Search & Booking Platform Integration
Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY) is the official tourism agency for Yorkshire.
Tourism is of huge importance to Yorkshire; it is worth c. £7 billion annually and is one of the largest industries in the county employing almost a quarter of a million people. There are 216 million visits to Yorkshire each year made by people travelling from all over the world.
When Welcome to Yorkshire approached us they wished to replace their existing Destination Management System (DMS). The decision to do so had been made in order to improve various elements of the system, including the running costs of the existing DMS and the incumbent’s search results and interface design. Search engine optimisation was also required as the booking facility was located on a sub domain.
WTY had already selected a third party to provide the search and booking technology, using the Visit England NTOP (National Tourism Operating Platform), and we were engaged to advise on and implement the integration of this product.
There were two options available to integrating NTOP, either to use the product’s existing white label search or use a JSON API. The white label search had the same SEO restrictions as the system being replaced, offered limited options for interface design and had some accessibility issues, so the most appropriate approach was to use the JSON API.
By taking this approach we were able to create far more control over how the user interacts with the search, how the data is represented, and just as importantly, what is shown to the user. The API also offers greater compatibility with the website and the option for future enhancements and the integration of features to improve its relevance and customer experience. The new integration transforms the users’ entries into suitable inputs for the API and provides appropriate defaults making it easy for the user.
Although the NTOP system provides search and booking it does not allow any changes made on a record listing (e.g. a hotel, event or activity etc) to be pushed back into NTOP as its information is taken from a national system called NTPD. Therefore an administration system was implemented on the NTPD API, and integrated into WTY’s existing CMS, to allow changes to be made by an administrator and pushed into the NTPD system. Integrating this functionality into the existing CMS also ensured that WTY administrators didn’t have to manage two separate administration suites. The integration allows the existing system to validate an administrator authentication and authorisation, make the NTOP changes, submit and publish. Changes are then pushed into the NTDP API and propagated through the system. The administration interface also allows the system an opportunity to cleanse the data either by validation rules or limiting the inputted data by providing set data to select from.
Both the experience and interface design were centred around the needs of users. After an initial requirements gathering meeting with the stakeholders, we undertook a heuristic evaluation of the current site, as well as an analysis of competitor's websites to compare levels of information execution.
As the NTOP database was already designed, we needed to take into consideration any constraints of the existing data structure when producing wireframes.
After wireframe sign off, we completed the visual elements design and produced a set of concepts that satisfy the system requirements and were consistent and seamless with WTY’s branding and the rest of the website.
Throughout the wire-framing and concept stages, the deliverables underwent collaboration sessions within the design team that led to significant refinement and enhancement of the original ideas.
During the build stage, the interface underwent further in-house guerrilla testing which also led to enhancements in the some of the interactive elements.
If in the future the NTOP search or the NTPD systems are replaced, the user interface including the administration view can stay the same and the implementations can be swapped out for replacements keeping the user interactions, validation and business work flow the same.
The result is an interface that is more tailored, user friendly and pleasing to use.
In the initial two weeks post launch the homepage bounce rate improved by 22%, pageviews also increased significantly, up 25% and pages per visit climbed by 52% compared to the same period the previous month.
“Technophobia did a tremendous job for us on this project. What we valued was being able to work with a team who really knew how to make things work in a creative and efficient way. Working to incredibly tight timescales, they built us a brilliant platform that we can use to keep expanding our business with. Thank you all very much!” Sean Murricane, E-Business Manager, Welcome to Yorkshire.
WTY has been ranked fifth for Travel Websites by eNONYMOUS, the online mystery visitor. The website scored highly on performance and best practice, beating off stiff competition from a range of established names such as lastminute.com and Virgin Atlantic.