Content, design and navigation, with Kelly and Paul from Rubber Cheese

In this this new monthly slot of the Skip the Queue podcast episode, Rubber Cheese CEO Paul Marden joins me to discuss different digital related topics.

“This, for me is the most shocking stat from the entire report. 96% of the respondents stated that they had never conducted any user testing for their mobile sites. So that’s nearly all of the 188 attractions that took part.”

Paul Marden is the Founder and Managing Director of Carbon Six Digital and the CEO of Rubber Cheese. He is an Umbraco Certified Master who likes to think outside the box, often coming up with creative technical solutions that clients didn’t know were possible. Paul oversees business development and technical delivery, specialising in Microsoft technologies including Umbraco CMS, ASP.NET, C#, WebApi, and SQL Server. He’s worked in the industry since 1999 and has vast experience of managing and delivering the technical architecture for both agencies and client side projects of all shapes and sizes. Paul is an advocate for solid project delivery and has a BCS Foundation Certificate in Agile.


“Responses this year once again saw that websites that look good and are easy to use, are doing far better than those that don’t prioritise consistency.”

Kelly Molson is the Founder of Rubber Cheese, a user focused web design and development agency for the attraction sector. Digital partners to Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Pensthorpe, National Parks UK, Holkham, Visit Cambridge and The National Marine Aquarium.Kelly regularly delivers workshops and presentations on sector focused topics at national conferences and attraction sector organisations including ASVA, ALVA, The Ticketing Professionals Conference and the Museum + Heritage Show.

As host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she speaks with inspiring industry experts who share their knowledge of what really makes an attraction successful. Recent trustee of The Museum of the Broads.

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • The different digital related topics
  • The impact of design, navigation and content on selling tickets
  • How to go about testing if your design is working or notSkip the Queue Paul and Kelly

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.


The interview

Your hosts, Kelly Molson and Paul Marden


Kelly Molson:  We’re doing something a little bit different on the podcast this season. So alongside the usual guest interviews, which we’ll have each month, me and the Rubber Cheese CEO, Paul Marden are also going to be recording an episode on a different digital related topic. So we’re going to do this once a month. 

Each of the episodes, we’re going to share insight around design, user experience, content, accessibility, SEO and loads, loads more. We’re going to talk a little bit about what’s possible, give you some ideas about how easy or how hard that topic is to implement.

Maybe what kind of budget that you might need to look at and what some of the next steps are to take if you want to implement some of these things. We’re even going to call out some of the best in breed websites, people that are doing things really well within the sector.

So I’ve been hosting the Skip the Queue podcast since July 2019. Goodness, that’s been a long time. Five seasons in now. This is season five. You all know me already. So I am the founder of Rubber Cheese and my background is in design. 

I co founded Rubber Cheese back in 2003 after learning about ecommerce when I worked at a very early kind of Shopify type startup agency. The person that you don’t know quite as well as me is my fellow host on this podcast. That’s funny to say, that my fellow host is Paul Marden. So. Paul. Hello. Welcome. 

Paul Marden: Hello. 

Kelly Molson: This is strange. I’m going to have to share the spotlight for a while, that’s very uncomfortable for me. No, it will be fine.”It will be fine”, she says. Paul, I would love it if you could give us a little intro to yourself. I know your background and I know you very well. We’ve known each other for about, I think it’s about 14 years now. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

Paul Marden: Yeah. Not long after I started doing this as a proper job. 

Kelly Molson: Well, there you go. Tell us about what your proper job is. 

Paul Marden: Yeah, so I’m the CEO of Rubber Cheese now, alongside another agency that I run called Carbon Six, which we merged Carbon Six and Rubber Cheese just over a year ago. My background is as a geek. I’m a developer by training. I started out ten years at British Airways, all over the airline, doing all different sorts of IT related jobs. So I saw lots of operational side of things, commercial sides of the airline, say, selling tickets, that kind of thing. I don’t know if I’ve told you, but my first visitor attraction job was a long time ago, because when I was at Uni, I did a placement at the National Botanic Garden of Wales when it first opened. So I was there when it was a hole in the ground and I helped them write their IT strategy. 

Paul Marden: So my visitor attraction experience predates my involvement in Rubber Cheese. 

Kelly Molson: I did not know that. So you’ve done geek stuff for attractions. 

Paul Marden: For a long time. Yeah, it was amazing. I can still remember I was in an office in a farmhouse as they were building the giant glass house. It was just the most amazing place and I’ve not been back for a long time. It would be amazing to go and see the place, how it’s transformed in the, what is it, 24 years since I was there? God, I really sound old now, don’t I? 

