What do a convention planner and a 6th grade baseball player have in common? If you’re hoping for a good punch line, there isn’t one. Unless they’re related, the two exist in very different spheres, complete with different vocabularies, goals and needs.
We recently developed a website that needed to speak to both of those audiences, plus many others. It needed to speak to parents planning birthday parties and members of the US Women’s Field Hockey team. It had to appeal to recreational rock climbers and high school football recruiters. It had to serve soccer leagues looking for tournament sites and schools planning their next prom.
Spooky Nook Sports is the largest indoor sports facility in the nation, with more than 700,000 square feet of facilities under one roof in Manheim, PA. Contemplating the uses for their website is a lot like walking into the facility for the first time. It’s daunting.
Each audience has unique needs as well as common ones. They all need to know about things like parking, facilities and food. They each need access to different contacts, schedules, and documents.
The original Spooky Nook Sports website had a cramped layout and confusing navigation. Three top navigations led to facilities, rentals and events. There were parallel navigations for academies, youth programs and sports performance, as well as adventure and entertainment. Summer camps and summer programs were also featured side by side. Without knowing what each term meant to Spooky Nook Sports, users were forced to poke their way through the site until they found what they were looking for.
Synapse’s founder and lead strategist, Bobby Deraco, and Jared Hippensteel, Synapse’s director of web and UI design, approached the redesign with the same strategy we use in every build: understand the site’s users and identify their needs. With this site, there were just a lot more users, with more diverse needs, than usual.
“What was unique with Spooky Nook Sports was you might have someone coming for a sports event one day, and that person might come back next week for the arcade,” says Jared.
To get a handle on all of the site’s users and their individual needs, Synapse had to go beyond analyzing existing site traffic and talking with staff. “We did focus groups with people in many different age ranges,” says Synapse account manager Jacki Robison. “We talked to parents and kids, to business people and athletes. We asked them what they would want to do if they went to The Nook, what they would want to look at first.” Based on that research, we developed six personas embodying Spooky Nook Sports’ primary users.
The personas formed the foundation of the new site architecture. “We created dynamic content for each persona and tailored links to ensure that they could find the relevant information they needed as soon as they got to the site, each and every time,” Jared says.
The new home page looks like this:
In addition to clear top navigation options, the new page immediately directs users to tailored content by asking: What’s your goal? The options, represented by bold icons, are clearly differentiated: Train & Compete, Entertainment Choices, Corporate Events, Group Outings and Visitor Info.
“We also needed to address a second big problem with the existing site in that it didn’t show the size of the facilities,” says Jared. “We needed to make it clear that this is more than a gym.” To convey the scope of the facilities, we incorporated a 60-second video loop on the home page showcasing a variety of activities and areas.
The video runs automatically on the user’s first visit. On subsequent visits, the user encounters prominent sliders, with a link to replay the original video.
To ensure that users always have access to basic information such as hours and directions without intruding on the main content, we developed dynamic, unobtrusive side navigations in addition to static bottom menus.
Spooky Nook Sports also serves a lot of elite teams and other sports groups. Their existing site couldn’t accommodate those users, and as a result, many had created individual sites through Facebook and other platforms. “We built 6 microsites for individual teams and leagues,” says Jared. “These sites were critical because they’re used by recruiting agencies for schools and elite teams. We set up the microsites to make them easy for a nonweb person to use and update.” Synapse will add additional microsites as needed.
In addition to the site’s architecture, the content and calls to action had to be tailored to suit each group while remaining consistent with the company’s brand. The result is a customized experience for every user, from the Little Leaguer to the convention planner, that drives them directly to the content they need, even if their needs change from visit to visit.
User-centric design is at the heart of every website we build, because the best mapping and planning and designing can’t make up for a poor user experience.
Is your website giving your visitors an optimal experience? If not, it may be costing you customers. To learn more about Synapse’s user-driven approach to web design, why not start a conversation with us today?