The National Trust look after special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, restoring them, protecting them and opening them up to everyone. They rely on the support of their members, donors and volunteers, as well as income from grant-making bodies and commercial activities, such as retail and catering, to look after the places in their care. The Trust’s Holidays business generates a significant portion of this revenue.
The previous Holidays website wasn’t working hard enough for the National Trust. The technology was unreliable, leading to performance issues. The booking journey offered a poor user experience, the site was not mobile-friendly and SEO was poor. As a result, conversion rates were low at 0.56%, well below the industry average of 1-4%, with many visits resulting in a call to the Trust’s contact centre.
Key problems with the Holidays site included:
• Booking journeys were limited to National Trust cottages. Other holidays products (working holidays, camping, bothies and bunkhouses) had separate pages or searches, resulting in a disjointed user experience.
• Awareness of the Trust’s Holidays offering was low, particularly for camping, bothies and bunkhouses, and working holidays. The Holidays team were limited in the content they could create and update, and so struggled to increase their visibility in Google searches.
• The website platform was inflexible, so the Trust were not able to take advantage of the growing trend towards short- breaks, or showcase products based on availability. Customers were not able to find products available in the required area at the required price.
All of which presented significant roadblocks to the Trust’s plans to grow the business.
What we did
The National Trust engaged Manifesto on a long-term project to redesign the Holidays website, including all customer journeys, and bring it onto the same platform (CMS) as the main Trust website.
The primary strategic goals were to: convert more people who currently visit the National Trust to book holidays; raise awareness with new audiences and people looking for holidays; and create a unified National Trust brand experience by joining the user experience to that of the main website.
A secondary set of strategic goals included: increasing the advocacy of existing loyal bookers; increasing the speed and ease of updating content; enabling optimisation of the Holidays website for search; and reducing the workload of the call centre.
User Experience design
The Holidays website redesign and rebuild project revolved around a Lean UX process. Manifesto worked in close collaboration with the Trust’s internal team over three, two week-long UX sprints, quickly iterating over designs which were tested as HTML prototypes in face-to-face sessions with representative users. The preferred route was then iterated further and used to create a backlog to take into development.
Particular attention was paid to the booking journeys on mobile throughout the UX sprint process, with extensive user testing of designs for mobile search, filter, map and calendar elements.
Design of content revolved around the needs of users, who want to quickly access important information about possible holiday accommodation and make use of high-quality imagery to help guide booking decisions. The site also allows editors to easily create and update content around holiday destinations, aiding discoverability and driving organic traffic.
How it went
The new Holidays site provides a booking journey which offers superlative ease-of-use. Users on any device now have the ability to quickly find available properties with characteristics which are important to them – from location to accessibility to dog-friendliness – and book without having to call the contact centre.
“The National Trust’s previous digital journey often left our audiences confused and frustrated. As a charity, we can’t sit back and neglect this vital part of the business. We have worked closely with Manifesto to rebuild our digital offering to future-proof its functionality and make it a positive experience for all users. The Holidays website is the final jewel in the crown. We have finally brought all our web property onto one responsive platform, which is allowing us to focus on innovating and growing the charity.
“The new website is clearly paying off, with bookings and revenue already up. Now that we have a more user-friendly experience, we can easily show our customers all the properties we have on offer and attract new visitors. All of this will help us on our mission to preserve, protect and share historic places and spaces – for ever, for everyone.” – Tom Barker, Head of Digital at National Trust
How this helps us on your project
We have lots of experience partnering with large organisations to help deliver ambitious new customer experiences. Our design philosophy puts value creation at the heart of everything we do, ensuring customer experiences which meet both the needs of users and strategic business goals.