Interactivity for visitor attraction websites, with Kelly and Paul from Rubber Cheese

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

“So interactive elements can be really great for people that can’t visit your site, for one example. However, the digital aspect of that means that you could intentionally put something on your site which actually is less accessible for people who have visual impairments or hearing impairments, for example.”

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.

“HubSpot found that interactive content like quizzes, assessments and polls can increase time spent on a website by 80%.”

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.

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • How you can make your site more interactive
  • Great examples we’ve seen 
  • The tasks and costs associated with that

Skip 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: Hello. Back for a fourth time. 

Paul Marden: Hello. 

Kelly Molson: What attraction have you visited most recently, and what did you love about it? 

Paul Marden: Do I go first? I always go first. 

Kelly Molson: We’ve got a format now. Don’t break the format. I’m comfortable. 

Paul Marden: I went to the Titanic Museum just recently. We were exhibiting, actually, at the Association of Science and Discovery Centres at their annual conference in Belfast, which was actually at W5 in the Titanic quarter of Belfast. And I could talk loads about W5, which I will do in another session. But the place that I went to that I was most kind of emotionally moved by which I’m a bit of a geek and I’m fairly concrete in terms of my emotional stuff, for me to feel moved. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. It’s normally me that’s got the blubbing. 

Paul Marden: Yeah. So I was blown away by the experience at the Titanic Museum. I’ve never been to a museum with so few artefacts, which, of course, is because everything was lost at sea. And so the whole museum is about telling the story through reproductions and immersive experiences, which was all amazing. But then you stumble upon one of the original artefacts as you’re wandering around, and there’s only a handful of them, but it hit me like a brick wall when I actually came across them. So there’s a life jacket. There’s only twelve of those left in existence, and they’ve got one of them at the museum. And you walk into this room, where all of the names of the victims of this tragedy are on this massive wall. And it’s a darkened room, but lit in the centre of the room was this one life jacket. 

Amazing. And then you walk around and there’s a section talking about the root cause of the accident. And there are the keys to the binocular store from the crow’s nest, which happened to be in the second officer’s pocket. And he had to get off the ship in Southampton and he didn’t get back on, and so there were no keys. And so the people that were in the crow’s nest couldn’t open the box with the binoculars that would have led them to see the iceberg. 

Kelly Molson: Wow. What a story. That wasn’t in the film. 

Paul Marden: No, it wasn’t in the film. So it’s really impactful. And then the storytelling was amazing, but completely lost on me. So I was chatting to. I made a new friend, Lucinda Lewis, the CEO of Catalyst Science and Discovery Centre, and we would, like, both say how amazing it was, how impactful it was. And she was like, “Yeah, and the dominoes.” And I’m like, “Dominoes? What dominoes?” 

And she was like, “Did you not see when you were looking at all of the root causes, they wrote them on these big pillars that were toppling, showing you the domino effect.” I was like, “Okay, yeah, that was completely lost on me.” 

Kelly Molson: So lesson for you is you need to pay more attention to the interpretation next time. 

Paul Marden: Completely clueless to the subtext of what was going on around me. But the story was amazing. 

Kelly Molson: Story is really cool. Yeah. I have never heard that before. That’s really impressive. I think that picture that you painted of all the names with the one kind of life jacket in the middle of it is so powerful. I can see it in my head, but I’ve never seen it. 

Paul Marden: That was only one of a dozen kind of really powerful memories that I’ve got of being just blown away by their storytelling and how they communicated what happened. It was just an amazing place. 

Kelly Molson: Nice. I’ve got it. I missed that I couldn’t make it to the conference this year because I was elsewhere. 

Paul Marden: Absolutely. What have you been doing recently? Where have you been? 

Kelly Molson: So this is a very recent one, literally last week, last Thursday, I was very kindly invited to go and visit the Ashmolean Museum, which is a free to enter museum. But what I really liked is they have a very large donations area as you first walk in and you’ve got card donations. Beep. So easy. I never have cash, so that was a big thumbs up for me. The museum is brilliant. I mean, it has some brilliant exhibitions in it that are there. They’re always there. But I was really keen to go and see their colour revolution exhibition, which is all around Victorian art, fashion and design. Some of you might not know this about me, but I was a graphic designer in the past, actually. Probably. Actually, loads of you people know about that. Loads. 

