Our project journey with the Isles of Scilly Travel Group was much like our actual journey to their office in Lands End – pleasant with a few unexpected twists and turns along the way.
It only took five hours to get to Penzance. Just the five. Luckily, that particular journey was well worth it. We came away from that hot and stuffy stakeholder meeting, with a clear idea of the projects direction and goals, it was a breath of fresh air – We would be taking IOS from an outdated static site, which could barely handle its regular users making bookings, to something that would work to attract much wider audiences to the Islands, and become more of a ‘window’ into the Scilly lifestyle that many celebrities swarm to.
While the site needed to look the part- we needed to accommodate a big twist in standard airline/travel site functionality; it needed to be a dual booking system. Letting users easily book by air and by sea at the same time on the same ticket.
Now, we have worked with a handful of airline system providers over our time, but it just so happened that IOS were using a provider that we have a close working relationship with Airkiosk.
Based on previous projects of a similar nature and knowing how the AK system works, we felt it would be best to build the new site on their platform. Considering the dual nature of the booking system, it would be the easiest way to present the required information to the user and also manage what information was displayed on the tickets. We assumed as no other platforms had been mentioned, or other functionality requirements stipulated, that this would be a given…
After our meeting in narnia, we couldn’t wait to get cracking on some UX and wireframes with the team. We went whiteboard crazy for a while, and had postits for everything. We arrived at three wireframes that we felt had the strongest potential to deliver the Isles of Scilly team a solid structure that gave us lots of room to design a beautiful brochure-esque site for them.
We scheduled a conference call with the IOS team as being in Penzance, had made a face to face that involved the whole BED team a bit difficult.
Using UX Pin, we showed the client our three versions of the wireframes, these were also clickable so you could move around the site and click the drop downs and see how the buttons worked etc.
We presented them with enthusiasm and were really excited to get their feedback and buy in… It didn’t go as entirely as expected. We know that asking someone with little or no web build experience to feedback and critique a wireframe is difficult. It’s like buying a house – If you view it empty, it’s hard to imagine what it could look like with all your furniture in.
We had to steer the conversation and take bits they liked from each of them to create a structure that we could design to.
The design process was fairly lengthy, it involved many a conference call and was during a time when important additions to the IOS stakeholder team were made. It was very much welcomed though – Sharon, the new E-marketing Controller, became our main source of contact, so the need for conference calls with the entire team was less necessary. Decisions were made quicker and actions were signed off instantly. From here on out it became plain sailing.
We submitted around 5 designs for the site, all in-keeping with a boutique-lifestyle sort of site we had previously discussed, unlike the wireframe disappointment, there was a lot more that could be said for the designs.
As we presented the final design to the client, comments were made about being able to edit the content and track hits to pages amongst a few other tid bits of functionality that were not in scope. These two points may sound minor, but in terms of what the AK system can and can’t do, they were actually a pretty big deal. It meant we had to find another platform and fast.
We settled on WordPress, integrated the AK system, and added various widgets and plugins to accommodate the new requirements.
When final designs were signed off and the base of the site was in place, we needed to populate the site with content. It was at this point, that we discovered that there would be a comprehensive amount of information for both Skybus (plane travel) and Scillonian (travel by sea). We had the original sitemap which would have been fine- but based on the length of content provided, it became obvious that we needed to present the information in a way that wouldn’t look confusing. We opted for a ‘switcher’ functionality that would allow the user to choose whether they were travelling by air or by sea. Based on their selection, the site would then dynamically present the relevant content depending on their initial decision. The original site map inevitably grew much larger.
After a long six months, we arrived at the finished article and we couldn’t have been happier with the result, inspite of the twists and turns the project encountered. The wireframe and colour palettes changed somewhat throughout the process, but we definitely nailed the brief and gave the client a website that can give their users a true flavour of the Isles.
The new designs couldn’t be further from the former site; the images used throughout work to bring it to life and the content is varied and engaging throughout – literally like flicking through a Scilly lifestyle magazine.