Overall, to redesign the Granville Island website, we started by gathering information through focus groups, remote user tests, and consumer surveys. In late January and early February 2016, we conducted two in-person focus groups and a round of remote user-testing. Our intent was to determine the changes, if any, that should be made to the GranvilleIsland.com website when updating it. We also incorporated the latest round of our online satisfaction survey results to complete our recommendations.
We set up a number of focus groups and asked them some specific questions around their experience of Granville Island. We asked both those that knew about it and those that didn't. For the focus group, we selected the following demographic groups: users between the ages of 25-50 (average age of 39); a yearly income of up to $100,000 (60 percent under $40,000; 40 percent between $40,000-$100,000); and currently living in Vancouver. A key reason for using local people in focus groups was the belief that locals and tourists behave in similar ways when exploring and enjoying Granville Island.
For remote testing, we chose people in Canada who were interested in travelling to British Columbia and were roughly in the same demographic groups: ages 25–45 (average age of 30) and income below $100,000. In each group, both men and women participated, but more women than men took part in the in-person focus groups.
OUr online satisfaction survey also really helped as it has been run on the site every quarter since the summer of 2014. To date, 819 surveys have been submitted. The overall trend is that people are “very satisfied” with the website and “nothing” is frustrating or unappealing. However, we noticed that dissatisfaction had grown over the past year.
Based on the combination of these three research methods, we made a number of recommendations, and were able to implement the majority of them.
1) A major goal for the website should be to suggest the experience of being on Granville Island.
a. Both focus groups, which included actual island visitors, felt the website did not reflect the experience of being there. Participants in the focus groups expressed this in comments about the lack of photos as well as the adjectives they used to describe Granville Island itself (as opposed to the site) and specific comments about how users experienced the website. On the other hand, remote users who hadn’t visited Granville Island were not unhappy with the site’s presentation.
b. This goal could be achieved by increasing the photographic quality of the site, making it more visual over all.
2) Discovery is a key element of the Granville Island experience, but visitors did not sense that through the current website. The original brochure design suggested the idea of exploration and revelation, but the real experience of discovery could and should be heightened.
a. For example, a “wizard” or tree/branch discovery engine could suggest specific places to visit based on interests expressed by the user.
b. Animations and Easter eggs could be built into the site so that users can make discoveries and find delightful surprises, much the same way that visitors do when exploring the island.
c. Including details about the history of the island would be beneficial. One Indigenous focus group member suggested including First Nations place names, which resonated with the group. Granville Island is built on reclaimed land, and while local First Nations may not have named it, the suggestion of involving Indigenous language and heritage is compelling. Because Agentic has a long history of working with First Nations, we could approach the three local First Nations about the best way to include Indigenous culture on the site.
3) To build on the idea of creating user-specific recommendations, we could include an itinerary device as a way for users to develop a list of vendors, events, and experiences in advance of their visit to use as a guide when they reach Granville Island.
4) Some of the “demotivators” regarding Granville Island should be addressed through the site. Users ranked crowds and parking highest on this list. Though the site contains basic information about parking, this issue is difficult to address on the website.
a. Traffic is currently measured by Granville Island. This data could be included on the site to allow visitors to see typical visitor numbers for a particular day or time frame.
b. One participant suggested live updates about available parking. In theory, this is a great idea, but implementation is difficult. One possibility is a “count” of cars on the island (as is sometimes displayed by underground parkades).
5) Based on user feedback, we believe improvements to the map experience should be made. To optimize the site for mobile viewing, a mobile-friendly map should be provided to allow users to find their way around the island. The map could leverage Google Maps to help visitors find their way to the island and navigate once there. We can also draw attention to the Google Street View tours on the island itself.
6) We should explore ways to deepen the relationship between Top 10 ideas and content on the rest of the site. For example, “Ride a Boat” should link to the pages on the website with information that would enable users to ride a boat (including directory listings for Aquabus, boat rentals, Pirate Adventures, etc.). People in both focus groups and remote testing were interested in boats, but could not determine the next step to take. This disconnect extends to the rest of the Top 10 recommendations.
7) We should add subcategories to improve the experience of browsing for particular vendors. A disconnect exists between the current high-level terms and the specific vendor listings. As in the example above, the Marine category is too broad to help users easily find information about taking ferries. Similarly, in Event categories, a distinction exists between “performing arts” (as part of the Theatre and Performing Arts category) and “music” (under “Music Events”) that could be lost on users.
8) The Event listings need to be as complete as possible to be most effective. Performances, in particular, are a big draw for visitors coming to Granville Island, but the list of upcoming theatre and music on the site is not currently exhaustive. A “happening now/soon” function would be helpful for visitors.
9) The navigation heading, “Discover the Island,” should be revised. A number of remote users and focus group participants had trouble accurately assessing what they would find if they clicked “Discover the Island,” even though they had no difficulty with the rest of the navigation. Adding a small description to each area could help users with “info-scent.”
10) A search function should be included, as users relied on it heavily when they failed to achieve a particular task.
In ending, we are pleased with the launch and now the job of reviewing the site and improving on it as we go begins!