I was a graphic designer once upon a time and I was a packaging designer and just design and colour. And also I’ve got a real passion for kind of interior design as well. So all of these things just, I have a big love of. So this exhibition for me was like, “This is the one. This is a big tick.” What I found really fascinating is that Victorian Britain has this kind of connotation of being really dull and dreary, and the exhibition was kind of exploring that. It’s absolutely incorrect, but they start with Queen Victoria’s morning dress, which is a really powerful image. So after Prince Albert’s sudden death, she plunged into a very deep grief. And she actually wore. I didn’t know this. She wore black for the remaining 40 years of her life. I had no idea that she. 

I mean, I knew she mourned for a really long time. I had no idea she never wore another colour again. So she’s obviously such an iconic image, an iconic person of that era, that image probably sticks with you, which is why it adds to that illusion of Victorian’s love in the dark completely. But they didn’t they really love colour.  And they love to experiment with it. And they have a big thing about insects and animals and bringing that into the colours that they wore. And the jewellery, like, some of the jewellery, like this beetle necklace, was just incredible. And there is a lot of. I know that they have a lot of that in their kind of fabrics and their kind of artwork from that time as well. But what I really loved is really small artefact in the museum that I totally loved. So it was a very early colour chart, like a paint sample colour chart. So this is quite current for me at the minute. 

Kelly Molson: My office is full of furnishings because we’re renovating a cottage in Norfolk and it’s not ready, but I’ve had to order all the things for it or find them off Facebook Marketplace and eBay and charity shops and vintage places and my office. So colour chart and all of that kind of stuff is, like, right up here at the moment. But anyway, there was an 1814 Scottish artist called Patrick Syme, and he tried to solve the problem of how to describe colour by giving each one of them a name. But he draw nature to do this. So you have, like, mole’s breath now from Barrow and ball and lighting green and those kind of stuff. Well, this is where this started in the Victorian age, so it’s absolutely beautiful. I posted it on my LinkedIn. 

But this colour chart is just gorgeous and it gives a number for each colour. So number 54. Its name was Duck green. The animal that it was named after is the neck of Mallard. I actually thought the colour was neck of Mallard, which I was like, that’s absolutely brilliant. The vegetable that it was similar to is the upper disc of yew leaves, and the mineral is. I don’t know if I’m going to pronounce this Ceylanite and I Googled it isn’t green. I had no idea what ceylanite is, but it’s not green. 

Paul Marden: Yeah, I’d struggle to identify a yew tree, let alone the upper disc green of a yew tree’s leaf. 

Kelly Molson: Well, there you go. Honestly, I loved it. I loved every minute of it. It was really interesting. And that for me was like, I know it’s a really small artefact, but it was the standout one for me because it just connected with some of it is so current for me at the moment. It was £15 pounds to go and see this exhibition and that is money well spent. It’s open now until the 18th of Feb 2024. So totally get yourselves along to visit that. And also their restaurant and food is top notch. 

Paul Marden: Was it good? Was it really okay? 

Kelly Molson: We’ll talk about that another time. 

Paul Marden: We’ve done a few of the Oxford Uni museums, but we’ve not done the Ashmolean yet, so that needs to be on my list of places to go. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, definitely worth a little visit. Okay. Right. We’re going to talk about interactivity today. Making your website more interactive can improve engagement which is more likely to improve your conversion rate. But very few attractions have interactive elements, which is quite surprising, actually. So we’re going to talk about how you can make your site a bit more interactive and immersive. So one, the stat from the survey is that, 53% of visitor attractions survey don’t have any interactive elements on their websites. 

So that’s like. I’m quite surprised about that because during the pandemic, went all in on interactivity. We had to. It was the only way that you could kind of get people to your site and get people engaged in what you were doing. And we’re talking about things like virtual tours, interactive maps, or even just integrating video and audio on your site is a way of making it interactive as well. So, yeah, I was quite surprised that it was so low, actually. 

Paul Marden: Yeah, it surprised me as well, because a lot of the people that we talk to want that kind of interactive content added into their sites. 

Kelly Molson: Do you think. And I’m not trying to make us idiots here again, because we did enough of that on the last episode, but do you think that people understand that video and audio is an interactive element? 

Paul Marden: That’s a good point. 

Kelly Molson: Or is our expectation of it to be more. Because audio and video, do we see that as a standard thing now? We don’t see that as a special element. 

