After a year of analysis, design, testing, and programming, we’re rolling out a new and improved website experience over the next few days. Here’s a quick guide to what we’re doing and why.
Why Change the Site?
Our post-trip survey asks you to rate every aspect of your trip, and that includes your experience with the TouringPlans website. In looking at those results, two things were mentioned far more than anything else:
- The site’s most important pages didn’t always look good on phones
- The site needed a “modern look and feel” (some people used language that was a little more colorful)
As an example of a page that didn’t look good on phones, here’s a comparison of the old and new page for the crowd calendar. (You can tap the images below and move through them at a larger size.)
The old version is packed with information, which is great once you know what you’re looking at. But it’s intimidating and not easy to understand, especially for folks who’ve never been to Walt Disney World. The new version is cleaner and gets right to the point. Shown on the right, you can also tap on any day to see each park’s crowd level for that day.
Our testing also uncovered differences in how users like to see the display. A lot of folks prefer a row-by-row view of the crowd calendar, but many prefer to see it “like a calendar”. The row view is above, but the new version lets you change to a calendar view if you prefer.
New Navigation and Menus
If we’ve got the information, but nobody can find it, is it really there? One of the first things we tackled was making menu updates to help guide users to important information quickly.
A key problem we needed to solve was using menus to prompt first-time visitors that “this might be something you’re unaware of, but it’s potentially important“. For example, someone who’s never been to Disney World may not know that you can make reservations to get on rides. A menu item that just says “Genie+” doesn’t tell them what it is or why it’s important. And it certainly doesn’t let them know that Genie+ doesn’t even cover everything you need to know about Lightning Lanes!
Testing, Testing, and More Testing
To get an idea of what worked and what didn’t, we examined how other sites implemented their site menus. We checked out dozens, including the official Disney World website, other third-party theme park sites, and popular general travel sites. Next, we asked hundreds of people who’d never been to Disney World what their most important questions would be if they were planning a trip.
With those two things, we ran “information scent” testing with hundreds more people who’d never been to Walt Disney World. For example, we showed those folks the official Disney World site menu and said:
You are planning a trip to Walt Disney World and want to know if there are any options for “skipping the lines” for its rides. See if there are any resources on this site that tell you whether that’s possible.
How We Used the Results
Our old site menus didn’t have an item for Genie+. Users had to read the whole Disney World landing page or use the search bar to find out about it. That’s bad! To be fair, Disney doesn’t mention Genie+ in its top-level navigation either. But that’s not a reason why we shouldn’t try to do better.
The new site menus include the most important topics and tools. And they highlight Disney-specific terms with short phrases that hint at the meaning. For example, the menu entry for Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane includes the words “front-of-line service” as context. (That’s not exactly accurate, but it’s close enough to get the point across in something that will fit in the menu.)
Likewise, testing showed that “Rider Switch for Small Children” was more helpful than “Rider Switch” or “Baby Swap”. And “Special Needs Guests” communicated the content better than “Disability Access Service”.
We didn’t just take this information-forward approach with the menus. We redesigned many pages from the ground up with the same goal of helping you find the most important information faster.
For example, we’ve added photos and ecommerce-style filters to our park attraction pages. In the past, we showed our “reviewer” rating; now we show the audience rating from surveys instead. You can still display our rating, or the rating from any age group, by simply checking a box. Adding this ability to customize the display helps first-time guests find the attractions they’re most likely to enjoy.
We made similar changes to our hotel and restaurant pages (tap them below to expand). These are just some of the new page designs – there’s lots more to see.
We Designed for What You’re Looking For
Here’s an example of what I mean by that. The restaurant pages on your average theme park site are usually detailed reviews. To write an in-depth review, it might take 2,000 words. But it takes a long time to read 2,000 words – almost 10 minutes for the average adult.
Our new restaurant pages summarize our rating, reader ratings, and information about the atmosphere, food quality, and value, plus photos, in about 600 words. They’re designed for users who are learning about a lot of options and want to do it quickly. Or users who are in the parks and want to check something fast while on the go. You’ll get all the information you need in about 2½ minutes so you can move on to the next thing. And if the quick summary makes you want to read that longer review that describes every dish? We’ve still got that; you’ll find it on the blog.
Timeline and Next Steps
We’ve completed work on almost all of the site’s 500 most popular pages. Those will be turned on later this week, permanently replacing the old versions of those pages. Over the next several months, we’ll also
- Update our blog layout to a more modern design that matches the new site layout.
- Convert the Disney Cruise Line and other theme park areas of the site to the new layout.
- Continue to make updates and tweaks as we get feedback from users and monitor how well the new site is meeting your needs.
Thanks and Feedback
A lot of people put in a lot of work on this site re-design. I’d like to thank David, Guy, Brad, Jennifer, Becky, and Lynda from our team for getting this done. Thanks to Cameron King for the design work. Thanks to Al and Peter at LaunchScout, plus our contractors Rehan and Sufyan, who have done great work and provided valuable suggestions along the way. And I’d like to express my thanks to our Liners – the TouringPlans community – for providing feedback and suggestions as we thought up new page designs. Y’all are great.
If you find a broken link, please send us a ticket to let us know. Please don’t use that to send feedback or opinions – instead leave a comment here. One of the most useful things I’ve ever learned about giving feedback was to suggest an alternative and give a reason for it. For instance: “It would be better if you called them ‘Resorts’ instead of ‘Hotels’, because Disney calls them ‘Resorts’ and consistent naming makes it easier for new users”.
A Fun Postscript
The site also has a new logo. which I think is kind of EPCOT-y:
We used this logo from 2010 to 2023 and I still love it:
We used this logo from 2005 to 2010:
We used this logo in 2004:
And this was the original TouringPlans logo when the site launched in 2001. That thing that looks like a car wheel was supposed to be a wristwatch. I still kinda like “when time matters!” as a catchphrase: