Travelwisconsin.com is up and running, enlightening users worldwide to all Wisconsin has to offer. Thanks to input from 300 Convention and Visitors Bureaus throughout the state, the site is constantly updated with fresh content. We are very pleased with the results. But it wasn’t all beer and cheese.
The competition for travel and leisure dollars is fierce nationwide. Thousands of destinations implore travelers to visit via Web sites and other media. To stand out in this crowded market and ultimately draw tourists, a site has to be exceptional. It must be visually engaging, highly functional and simple to navigate, but without skimping on features.
We knew that much already, but we set out to learn more when the Wisconsin Department of Tourism asked us to build their site.
What’s the Story?
We started by researching the psychology of travel planning. The first thing we learned is that, for most people, the vacation really starts as soon as the planning begins. As anticipation and excitement build, the story of the vacation begins to unfold. A Web site that helps build that anticipation and excitement is crucial to complete the story.
What, When, and Where
Another fact our research uncovered was that people plan vacations in different ways. There are three ways to plan: what, when, and where. A what-based traveler starts with an activity, say cycling, and then decides when and where is best for cycling. A when-based traveler begins with a calendar, and figures out what to do and where to go within the time available. A where-based traveler first decides where to go, and then figures out the best time to go and what to do when they get there.
To build a world-class tourism site, you have to make it easy for all three types of planners to get the information they want.
This concept is central to the functionality of the site. We worked extensively with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to arrive at a solution that would be simple to use and offer alternative plans for any destination, activity or schedule. The Department of Tourism has a mission to ensure that tourism is a top contributor to the economy and quality of life in Wisconsin. To do so, it needs to show people new options based on where they are going and when.
The site consists of over 60,000 events, attractions and destinations, all connected to a filtering system that narrows content according to user input. For example, you might know that you want to go golfing, but you haven’t locked in where or when. The site lets you start with golf, and then narrow down the time and the place. Once you’ve finally locked in your golf outing for next Saturday at Geneva National, the site reorganizes the content so you can see all the other things happening around Lake Geneva on that particular weekend. The unique thing about travelwisconsin.com is the fact that you could also arrive at that content even if you approached it from a completely different angle. For example, you might be free next Saturday, but have no plans. You could start with the event calendar and see what’s happening next Saturday, decide you want to go to Lake Geneva, and find Grand Geneva from that angle. Once narrowed, the site will expand the content to include other things happening at that time and place. The result is content that is comprehensive and useful regardless of whether your approach is based on activity, schedule or destination.
A Few of Our Favorite Things
One of the more popular features of the site is our interactive fall color report. It includes a map of the state with an index of fall colors so you can plan your road trips accordingly. Once the snow flies, we will replace the fall color report with a snow report that tracks conditions at ski hills statewide.
We are happy to be located in Wisconsin so we can enjoy its rich traditions and destinations, and we are honored to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to promote our state to the rest of the world.