Kelly Molson: You do sound old. I’m just wondering if they still use the IT plan that you put in place for them. 

Paul Marden: Probably not. I was only a student at the time. It can’t have been amazing. 

Kelly Molson: So what we normally do on the podcast, listeners, as you well know, is I ask my guests a series of uncomfortable questions, icebreaker questions, which they very graciously answer beautifully for me. We’re not going to do that on this episode. Ha. So we thought, yeah, Paul has wiped his brow in a state of relief there. But what we thought we would do is Paul and I both visit a lot of visitor attractions, both professionally and in our personal life as well. We’ve both got daughters at very different ages, so Millie is  coming up for I think, 9.

Paul Marden: 10 in two weeks time. 

Kelly Molson: Okay. And my little one is 2. So we’re going to very different visitor attractions right now. But we thought we would talk about the attraction that we visited most recently and what we loved about it, and we thought we’d ask each other that question. So I am going to ask you that question first, Paul. What attraction have you visited most recently and what did you love about it? 

Paul Marden: So we just finished the summer holidays, so went away for just over a week to the Netherlands. We did visit a few different attractions whilst were there, but went to an amazing place. We went back to it, actually, it was one that we’ve been to before called Burger’s Zoo. So I loved the whole experience of going there the first time around and we wanted to go back there. It’s an amazing place. But the reason why I was going to call it out today was a conversation that we’ve been having and something that we’ve done with Kitten Museums in terms of the food offering. Because when you go to Burger’s Zoo, the restaurant is amazing. We’ve talked recently about the sorts of food that you get at visitor attractions and your frustration around this. Lots of fried food. 

Paul Marden: There’s never any healthy food. So went to Burger Zoo, we had lunch and of course, there’d be obligatory portion of chips there if you want to have it. Lots of kids food there, but I was able to have a massive great salad. It was in enormous and it was lovely and healthy and really enjoyable and it didn’t cost the earth when you were there. And it’s so unusual to talk about going to an attraction and getting that kind of quality of food without spending the earth in doing it. So, yeah, that was pretty cool. 

Kelly Molson: That is cool. This is probably a whole another podcast episode to talk about that. I think actually, in your intro, you forgot to mention that you are a Trustee for the Kids in Museums, which is quite a new role for you, isn’t it? But it’s one that kind of immersed you into the world of attraction. I think that’s been a good one for you. They have set up a brilliant scheme, which is kind of an accreditation scheme for attractions to go through, just to check into how healthy and how great their food offering actually is, which I think is brilliant. It’s really weird. 

The day that they launched it, I was having a like, literally the day before, I was having a conversation on LinkedIn about how atrocious the food offering had been at an attraction that I went to, which is one of the top ten most visited attractions in the UK. It’s a great place. It really is a brilliant place, especially if you’ve got toddler. However, the food was pretty horrendous and I’ve got an unusual toddler in that. Well, she will eat chips now, she will eat chippies, but she won’t eat fried stuff or battered things or anything like that. She’s just not interested.

Paul Marden: Nothing beige.

Kelly Molson: Not really, even pasta has to be, she should have been an Italian, she should have seen the amount of pasta that she wolf down when were over there. But it’s got to be good. 

It’s got to be good. Yeah, she is particularly fussy toddler. But just for myself, I mean, just the range of food that was available that day was just dreadful. I mean, the healthiest thing that was on the menu that Lee and I both had was jacket potatoes and I think I took a picture of it somewhere and it was too awful to put on social media. So, yes, that is well needed and I’m glad that attraction stood out on the food front for you. 

Paul Marden: What about you? Where have you been recently? 

Kelly Molson: I’ve been to lots of different places recently, but this one I can’t stop thinking about and so I want to talk about it today and it’s not one that I visited with Edie. It’s one that I visited with a fellow attractions professional a little while ago, but it’s the Beamish Living Museum. I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. It’s the first living museum that I’ve been to, so it’s the first experience of that for me.

And I had such an emotional reaction to it. I’m a bit embarrassed, actually. So I went to meet a couple of people. I met one person that I’d met briefly at a conference before, and then I met one of their colleagues who I’d never met before in my life. And I actually had a bit of a cry to this colleague because it was so emotive. 

If anyone who hasn’t been to Beamish Living Museum, there’s lots of different areas that you can visit, and one of them is a 1950s area and they essentially recreate what it was like in the 1950s, where the museum is located. And it brought back so many memories of my grandparents, both sets of grandparents, for different reasons. The house was very similar to my grandparents on my father’s side and just down to some of the things that they had in that space.

