We recently had the pleasure to work with a long standing client of ours; Holgates Holiday Parks on the re-design and development of their new website. The overview of the brief from the client was as follows:
- Increase in level of holiday home enquiries.
- Increase in level of online bookings.
- Improve the user journey throughout the website, better navigating the user to the information they need.
- Create a visual and impactful website which is more on brand, providing the park experience online.
- Integrate with the current booking system RMS.
From the outset we knew that we would need to work with a flexible content management system that would enable us to integrate the RMS booking system and provide user management for the content creation on 6 holiday parks. Our content management system of choice is Craft CMS, which provides an extremely flexible way of working with content and a plugin infrastructure which can hook into third party API’s such as the one provided by RMS.
Design & Concept Work
After the initial research and idea generation around the site and its competitors the design team at Wash worked through the existing site plan. We developed a series of wireframe concepts which helped visualise how the new website UI would work through the different areas of the user journey. This early concept work helps us to get into conversations at the very beginning of the design process, whilst working through the website structure in a very iterative way with plenty of client feedback. From the low-fidelity wireframe concepts we move into the hi-fidelity design phase and prototyping in code for the main functionality of the site. At this stage of the process we have worked through the content for the website and how we will structure things so that the designs and prototypes can represent a realistic representation of the final new site. Designing with real content is extremely important and often overlooked as it is only when you start adding real content can you see how the design will work in a real life scenario.
The Build With Craft CMS
Because we have a very good understanding from the site content plan we can start the build within Craft CMS at an early stage in the build process. This activity is often run in parallel with the design process so that we can get into conversations with the client on the best approach to managing their content. While how the site will look and how the content will be managed are extremely important factors in the final build, the nice thing with Craft is we can decouple them because it gives us the flexibility to control the output of content in any way we choose.
Working with 3rd party API’s certainly adds another level of complexity to a website build. Often there is online documentation and sometimes a level of support for the product but this is not always the case. Working with RMS certainly fell into the challenge category partly due to the fact that they are an Australian company with limited UK support and also due to the complexities that a booking system often has, but at Wash we love a challenge. We worked with a couple of Craft developers to help integrate the booking system API into Craft. After quite a bit of discussion and work with RMS it turned out that there were three main requirements that we needed to work with.
- We needed to pull the available holidays from RMS and display them in a very user friendly way.
- A booking request with payment taken needed to happen via the website.
- A booking needed to be registered within RMS and a confirmation email would be sent.
Of course the above were only the main high level parts of the booking system, there were many smaller moving parts to build in, such as rules for which properties had pet availability, day blocks with different price options etc. We had to work very closely with Holgates on this as they knew every part to the booking system requirements. Working together, we tested each phase of the build to the different functionality requirements.
RMS didn’t provide a payment method within its API but thankfully Craft had a commerce solution which, with the help of Zaengle Corp, we were able to bridge the functionality of the RMS API with the commerce ordering system provided by Craft Commerce. With this bridge in place we were able to provide a seamless booking process for the customer which utilised the RMS API to check availability and the Craft Commerce plugin to take payment and process the orders. Quite an undertaking given all the moving parts but one that the client is extremely pleased with.
The project with Holgates didn’t just showcase our web design and development skills we also created a video and photo portfolio for them to help raise the brand and provide visitors to the website with a real flavour for what a Holgates holiday experience provides. At Wash we try not to think in terms of just building a website, because once the site is built it’s the content that is on it together with the user experience that will help keep users coming back.
The website has received some great feedback from users and we are really pleased with the reaction. Working closely with Holgates we have helped to drive traffic to the site and allow customers a much user friendly experience when they go to either make a holiday home enquiry or book a holiday.