The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a staple destination for our city and beyond, so when they approached us to work on their project, we were seriously psyched! The Zoo needed a complete website overhaul in a very tight deadline. We like a challenge, and the zoo is our neighbor – just a quick walk from our office. So, we got right to work.
Current site visitors found it difficult to find relevant information to plan a visit. Zoo hours, daily events, and ticket prices were scattered throughout the site, making site visits inefficient and frustrating. Furthermore, the stars of the site – the animals themselves – were lost in the content noise.
On the flip-side, the Zoo staff lacked flexible templates and an intuitive CMS to enable them to make consistent content updates to the site.
Blue Archer needed to create a modern solution that not only catered to the primary content needs of site visitors, but also empowered the Zoo staff to make consistent, cohesive updates to the website ongoing.
The resulting website effectively communicates the high-level planning content visitors need most through a new “Plan Your Visit” section. Additionally, through striking imagery and thoughtful design, the animals take center stage, enabling users to easily learn more about their favorite species before (or after) their visit. Dozens of new custom layouts and databases as well as customizable admin levels in the CMS ensure the Zoo can easily delegate and perform routine content updates to the site ongoing.
Because the Pittsburgh Zoo had recently conducted an internal brand strategy, we were already half-way there. We abbreviated our typical strategy process, which enabled us to reallocate project hours to the design and development and ultimately complete the project more efficiently. Equipped with a solid brand strategy, we focused on establishing project goals, detailing website personas, identifying site user needs and journeys, building intuitive site architecture , and prototyping…lots of prototyping.
Our approach to the website design? Create a design that mirrors the in-person experience at the Zoo: up-close-and-personal encounters with animals, plenty of educational opportunities, and an intuitive path. In order to do that, our team visited the Pittsburgh Zoo to experience the Zoo firsthand and analyze how visitors interact with exhibits, signage, and more.
With the wireframe prototypes complete, our team had a very clear direction for content requirements. To kickoff the visual exploration, our design team created a mood board. The look and feel established in the mood board then set the tone for the homepage design. We needed to give users the opportunity to dive right in and plan their visit, but we couldn't overlook the overarching goal of educating users about the animals. The resulting animal slider on the homepage is eye-catching enough to encourage visitors to explore the animals they would meet during their visit.
Subtle texture elements including the rough edges of animal imagery project a rustic feel that is reminiscent of the signage and exhibit architecture at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Though a major component of the Pittsburgh Zoo was marketing focused - to inform users of crucial content to help plan tips and educate users about the animals, the website also needed to enable specific actions. Functionality for the site included a custom events and programs calendar, interactive map, integrated weather app, animals database for simple back-end population, and streamlined donations and membership.
Talk about all hands on deck. With a timeline as aggressive as it gets, it was an all-in group effort to populate, optimize, and test. When it came time to launch, we celebrated with our own behind-the-scenes tour. Check out some members of our team feeding giraffes and meeting red pandas!
Though it was a race to the finish line to get the website up for the Pittsburgh Zoo's tight deadline, the website launch was a success. Our team built several of the modules in a way that enabled the Pittsburgh Zoo to phase out content population so the new website would grow alongside their organization. The Pittsburgh Zoo experienced a 21% increase in number of site users, a 30% increase in site sessions, and a 13.5% increase in page views.