Tourism website design best practice with Rocketspark and Waikato River Trails

The Waikato River Trails are a 103km cycle trail along the edge of New Zealand’s longest river. The trails officially opened in 2011 and since then thousands of people have run, biked, walked and raced the trail’s remote (but never too far from a cafe) riverside terrain. Despite having spectacular scenery and being a short drive from major centres and tourism attractions like Hobbiton, The Blue Spring and Rotorua, the Waikato River Trails are still a somewhat undiscovered tourism gem.

After a chance meeting at a networking event, Waikato River Trails caught the attention of Rocketspark. Tourism is a big deal in New Zealand—it’s the second largest export behind dairy. After a few of the Rocketspark team took the trails for a test drive, the potential of the Waikato River Trails were clear. The decision was made to sponsor a brand new website for the Waikato River Trails.

A design upgrade fuelled by beautiful images

Reviewing the existing website, it was clear there were some issues visually. Large, high quality images that make you feel ‘like you’re there’ are key to an effective tourism website. Most of the photos were taken by local pro photographer Josiah Clark with a few extras taken by the Rocketspark team on their recon mission to the River Trails. The images communicate a number of messages—they show people enjoying the trail on bikes or by foot, they show the trail terrain/difficulty, they show the diverse scenery and they show key trail highlights. A carefully curated selection of effective, high quality images will always out-perform a gallery of hundreds of poor quality images—most people don’t have time for that and will be turned off after the first few images.

More than just pretty pictures—guide visitors through effective messaging and calls to action

As we’ve already said above, stunning photos are a must-have. However, if that’s all you have, your website won’t rank well in Google and once people arrive at your website it’ll be less effective at generating leads.

We began by looking at the different ways people interact with the trail and treating them as different audiences. While most people using the trail are on a bike, 30% of trail users are walkers—a great option for those that might find the terrain a little too adventurous on a bike. Right up front, there’s three large picture buttons for walk the trail, bike the trail and race the trail. If you follow those links, the information is tailored to the way you want to interact with the trail, meaning conversion to leads will be more effective.

Likewise, some people do part of the trail and others do the entire 103km in a multi-day trip, so this is another set of calls to action fairly high on the home page. For people doing part of the trail, they want to view the different sections of the trail separately so they can decide which section to visit. For people doing the full trail, they want to see a map of the entire trail and then view accommodation and transport package options. By thinking about the different types of visitors you’ll have on your website and considering what they want to know, you create a journey through your site to provide visitors with the information they are looking for that will generate more leads.

Promoting other attractions or tourism businesses

Tourism business success is all about getting visitors to stay longer and do more. The symbiosis between tourism activity operators, accommodation providers and restaurants is a win-win-win relationship. The Waikato River Trails website does this well, promoting bike hire, cafe’s, transport and accommodation at the bottom of most pages in a grid of picture buttons.

Keeping the website updated

The old website was clunky to edit, which meant content updates took longer for Bridget, the website administrator at Waikato River Trails. Rocketspark’s website editing experience is intuitive and designed for everyday people—not techies which means that the site can be easily updated on a regular basis and fresh content can benefit your search results.

“An absolutely awesome, easy to use website builder, brilliant for people with little to no experience (like me!). Website building is no longer for the computer geniuses out there! The team at Rocketspark are fantastic, any questions asked were responded back quickly and with clear instructions. Would thoroughly recommend.”
Bridget Gage - Waikato River Trails Website Administrator

Connects with social media and Trip Advisor

Rocketspark has social media integrations with all of the major social networks that are popular with businesses. It’s also easy to add a Trip Advisor badge to your Rocketspark website. Social media is a great way to draw people to your website.

Blogging built in

Beautiful blogging features are built in to Rocketspark as standard. While it’s early days for the River Trails with only their first blog post, this will be a place where they can write news and articles about the trails and then share those blog posts via social media and email marketing.

A website builder for tourism—accommodation and activities

Small tourism businesses are a great fit for Rocketspark’s DIY website builder and it’s already popular for accommodation websites. The new Waikato River Trails website is a showcase of how effective Rocketspark can be for tourism businesses.

“The new Waikato River Trails Website is a massive leap forward for us. Working with Rocketspark has inspired us to tell our story using video and rich imagery supported by the important stuff visitors need to know. The Rocketspark team have been a great partner through the development process using their experience, bringing innovative ideas and solutions to the table. The result is a sharp uncluttered website that is easy to navigate and really easy to manage."
Glyn Wooller - General Manager - Waikato River Trails

Give the trail a go!

We would love to see more people riding, walking and racing the trail. If you’re a kiwi, grab your friends and family and experience it for yourself! If you’re not from New Zealand, why not get off the beaten track on your next visit and add the Waikato River Trails to your list of things to see and do.