Theme Park University

Usability and information architecture (IA) improvements

 
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 Navigation changes included improvements to the homepage's article feed, the search box, and the categories.

Navigation changes included improvements to the homepage's article feed, the search box, and the categories.

About

Theme Park University is a WordPress blog which provides in-depth insights into the themed entertainment industry. I helped them to make their site easier to use and to make its advertising more effective.

My task

  • Improve Theme Park University’s navigation to encourage users to stay on the site longer.
  • Improve Theme Park University’s monetization by making its advertising more effective.
  • Investigate ways to encourage more Theme Park University readers to share site content.

Project team

  • My role included usability and information architecture improvements, via a card sorting study and CSS3 development.
  • My point of contact was their president.
 

Overview of improvements

 

Main Navigation Menu

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Before

The main navigation bar's location was easy to miss because it was between a large logo and an ad.

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After

I moved the main navigation menu to a fixed-position bar at the top of each page.

 

Post excerpts

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Before

The original post excerpts were WordPress's defaults and did not have calls to action to read the post.

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After

A call to action invites visitors to read the full article.  The Older Posts and Newer Posts links became buttons to help people see that there were more posts.

 

Related content

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Before

TPU articles had a series of unfocused calls to action: sharing the article, liking it, clicking on an ad, and viewing previous and next posts.

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After

I installed a related content plugin, which pointed people to more related articles within the same site to increase pages per session.

 

Sidebar

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Before

The sidebar presented a series of widgets: a search box, a suggested product for Amazon affiliates, a series of categories, and (further down) a small button for following TPU on Twitter.

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After

I added background information to explain why people should support TPU on Amazon.  I also installed a plugin which embedded a feed of rotating Tweets into each page.

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Facebook Like box

Similarly, I installed a Facebook like box to replace the previous one, which was broken.

 

Advertising

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Before

TPU had sidebar ads which were falling victim to right rail blindness.

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After: New ads

The new advertisements were scattered throughout each post.

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About & Advertise

New widgets in the sidebar tell readers about Theme Park University and invite businesses in the amusement industry to advertise to an already interested audience.

 

Sidebar ads and meta

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Before

The sidebar had a series of Amazon ads presented without context.  The register and login links were under a confusing "Meta" header, which did not state a case for signing up.

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After

I moved the Subscribe widget down the sidebar as a final call to action for readers who have seen more of the site's value.  I changed the "Meta" header to "Log in to comment" since commenting on TPU posts requires registration.

 

Live site

 

Results

Google Analytics data, June-August 2015 vs. June-August 2014

 

107.64%

increase in sessions on their site

109.24%

increase in users

128.06%

increase in pageviews

24.72%

increase in average session duration

9.84%

increase in average pages per session

3.11%

decrease in bounce rate

.54%

increase in percentage of new sessions

 

From the client

“Since the changes have been implemented, the amount of time readers spend on the site has gone up, the bounce rate (how many people leave after reading one article) has gone down, and I’ve gotten solid feedback from regulars saying they appreciated how much easier it is to navigate the site.

“I know many Theme Park University readers work within the themed entertainment industry or have their own fan sites. If you’re looking to build or modify your website to make it more user friendly, have a stronger impact and engage with your audience on a more intuitive level, I highly recommend Thrill & Create. Not only does David understand how people use and interact with websites, he also has a deep appreciation and knowledge base of the theme park industry and how it works.”
— Josh Young, Editor-in-Chief – Theme Park University
 

Let's work together.