And I just got overwhelmed by it. It was so wonderful to go back and see that. And in my head all the time I was thinking, well, both my sets of grandparents are no longer with us. They passed away when I was in my early twenties. And so Edie will never get to meet her great grandparents on that side. 

And I thought, God, how amazing would it be for me to bring here and say, show her some of the things that great granny used to have in her house and yeah, just lost it. 

Paul Marden: It’s interesting, isn’t it, that you can become so immersed that even now the emotional attachment that you’ve built when you were there takes you straight back there. Because there’s a risk, isn’t there, with those sorts of places of it feeling a little bit plastic and fake, isn’t it? But this clearly had an emotional impact on you. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I think for me, I was worried that it would be people in costumes. It would feel like that. And it did not feel like that at all. It just felt so authentic. Anyway, you’ve got to go. I don’t want to cry for the rest of this podcast, but yeah, it’s definitely a must visit for me, it was something really special. 

Paul Marden: Excellent. 

Kelly Molson: Should we move on to what we’re going to talk about? And I’ll compose myself, shall we?

Paul Marden: Okay, moving swiftly on.

Kelly Molson: Let’s. So in this episode, we’re going to talk about the impact of design, navigation and content on selling tickets and how we go about testing if it’s working or not. So this episode actually launches on the 4th of October, which is one day after we release the 2023 Visitor Attraction website report. There’s data that has come out of this year’s report that is so insightful and I cannot wait for everybody to get this year’s report. It dives deeper into a lot of the topics that we talked about in the first report last year, but there’s just so much more to it and I’m very excited about it.

Anyway, looking at the data from the report, a 100% of the attractions that took part think that having consistent design and clear navigation is important, which is brilliant. Big tick there. However, many of them don’t think that their site meets the need and some of them think it does, but they don’t test that it does.

There’s some really interesting stats about testing that we’re going to talk about in a minute that have actually blew my mind a little bit. But one good stat around the design is that 76% of respondents believe that their websites were consistently designed despite using multiple platforms in their customer journey. 

And this is something that we talked about quite frequently in that sometimes there’s a big disconnect if you are using if you’ve got your website that’s built and designed in WordPress for example, and then you’ve got your ticketing platform and the two don’t look like each other, they’re not consistent, they’re incongruent. That can be a bit of a challenge for people in terms of trust and how they feel about your brand. 

Paul Marden: It can be a jarring experience, can’t it? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, absolutely. Responses this year once again saw that websites that look good and are easy to use are doing far better than those that don’t prioritise consistency. So I’m just going to read out this snippet from the report. We saw that websites that were high scoring for their design and navigation made more sales over the past twelve months. So those successful websites had around 200,000 to 500,000 completed transactions. Whereas on the other hand, websites with lower design and navigation scores didn’t do as well, stating that they had below 50,000 completed transactions in the last month. That’s quite fascinating, isn’t it? 

Paul Marden: It is. This is not just a handful of people that are answering, is it? Because there’s a large number of people that are answering that this is important to them and that they think they’re doing quite well. And then you see how their perception of doing well correlates really strongly with the actual outcomes of the site itself. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I think that the way that we asked the questions this year is interesting as well. So when I talked then about we said that websites that were high scoring for design and navigation, we gave respondents the options to score their website. So we gave them how well designed do you think your site is?

Between 1 and 10, 10 being the highest. So we allowed them to kind of self score. But it’s interesting because some of those self scores don’t correlate to the data that we then took. So those scores, they’re based mostly on assumption, which is always a difficult, challenging place to be. But I think, Paul, you had some insight here around the conversion rate and design and how they tally up. 

Paul Marden: So the stats you just talked about were about the volume of transactions. You could say that having good design leads you to have more transactions flowing through your website, but you could also say that the organisations that have more transactions flowing through their website can afford to spend more money on design.

But what I found interesting was that when you ignore the absolute number of sales that they make on the website, if you actually look at what their conversion rate is on the website, the attractions who think they have good design tend to have a higher conversion rate by about 1% or 2%. Now, that could be on a low base. 

There could be a fairly small attraction that has fewer people coming to it, but they still perform relatively better than those attractions that didn’t think they had good design but could be massive organisations with large numbers of transactions flowing through. And what I found interesting is we started to work out what is the value of 1 or 2% extra conversion rate, because it doesn’t sound like much. Really.

Paul Marden: There’s somebody in the business that doesn’t necessarily understand the technology side of it that doesn’t sound like a lot. So we started playing with converting that into money. What could that actually be worth? So we played around with we tried to model what is our average attraction and what is the absolute top performing attraction. 

And even for our average, an increase of 1% in conversion rate could mean tens of thousands of pounds of extra sales that they make. But for the top performing attraction, it could make the difference of hundreds of thousands of pounds of extra sales just by squeezing 1 or 2% of extra conversion rate out. I think that’s absolute gold dust in terms of insight that we’ve drawn out of this data.

The organisations that think they have good design tend to have a conversion rate of 1 or 2% more, which could equate to tens of hundreds of thousands of pounds of extra sales that they make. It makes you begin to think that investment in the design of the site could actually be really worthwhile. 

Kelly Molson: Absolutely. And information like that helps the marketing managers build the case for good design and investing in good design. 

Paul Marden: Yeah. And before you say, “Oh, the large organisations with the big budgets, they can afford to do this, what about the small ones?” The smaller organisations with small budgets who had good navigation tended to be the ones that would have the better conversion rate amongst their peers. So you don’t need to be a nationally recognised attraction brand to be able to invest an appropriate amount of money in design and get a return on that investment that you make. 

Kelly Molson: I always think that the best use of budget is on the pre planning side, which is unusual coming from a designer, I think. Yeah.  But Paul is you’re really data driven, aren’t you? You’re super data driven. 

Paul Marden: Such a geek. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, you are a massive geek. Massive nerd. We’re very complimentary, but I never used to be very data driven. I was always far more visual driven. But actually well, I’m not going to share it on this podcast, actually, because I’m going to share it at a talk that I’m given. But I’ve got a really good story around why user testing is very important.

We’ll come a bit more onto that later. And why you should be driven by the data and the stats and not just by what something looks like. Okay, let’s talk about navigation quickly as part of this design section. So it’s really interesting. So we’ve actually got some findings from the Journal of Market Research. 

So they state that when websites are easy to understand and navigate, individuals have a lower cognitive load, so fewer things to work out, and therefore are more likely to have a positive experience to go on to purchase. So having a consistent and well designed website can really help people make complete purchases with your visitor attraction.

What I’ve always said, it’s about trying to stop making people think, give them something that is really easy. So I think when we worked with Eureka!, and this is back in 2016, when we first worked with them, we did some research around what people wanted to find out about attractions, what were the first things they needed to know about. And it was literally, when you open, how much do you cost? How can I get there? 

Kelly Molson: So, if they’re the three things that people desperately need to know, they’re the three things that really need to be highlighted front and centre when you arrive at the site, wherever you arrive at it, whether that’s the homepage or what. And it’s the same with navigation. People need to understand where they’re being taken and why they’re being taken to certain places.

So we’re working with an attraction at the moment, we’ve just about to start work with them. They have got some really key, really strong elements to their Nav, but then they’ve got an area that says more, and there’s a load of stuff that’s been added onto the more section, and things like this happen over time. 

When you’ve got a website, people will say, “I need this to be featured on the site, I need this page to put up there”, and it gets added to, and ultimately you end up with all these things that haven’t been thought about from the start, about where they’re supposed to go. So they get kind of bundled somewhere, and a more section kind of feels an obvious place to put them.

But what is it? Users don’t understand what’s in there. And they’re not going to go searching for hours to find something that they want. They need to find it quickly. And so that for me, is a huge no about bundling stuff into these kind of sections. That just so ambiguous, you don’t know what they are. 

Paul Marden: I think that figuring out what people are trying to do, what are they trying to get out of the website? I think that bundling exercise, putting lots of things onto the site that happened over time or putting it in a bucket of more is often there’s so many people in an organisation that want their content heard and seen, don’t they? Everybody wants their content on the site. It all goes on there.

And sometimes you have to step back and think, what’s the point? Who is it that’s coming to the site and what are we trying to get them to do? We want the customer at the end of it to think, now that you’ve read this, what are you going to do next? But we don’t always think about that journey. 

We think about the snippets of information that we put onto the site, but we don’t think about what the journey is they’re going through. Attractions are really lucky. I think a lot of the people that go to their sites are really motivated to buy, a lot more motivated to buy than the average ecommerce site. So how do you get out of the way of those people so they can just buy stuff? And then for the people that are less motivated, they don’t necessarily want to know how, when and how much they still want to be sold on the idea of going to the attraction, then maybe you need to give them more information. 

But identifying who those people are and giving them a journey to go through and coming up with a navigation that makes it really easy for those people to navigate along that journey, there’s a lot of psychology that’s hard. That’s your prep work, isn’t it, before you do the design? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, and it’s the hardest part of it. And I think that’s where the most amount of time needs to be spent there and the wireframes really, the design. If you’ve got good brand guidelines in place, the design ultimately becomes a simplified process at that point. But the pre design work is really where the time and effort needs to be spent. And I think it is a challenge for attractions.

So there are attractions that are, if you compare a Chessington World of Adventures, for example, a theme park orientated to a historic museum that you’re coming to visit, that not only is an attraction, but obviously has a lot of historical information to share and learning and education plays a big part in them as well. You have different audiences for those. 

So I think one part of that process is you need to think about all the different audiences you have and what are their motivations for visiting the site and what do you want them to do, what actions do you want them to take? But I think when you are working, this has gone off a bit of a tangent, but when you’re working with an agency, I think what’s really core for the attraction is to make sure that you’ve got key stakeholders from each of those areas of your attraction that play a part in those early conversations. So you don’t want the site redesign to be driven solely by the marketing team for the attraction side. You need someone from the education side to be part of those conversations as well. 

You need visitor experience to be part of those conversations because if you’re planning content, each of those individuals will have a different need for what content they need to showcase on the site. So they all need to be talking to each other about how that’s going to look. I’m talking from experience because this has not happened in the past. Paul’s nodding his head at me because he knows that we’ve had this challenge previously.

Paul Marden: Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: So yeah, and I think that kind of leads us nicely onto content, really, and about the need to frequently update your site and keep it refreshed. So once you’ve done all of that hard work of working out what content is going to be on it doesn’t stay static. So in the report we have a stat that says 31% of respondents said that they updated their online content multiple times a week. That’s good. Another 31% said that they did so at least once a month. Good. However, 22% of respondents said they had infrequent content updates or didn’t update their content at all. Not updating your content at all. 

Paul Marden: That surprised me, that one. Yeah, I was surprised that there were 31% of respondents updated it multiple times a week. I was really impressed by that. Yeah. That takes some work, doesn’t it? To be able to produce that level of content change, but to do it infrequently or not at all, that surprised me. 

Kelly Molson: I guess it depends on the attraction and what their offering is as well. Thinking about one of our clients, Holkham actually, so we know that Holkham update their website frequently. They have a lot of different events, they write a lot of really incredible content about what happens across Holkham Estate.

So they’re engaging with the audience from the perspective of someone coming to visit and what they can do on the day and what they can come and see. But they’re also talking about their wider sustainability efforts across the state and what they do and how they focus on that, which again, might be for that same audience. Might be for a slightly different audience as well. 

So the volume of content that they produce is a lot higher than potentially Thorpe Park as a visitor, they will talk about what’s on that day and maybe an events that they’re running, but they might not talk about the same things that are going on across the Estate that Holkham would, for example. So I think, yeah, it’s what your attraction offers. 

Paul Marden: Holkham’s a really good example because they can take inspiration from the place. They’re very diverse, they’ve got lots of different things that they do at that location. It’s quite a large location, but there’s lots of different things going on and those things are inside and outside. They can take inspiration from the season. So there’s a lot of inspiration that you can take there and produce.

Just off the top of my head, I could think of lots of different stories that you could tell and changes to the site that can be inspired by the season. But then I think about a theme park where there’s lots that goes on. I think I’ve done lots of trips to Legoland. There’s Legoland at Halloween. There’s Legoland in Spring time. It changes through the seasons and there’s a lot of story around that. 

I wonder if you’re an indoor attraction, if you’re Heritage Museum based, there’s going to be lots of stories that you can tell about the items that you’ve got in your collection. But it might be harder to tell those stories influenced by the seasons, which can be a real driver for telling varying stories throughout a year, can’t they? Yeah, but I don’t write a lot of stories for those sorts of organisations, so maybe I don’t have the right view of the world, but I would imagine it would be a lot harder to write lots of content varying through the year for that sort of organisation. 

Kelly Molson: Yes, probably so I’m just thinking about it would just be a change in topic, wouldn’t it? So I know Blackpool Pleasure Beach, who Andy Hygate, the operations director, came on the podcast a couple of seasons ago, actually, and he talked about the experiences they’ve developed around walking up the big one and the rise that they have there.

And actually, I think for people that are interested in theme parks, there’s probably a lot of content around how things are built and how they’re developed and that kind of side of stuff that people would be really interested in. So it’s not talking about seasonal stuff, it’s about the things and how they’re constructed and how they’re designed and kind of stuff like that. 

