Wildlife Conservation Society

Zoos & Aquarium

Data-informed design. For the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the websites for the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and NY Aquarium are critical business tools that help millions of visitors a year  connect with both wildlife and WCS’s conservation efforts. Designing the sites not only took care, but testing — and lots of it. We worked with WCS to establish an iterative, data-informed approach that resulted in 5 new sites that are optimized to drive key metrics, such as revenue-per-visit.

  • Challenge

    Redesign WCS’s 5 facility sites with a specific strategy for quantitatively improving revenue and other key performance metrics.

  • Solution

    Launch an MVP of the new Bronxzoo.com during peak season, test a variety of designs, then apply those proven designs to all 5 sites.

  • Results

    Shortly after launch the 5 sites saw, on-average, a 23% increase in purchases, an 18% increase in revenue, and a 100% increase in revenue driven through mobile devices.

How we did it.

  • A/B Testing

    We vetted design solutions by conducting dozens of A/B tests — pitting one design against another to determine which is more successful — on more than 100,000 unique visitors over the course of eight weeks.

  • Speed Optimization

    Simply put, speed affects sales. We made sure the five sites were fast — really fast — by streamlining the visual design (e.g., forgoing large vendor files like jQuery) and leveraging a content delivery network, bringing the load time of bronxzoo.com down to 637ms.

  • Mobile-first Mindset

    More than half of site visitors come from a mobile device, and we know that some are actually visiting a facility when they do. We kept mobile in mind from the start and even conducted testing specifically around the mobile experience to ensure we’re meeting the unique needs of this audience and their environment.

  • Central Content Management

    All five sites run off a central Ruby on Rails-based CMS, tailored specifically to WCS’s publishing needs. The platform allows the five facility sites to share content and assets, and makes creating and managing content incredibly efficient.

  • We tested multiple design solutions — and ultimately selected the most successful — by first building a minimum viable product (MVP) of the Bronxzoo.com that  only included the core elements required to complete site transactions (e.g., buying a ticket).  We directed a portion of site traffic to this new experience over the course of the peak summer season, and tested everything from visual treatments, to messaging, to page layout, and applied all of that accumulated learning to the production-level build-out of all five sites.

    How to Visualize a Series of A/B Tests
    Kevin Vigneault, Product Design Director
  • To help WCS easily create and manage modern page layouts — some which were informed by ongoing testing — we went beyond the traditional CMS WYSIWYG editor, and developed our own compositional editing system. Pages across the sites are built using flexible, stacked content “blocks,” which can include styled content, images, custom markup, or data pulled from CMS-managed resources. The system lets WCS manage visually complex pages without having to write a single line of code.

    Beyond Content Management
    Lawson Kurtz, Senior Developer
  • At the heart of the platform is the open-source Ruby on Rails framework. In keeping with an open-source approach — learn more at code.viget.com — we employed a few open source projects of our own, including: Gastropod, to create user-friendly URLs; Sprig, to correctly handle relational data dependencies with sample data; activeadmin_reorderable to enable drag-and-drop reordering of resources within the CMS admin; and polymorphic_select, to allow selection of grouped resources.