Paul Marden: That could be absolutely true. And we talked a lot about things that we could do to improve the survey for next time. There’s a real risk, isn’t there? Because you could ask a lot more very detailed questions. Do you have a virtual tour? Do you have an interactive map? Do you have video and audio on your site? And now, all of a sudden, we’ve gone from one question to three questions, and we’re asking too much of everybody when they fill stuff in, so you end up having to have broader questions, but those broader questions themselves become a little ambiguous. So maybe there’s an element of. It could be that there’s a bunch of people in that 53% of people that don’t have interactivity, that may have stuff that is video or audio that we would consider to be interactive, but they don’t. 

Kelly Molson: Do you think as well, that because life has gone back to relative normality for the majority of us, that we just are not engaging with those things as much, or they just not seem to be as relevant anymore? 

Paul Marden: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? We talk about audience personas and trying to personalise the site to give people exactly the content that’s relevant to them. Who is the target audience for the virtual tour? Is the target audience for a virtual tour the people that are going to come visit? Is it a way of enticing people to come and physically come on site? Is it a way of extending the reach of the attraction, or let’s say it’s a cultural or museum kind of setting? Is it a way for them to extend the reach of their collection to people that can’t come.

Understanding what the interactivity is there for and how it enables the audience to achieve the goal that they’re trying to achieve. And for the clients, the attraction themselves, to be able to achieve what their goal is for that audience group is interesting. Interactivity for its own sake doesn’t help anyone if you’re not really thought about why you’re putting it there. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I was just trying to think. I’ve got a really good case study of this and I’ve forgotten the name of the place. I want to talk about it, but I’ve forgotten the name of it, so I’ll give you an explanation of it instead. Years ago, so. Oh, God, I think this is. In 2015, Lee and I went to Australia on holiday. Lee actually asked me to marry him in Australia at Ayers Rock. It was very romantic. 

Paul Marden: Oh, wow. 

Kelly Molson: But one of the best, I should say that was the best trip, obviously, that was the best trip, but one of the other best trips that went on while were there. When were in Melbourne, I’ve gone to the island and I’ve forgotten the name of the island. It’s come off totally out of my head. But went to see the little penguins, so the penguin parade that comes in. These penguins come in to shore every night and you can go and watch them come in. It’s like an army of miniature penguins. And it genuinely is the most magical thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. And you can’t take photos because it hurts their eyes. So you’re immersing yourself into this experience and it’s all up here in my head. 

Well, during the pandemic, they started live broadcasting it on Facebook and I was like, “Shut up. This is amazing.” Because it’s an expensive trip back to Australia, but I’d love to do that again. I would absolutely 100% go back and do that again.  But this was like a magical opportunity to see it in my home office and watch it as well. So those kind of opportunities, I think, are pretty magical. 

Paul Marden: You reminded me of in the middle of lockdown, I was obsessed by watching the webcam at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Kelly Molson: I just got something else that got obsessed about a few weeks ago, which is I watched the webcam Sandringham have got. No, is it Sandringham or Balmoral? One of them have got a webcam with the Red Squirrels. I think it’s Balmoral. And I got absolutely, totally obsessed with it. Had it on in the corner of the screen just while I was working, just going, “Is it there yet? Is it back yet? Red squirrel. Red squirrel.”

Paul Marden: I think it might be. The two of us were looking at penguins and sea otters during the height of the pandemic when were desperate to travel. Now, watching Red squirrels on a webcam might be, might not have the same justification for the rest of your day’s life. 

Kelly Molson: It’s really cool. It’s really cool. You don’t get to see red squirrels very often. 

Paul Marden: No, you don’t. 

Kelly Molson: Anyway, apologies went off on a total tangent, but you can see, look, we’ve got really animated about this, so you can totally see the value of having those kind of experiences on your website and being to engage with different audiences. 

Paul Marden: Should we do a stat? Should we talk about some numbers?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, what’s the benefits? 

Paul Marden: Yeah. So HubSpot again. We talk about HubSpot data all the time. But HubSpot found that interactive content like quizzes, assessments and polls can increase time spent on a website by 80%. That one’s lifted straight out of the survey that we put into there. But there’s some more. The Content Marketing Institute shows that 81% of marketers agreed that interactive content grabbed more attention than static content. But that chimes with the data that we gathered from people, doesn’t it? Because a lot of people do think that this is important stuff. Maybe not quite to the same level that the Content Marketing Institute found, but obviously people in the results set from our survey thought that this was important. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. And I think it depends on what that interactive content is. So, interestingly, when we did the live webinar for the report, we had someone on the webinar mention that they were a bit worried about distraction. So we talk a lot about focusing people’s attention on the job in hand, which is ultimately showcase what your attraction does, get them to buy a ticket. And this person said, are we distracting them from those journeys by doing that? But I don’t know if it’s part of the purchase journey. I think it might be post purchase. It feels for me like post purchase, getting them to come back and engage in your site, repeat visit stuff, just those things around quizzes and assessment and polls and stuff like that. And also this example that I just gave about the little penguins. 