So, yeah, again, it comes back to just knowing your audience and what are they interested in and how you can engage them and what are your potential new audiences as well, and how can you develop content that attracts them. There is a correlation between content and purchases, though, which is quite interesting.

So our report shows that those who were deliberate in ensuring their content was kept fresh and engaging saw an average of 25 to 50,000 completed website purchases a year, whereas those who didn’t, on average, had around 10,000 completed purchases. In the same time frame. That’s interesting.

In addition, of the respondents who recognised the need for regular content updates but weren’t action in them, 23% stated that their average sales conversion rate sat between one and 4%, which is below the benchmark for the sector. So the sector benchmark is 5% now, so that 1% is significantly low. 

Paul Marden: Absolutely. Shall we move on and talk about some testing? Because I know you think this one really is. 

Kelly Molson: Oh, yeah, I really do. So there is a statistic in the report that I had to reread a few times, actually, to believe. So last year’s survey and report, we had about 70 attractions take part. This year has been significantly more than that. We got 188 attractions from up and down the UK and Europe take part, which was incredible.

Paul Marden: And one in North America as well. I was really excited when I saw that one. 

Kelly Molson: Yes, we went international. That was exciting. Okay, so think about this: 188 attractions took part in this. 70% of the respondents have never conducted user testing of any kind on their website. 70%! That’s actually not the worst stat though. I’m going to save the worst stat for another episode, but that’s not the one that shocked me the most. But this one is really surprising. We’ve talked a bit about making assumptions about how well your website is perceived by people.

Hard data from actual users is the key to designing a website that has an improved user experience because it can clarify problem areas and identify where most effort is needed to create a really great online experience. So if you’re not asking your users how they’re interacting with the site and do they like it? Can they buy things well? Can they find what they want? How do you know if it’s good or not? It’s blown my mind. 

Paul Marden: It’s really hard, isn’t it? Really hard. 

Kelly Molson: And I think it’s really you wrote this down, actually. It’s really important to be aware of a familiarity bias. So just because you think your website is easy to navigate doesn’t mean other people think is it’s because you’re familiar with it so you understand where things are. Which is really interesting. Actually, I’ve just been reminded of a conversation that I had with somebody when I was at an attraction.

Now I can’t name this attraction, we’re working with them and we’re under NDA, but they asked me about a website that we’d redesigned. They said, “Oh, you did this website, didn’t you?” I said, “Yes”, “I can’t find this thing anymore that I couldn’t find. It took me ages to find it before” and I was like, “All right, what is the thing?” And he talked about what it was. 

I said, “Oh, well, it would be in this area”. And he said, “Yeah, which makes sense. But before it was over here and I knew where it was and it just feels a bit weird now.” I said, “Do you think it was in the right place before?”. “Oh, no, shouldn’t have been.” Okay. So it’s just because you know where it is doesn’t mean it’s actually in the right place. It’s just what you get used to over the years. 

Paul Marden: It is incredibly hard to put yourself into the position of the person that knows nothing about your organisation. Trying to imagine what the customer is going through takes a lot of effort and I think that you can get data to be able to do that. But a lot of there’s kind of levels of kind of understanding of that, putting yourself into that customer’s position, the empathy that is required.

Lots of people that we meet and work with will talk about how they want their site to be structured and what makes sense to them. Some people then will go the next stage and think about what they think their customer wants. And then there’s a stage beyond that which is not even trying to put themselves into the customer position, but actually test what the customer thinks. 

It’s really hard to have the empathy to understand. If you know nothing, what would you do? And there’s loads of stuff that you can do. I’m sure we’ll come on to that later on to try to understand and test. But just sitting somebody down and watching them go from zero to hero and buying your tickets is a valuable thing that you could do, couldn’t it? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, absolutely. Now the report on the survey is anonymous. All the data that we get from it, we don’t talk about the people that have submitted it and we don’t talk about them. There was a number of websites within the data set that were doing really well in terms of both design and navigation and the impact that they were having on their conversion rate.

So we reached out to these organisations to ask if we could talk about them today. And all of them were very happy for us to talk about it. So we have had their permission. I think I’ll hand over to you, Paul, because you’ve been doing the analysis over on these sites. It’s really lovely to see that Roman Baths are on this list.

Paul Marden: They’re on the list.

Kelly Molson: Because they have been on the podcast and they’re our podcast alumni. So that was good.

Paul Marden: Yeah, more than once, I think, as well. 

