which we don’t want them to do. We want them to buy more and increase their spend. The hierarchy of this content could definitely be moved around to encourage more people to purchase those add ons.
One of the add ons is a two-day pass which is a significantly better value deal than buying a one-day pass. Alton Towers is missing a huge opportunity here, to highlight this as “good value” or “special offer” and upsell that pass before the user pays. I know if I had seen that more clearly, I would definitely have bought it for the extra money it is, given the high price of the one-day pass. (Yes, they don’t make as much money on the second day’s entry but it gets the customer there for an extra day to spend more money in person.)
Don't forget the mobile design
Although we have focused heavily on the desktop designs, we need to make sure the mobile or tablet versions are just as easy to navigate. It is becoming increasingly normal for people to spend large amounts of money using their mobile devices. You can see how our more simple userflow above, combined with easy to digest information throughout our reimagined design, will transfer nicely and lead to increased conversions on mobile devices as well.
Redesigning to help convert and improve their online experience
Inspiration, Motivation and Influence
We as a design team are always looking to push ourselves, especially when it comes to applying our sector expertise to existing well-known brands. Many of us, here at Strafe Creative, love visiting Alton Towers so when we had the idea to work on the website we were all keen to see how our knowledge and experience could improve such an iconic brand.
It is always great to see if well-established brands like Alton Towers can benefit from the Strafe approach to UX and conversion rates.
“When we wanted to book recently, my daughter was desperate to stay in an Octonauts room! I found it difficult to find this room as the Alton towers userflow wouldn't allow me to search by room type, I could only search by dates and see what rooms came up as available. It was this frustration that led me to challenge the team to reimagine the Alton Towers website.
Creating a booking journey that works for all buyers
You will see from our reimagined design that, not only have we changed the user journey to make it easier for different types of buyers but we have also changed how the accommodation information is displayed so that it is easy to digest, ensuring all users will be able to find the options that work best for them.
Our Vision: Simplicity is key
We’ve made the gallery of images bigger and clearer whilst simplifying both menus on the page. We liked the sticky menu idea but have slightly upgraded it to include the hotel name and address, star rating where available and a clear list of the benefits you’d have access to.
- Accommodation differences clearly displayed
- Accommodation benefits shown visually
- On page date editing
- Added social proofing elements
- A cleaner and more visual design
After some deliberation, we decided to keep the tabs for the hotel room options but ensured that they each had clear differences shown, without the user having to scroll down to review them. Small icons to represent each one makes it very clear and user friendly.
Further down the page we’ve cleaned up and redesigned the sections that show facilities, where to eat and also the reviews that will help build credibility in the user’s journey, prior to booking.
The biggest change is linked to my own personal frustration with the site, having tried to change and check dates for different rooms and their availability during my own booking process. What would be much easier, as shown on our concept site, is the ability to change and update the dates for your selected hotel within the sticky booking box. This way, users stay on the hotel page they have already selected and can find the room they want on alternative dates – much easier.
We’ve also added some additional features to the sticky booking box, depending on where you are in the booking journey. As you can see below, the calendar sits within the box when you want to amend your dates, and finally, once you’ve chosen your room on the correct date there is some sparkle on there. The CTA button has some small stars and the price is updated to gold.
In conclusion: make it easy for people to say YES
The main goal of this redesign is to ensure the users find it really easy to book – if they do, they’re so much more likely to do so on a date that suits them rather than going around the houses trying to find what they want. It’s off-putting and will lose Alton Towers’ sales. From my own personal experience of trying to book a specific room, I can tell you that although I did book, it was frustrating when I couldn’t find a date that wasn’t sold out.
I think everyone is looking forward to short breaks this year, so what better time to make sure it works well, ready for the post-lockdown rush!
Read more: Reimagined Series: Renault Zoe