I absolutely will go back to that place one day and being able to engage with it keeps it front and centre of my mind to go. When we go back to Australia, I’m going to take my kid to see that because she will love it. I’ll make sure she loves it. And I don’t know if it’s part of the first point of engagement. I think it’s post purchase engagement. 

Paul Marden: That’s interesting. Yeah. What the problems say? 

Kelly Molson: Anyway, problems? Sustainability. 

Paul Marden: Yeah. Shall I share a bugbear of mine that I share regularly in meetings all the time. But a lot of interactive content, especially the stuff that uses video, can be inherently unsustainable. Video uses bandwidth. And a lot of people don’t think of the impact that websites can have on CO2 emissions. Yeah, it’s a link that I don’t think many people make. I certainly didn’t until there’s been a lot of talk around in our industry about this in the last couple of years and it’s really opened my eyes up. It’s easy to understand if you work for an airline, you can see the CO2 emissions coming out the back of the plane, but if you build websites, you don’t see it necessarily, but video consumes bandwidth and bandwidth takes all of these things, the compute power to produce the video and publish it out onto the Internet. 

And then to shift all of that data across the Internet ultimately uses energy, and that energy comes at the cost of producing CO2. So one of the obvious ways, if we’re just talking about video itself, because video is one kind of more interactive element, avoiding autoplaying videos, which is my absolute bugbear when you land on a home page of a website. And the video autoplays that for me, now that my eyes have been opened to the impact of it, I only used to see the conversion rate benefit, but now the cost associated with that is clear in my mind. And I think if we can avoid doing that and find other ways to increase conversion, I think that’s really important. But also doing things to make sure that we understand what the sustainability impact of the web pages that we produce. 

So as we make our web pages more complex, they will produce more CO2 as a result of doing that. And I think as people become more aware of this, the world is going to change. At the moment, the people that buy from us, this is not something that is front and centre of their minds in the buying process, I think, at the moment. And there’s a lot of power in the hands of the marketers and the procurement people to make it so that technical people like us that build things are required to take that sustainability perspective into account when we’re building things and making sure that we build things sustainably. 

Kelly Molson: And then there’s accessibility. So interactive elements can be really great for people that can’t visit your site, for one example. However, the digital aspect of that means that you could intentionally put something on your site which actually is less accessible for people who have visual impairments or hearing impairments, for example. 

Paul Marden: Yeah, absolutely. If you’ve got video with audio, have you got subtitles? If you’ve got video, do you have audio descriptions that describe what the video is showing? If you’ve got an interactive map, how would you provide a more accessible way of being able to see the interactive map? If you’ve got a 3D, interactive, immersive virtual tour, how will you interact with that? If you can’t see it, to interact with it, those are all things that people need to be thinking about. And many of the institutions that we work with will have a statutory obligation to think about it as well. It’s not just a nice to have, it’s a statutory obligation to do it as well. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, for sure. Okay, so who’s doing it well? I think we should just caveat this one by saying that our report and a survey and subsequent report are all anonymous. If we ever share anyone’s information, that is, in relation to the report data. We have asked for their express permission. Prior to this. Prior to sharing. In this instant, we’ve just gone out and found some stuff on people’s websites and gone, “We really like this. This is really cool.” So we’re not talking about these institutions in relation to survey data? 

Paul Marden: No, absolutely. Should we talk about. The first one in our list was Mary Rose Trust. And the Mary Rose Museum has got an amazing array of interactive artefacts that they’ve listed off the bottom of the seabed and made it available on the website so you can come.  

Kelly Molson: With your mouse, you can turn it around. Not with your hand.

Paul Marden: Not yet. The technology isn’t quite there yet, but, yeah, you can interact with those artefacts and I think that’s pretty amazing for an organisation like them, to be able to share those, because they’ve got an amazing collection of Tudor artefacts and to be able to share those with the outside world is really impressive. Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: So that’s like a simple technology where you can kind of 3D model the artefact and you can spin it around and you can click on elements of it that will tell you a little bit about this part of it or where it was found or the condition of it, et cetera. So that is super cool. What was the other one on this list that you were like, “This is great.”