Kelly Molson: Yes, they have been. 

Paul Marden: What I went looking for were who were the organisations that thought that they had good design and navigation in their site? But I didn’t think that was really enough because of course you could think that it was good and it isn’t very good. So what could I dig into the data to try to pull apart the people that thought they had good design and following through from that good design actually had good outcomes.

And Roman Baths was up there in that top set of organisations that had they thought they had a good, consistent high quality design, but they also had a conversion rate up there in the top ratings that we had inside the data set. Obviously, Roman Baths really well known organisation, lots of international visitors will be going there. There was another that I pulled out in the data set, which was also a really high profile brand. London Zoo came out in that top set. 

Kelly Molson: Also past podcast guests. Thank you. Yes, lovely people. 

Paul Marden: So they also thought they had good, consistent design, but coincidentally also had good quality conversion rates up there in the top performance in the data set. But to avoid you saying to me, “Oh, but all these are all big, internationally recognised brands. What’s design got to do with it?” Up there we’ve got Roman Baths, London Zoo. Big, well known brands.

But there’s also some organisations that I wasn’t familiar with in that data set. So there were organisations that are probably more regional, less internationally well recognised brands. And one of those that considered that they had good quality design and they also had high levels of conversion rates. Alongside that were Smithwick’s experience in Kilkenny in Ireland. It’s an attraction that is a brewery tour. I thought that one was really interesting when I went and looked at it. 

It was really easy to navigate around the site, ridiculously easy to go and buy tickets. You go onto the site, it’s right there to be able to buy those tickets, to go to that experience. So I think that told me that you didn’t need to be a big, well recognised brand to be able to devote the time and attention and budget that’s needed to get a good design, which then has the impact on your conversion rates.

Yeah, this is not just for the big brands. This is also for other brands, smaller, regional brands that can maybe not devote the same levels of investment to it that a large organisation can, but they can still have good outcomes and good design. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. And I think it’s fair to say we do ask questions in the report about budget, but we don’t ask them specifically. So we haven’t asked. We don’t, for example, know the investment that Roman Barths, London Zoo or Smithwicks have made in their website to get it to where it is now. We literally have no idea.

So their budgets could be phenomenally big, they could be phenomenally small. We have no idea whatsoever. But we know that they have invested in good design and they’ve done it to a really great standard, which means it’s easy for people to make purchases. Therefore their sales are sitting at a really great level. 

The Roman Baths I just a little shout out to Simon Addison, actually, because Simon did come on to the podcast a couple of times now, and actually he came onto a recent episode where we talked about the value of this report and the survey that we carry out. And this is its second year now and we can see the value in terms of the data that we’ve been able to glean from it is so much more insightful this year.

The key insights themselves are much more in depth than they were last year. But one thing that Simon mentioned is that we don’t work with Roman Baths. I’ve made that clear on the last podcast. We didn’t design their website. We’ve not worked with them. 

They did use the report to inform some of the decisions that they made about designing their website and making changes to it, which I think is so great. Right. The report is actually actively doing what we set out for it to do. Regardless of whether anyone comes to work with us or not. Someone can take this report and use the insights from it to inform their current agency to make changes to their site that are going to make a significant difference to their bottom line. Well done, us. 

Paul Marden: Well done, us. But well done, everyone that’s responded as well. 

Kelly Molson: Whatever. Well done, us. Well done, everyone. Thank you. 

Paul Marden: So I just think it’s really impressive, isn’t it, that we’ve got what was it you said? 180 something respondents from across the sector.

Kelly Molson: 188.

Paul Marden: It’s so hard in a tough industry. There’s lots of industries where people would not work together. And this is a collaborative exercise in sharing your data that takes a certain confidence within the sector to be able to be willing to share that information so that then somebody like us can then do the graph that aggregating that and seeing the interesting stories that people can then use to make things better. There’s so many places where you would not see that happen.

Kelly Molson: It’s a wonderful part of the sector, that collaboration and that willingness to share and be open about things. Right, let’s talk about next steps then, because we’ve talked about some of the items within design, navigation, testing. We’ve talked about who’s doing it well. Let’s wrap this up with next steps that you can take.  

If you think some of these things are relevant to you and you want to do something about them. Do some testing. Do some testing and you can do that in a variety of ways. 

Paul Marden: Do you want me to test some stuff? 

Kelly Molson: Let’s do some testing. Let’s test. Look, there’s loads of ways that you can do user testing if you’re going through the process of a redesign at the moment. Go back to your wireframes, make them interactive. Do some internal testing, do some external testing. You can do this in multiple ways so you can do focus groups, get bums on seats in front of computers and give them some things that you want them to do on your site.

Don’t tell them how to do it, but just give them some things that you want them to achieve. I want you to buy a ticket. I want you to tell me how easy it is to go and find the interactive map. I want you to find a blog post and can you get from the blog post to buying a ticket, some of those things. 

This doesn’t need to cost you a huge amount of money, right? You all have an asset in that. “Hey, would you like a free ticket to our venue if you come and do some testing for us?” Put on a little bit of lunch, put on people are really happy to help and give you feedback in that way. So that doesn’t need to be a huge cost at all. You can use online tools, so we use tools like UserTesting.com.

You can select a certain demographic that you want to test out and you upload what you want them to test. And then they go off and they do it, and they record videos, and you can see how they interact and they talk through what they’re doing and how easy it was for them to do those things as well. 

They are not a huge, costly I actually don’t know off the top of my head. There will be a fee to use the system, which will be a monthly fee and then there’ll be a fee probably for that will cover X amount of tests within that monthly fee. So it will probably be from what, 150, maybe a month, something like that, maybe a bit more. 

Paul Marden: The cost depends as well on factors, how many factors you place on the do you only want people to do user testing that are of a particular demographic and age? If your attraction has mainly parents with young kids coming, do you want your user testing to be done only by parents with young kids? When you add more constraints to it, the cost of doing it becomes higher. But arguably the quality of the data that you get back from the testing is more relevant to you. 

Kelly Molson: You can do this with I’ve talked about going back to the wireframe stage. You can do this at any point. So great, do a load of testing before you go ahead and release something to the world. But if you’ve got something that’s up and running now, do some testing. So you can do user testing on what you already have. You can do exit surveys so you can ask people once they’ve bought a ticket, you can ask them how easy that was. What did you find difficult? What were your challenges at the end of your purchasing journey? So there’s small little things you can do there. 

Paul Marden: The world has changed a lot, hasn’t it? In the last few years we’ve moved to almost exclusively online sales beforehand. So we’ve got this massive pool of data, of contact information of the people that have bought your tickets. That’s such a great resource that you could use, which in previous years pre pandemic it would have been a struggle because a large chunk of your people would have been walk ins who you didn’t necessarily it wasn’t easy to capture those sorts of contact details and follow up with them. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, exactly. And then I think there are things that you can do in terms of looking at your user experience and the design side of things. We do things like UX reviews for people. We actually offered one as a prize for all of the people that entered the survey this year and the lovely people at Cheddar Gorge won that. We’re going to be looking at that in a couple of months for them. 

Paul Marden: Back near my home proper, that’s Cheddar Gorge is where I went as a kid, like, so that’s exciting to be. 

Kelly Molson: In that we’ll be carrying that out later on in the year for them. So, yeah, there’s things that you can do in terms of working with an agency to look at what your user journeys look like. Are they correct for the audience that you have? Does your design flow? Where are the barriers that you’re seeing? And again, if you’re looking at some of the data of where you’re seeing people drop off, is that a design issue, is that a function issue? How do we work those things out? 

Paul Marden: There’s loads of tools, isn’t there, as well, like Hotjar that you can stick on, which doesn’t cost a lot of money. And it’s not just Hotjar, there are lots of other tools just like it which would give you insight into the behaviour of the users on the site. It’s just a snapshot that you get for free, but that snapshot could really help inform decision making about maybe I need to make it easier for them to find the button because they’re finding it hard to book tickets or whatever. 

Kelly Molson: Because they can’t see where they need to book their tickets. 

Paul Marden: Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: So, yeah, I think in summary, do some testing is what I’m going to end this podcast episode with. Do some testing, come back and tell us what you find.

Paul Marden: Exciting. I’d love to have those conversations. 

Kelly Molson: As ever, if you want to get in touch with either of us, all of our contact details are in the Show Notes. If anything has sparked your interest that we’ve talked about today, we’re really happy to answer any questions and things like that. So if you do want to ask any questions about any of the kind of stats that we’ve talked about, again, just our email addresses will be in the Show Notes. And also, if you haven’t downloaded the report yet, why not? Because it’s out. It launched yesterday. We did a webinar. Did you come to it? Why not? If not, but if you do want to go and download the report, we’ll put the link to that in the Show Notes as well. But just head over to the rubbercheese.com website and you’ll be able to find it. We’ll see you next time. 

Paul Marden: Awesome. Thank you. 



Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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