Paul Marden: I really loved the Museum of London’s Victorian Walk. It’s a 3D tour affair and obviously they’ve scanned, taken photos and composed this together into this really cool 3D tour system that you can just move around and experience what life is like on a Victorian walk. I was blown away by, you were talking about the colour of Victorian England. Yeah, it was a really colourful experience. So in my mind, it was a bit like going into diagonally in Hogwarts in the Harry Potter world. It felt that kind of side street of London kind of thing. But you really got into it. It was very cool. 

Kelly Molson: Oh, that’s one for me. So I should go and do that and do a little comparison of how colourful it was based on my Ashmolean experience. 

Paul Marden: Absolutely. 

Kelly Molson: Okay, next steps that someone can take if they’re thinking about stuff like this. So assess what you can do really quickly and easily. So what do we already have? 

Paul Marden: Yeah, a lot of people are already going to have stuff, aren’t they? So what video have they got? What audio have they got? Were they like Mary Rose and had a bunch of 3D scans of their artefacts that then you can stick into a tool and put onto your website. Obviously, if you’ve got a large collection and you want to 3D scan everything and put it onto your website, that’s not a trivial undertaking, is it? But if you’ve already got the 3D scans of stuff and you need to then make it available on the website, then the step might be relatively much simpler than scanning your whole collection. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. So have a look through your video, your audio, your 3D elements. What do you already have, what can you make more of? And then what can you easily add to your current site? 

Paul Marden: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of websites can add video and audio just straight out of the box. I’m going to get a bit geeky and talk about iframes, but essentially an iframe is a little cut out area of your website that you can post a little bit of content into that a lot of different interactive tools on the web will enable you to do so. The 3D models. There’s a tool that you can create 3D models of the world in that we’ve used on a number of different projects. And then you just embed it as an iframe, which is essentially take a URL of your 3D scan and you pop it into your website and it comes out and works on the page as is. It’s pretty awesome. And takes so little effort for your developers to be able to add it to the site. 

Kelly Molson: Cool. And then think about what you could commission or think about some of the things that you could potentially look at as a larger piece of project work. 

Paul Marden: Yeah, I mean, there’s a brainstorming exercise, there, isn’t there, of trying to get lots of people together and come up with creative ideas and think about what you can do. Some of the other stuff that we’ve talked about. Easy. Doesn’t take a lot of effort. You’ve got the assets already or it’s relatively easy to add them to your site. But what else could you do? That takes a lot of effort and planning. 

Kelly Molson: Ask your visitors. Ask people what more they’d like to see. 

Paul Marden: Yeah. Figuring out what your audience wants and how do you get them to that is step number one, isn’t it? 

Kelly Molson: Okay, and then what kind of budget are we looking at for some of these things? 

Paul Marden: How long is a piece of string kind of question? This one isn’t. It’s really hard adding interactive maps onto your site that are fully accessible and easy to use. I guess you’re looking at a few thousand pounds to be able to do that, potentially less depends on what you want to put into your interactive map, video and audio. If your website already supports it and you got a whole library of this stuff that you want to share with the outside world, it could cost you nothing but the time it takes you to add it to the site. And then you get into some of the more complex elements like the you can imagine that creating a 3D kind of immersive virtual walkthrough, that’s not a trivial job. 

If you want to go and photograph an entire exhibit, walk around the whole floor plan of your museum and create an amazing virtual tour. That’s going to take some effort, both in terms of getting the right people to turn up with the right kit to be able to do that photography, and then in terms of the technology that’s needed to turn that into a virtual tour, and then the effort to embed that into the website itself could be amazing. Probably not a cheap exercise.

Kelly Molson: No, substantial investment, and just need to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons and for the right audience as well. Also podcast if you are thinking about doing a podcast for your museum or your attraction, which I think is a genius idea, give us a shout and we’d be happy to share some of our kind of top tips. 

I think we did an episode on it back in the day with Paul Griffith from Painshill Park, who actually, he interviewed me on this podcast and we talked about some of the reasons that we did it, how we set it up, and some of the kind of costumes around that as well. So it’s worth having a little bit through, dig through the archive, but if you got any questions on that then yeah, give us a shout. Good chat again today. I enjoyed this. 

Paul Marden: Been good, hasn’t it? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. I’ll see you next time. 

Paul Marden: Thank you. Cheers, mate. Bye. 

Kelly Molson: Bye bye. 


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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