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A satisfying mixture of cutting edge web design, charming images and delightful usability makes the Visit Suffolk website a joy to get lost in, as much as the county itself.
Did I sound too much like an actual tourist board there?
Possibly, but it’s genuinely difficult not to be charmed by this site. Offering an experience that is not unlike exploring any attractive UK destination. In my experience I’ve certainly not found a tourism website quite so captivating.
Come with me and let’s take a little wander around the east coast…
The Visit Suffolk homepage is a wonderful place. It has the tiled squares we’ve come to associate with modern web design and responsiveness.
Each tile features an attractive mixture of simple, colourful graphics and wholesome photography that doesn’t come across as too cloying, with attractions targeting every demographic it possibly can.
Although the site doesn’t quite offer an infinite scroll, if you’re currently sat in front of a large screen monitor, blow the homepage up to full screen. It’s an incredible tapestry of options.
Hovering over each tile reveals more information about where that link takes you, which is a great time saving feature. I also enjoy the little coloured keys in the corner of each image to signify the type of activity.
Email sign-up and social buttons are all featured clearly but without being too pushy and the specific ‘latest tweet’ tile is a lovely touch. The Twitter feed is also thankfully regularly updated.
Each week has a specific theme and this week in particular is ‘family fun’. Here you’re taken through to a specifically built page that highlights attractions based on the theme. It reads like a blog post and is all the better for it, being a marketable piece of well-written content.
The navigation is entirely contained in the side menu, providing search and access to numerous pages offering further options for events, places and things to do.
I particularly like the Suffolk My Way option that reveals a series of drop down menus each asking questions in a particularly personable manner.
Further down the side menu, Suffolk Stories provides little tales from the county organized by category.
If you click on one of the category tabs, the tiles reorganize themselves accordingly.
Suffolk Places offers incredible depths of navigable options as well as locations to explore. Here destinations can be arranged by area by clicking on the above tabs.
This is Aldeburgh the home of ‘the best fish and chip shop in the country’, the landing page of which provides clear calls-to-action in terms of what to do, how to get there and where to stay.
This is possibly my favourite feature and arguably one of the most important tools on any tourism website.
Yes it is just a Google map at its heart, but it has been tailored beautifully with Visit Suffolk’s own pins, keys and pop-out images. Each one has even been integrated with Pinterest.
Using the map, it’s also possible to make your own list of activities or places and theme them accordingly. You can also access Visit Suffolk’s own collection.
Here is ‘Romantic Suffolk’. Each pinned place is accessible either from the map or from the side menu.
The site is fully responsive, with the tiles rearranging themselves brilliantly when resizing the browser window.
When accessing the site via mobile, the home screen presents you with this message.
Visit Suffolk has realised the wants of mobile users and is presenting them with the most likely options they may want straight away.
Chances are most people looking at a tourism website are planning a trip well in advance, probably from a desktop computer. However Visit Suffolk’s responsiveness means that when the same user is out and about on holiday, they’ll be able to use the same site on a mobile to quickly find activities and places to eat so they can plan their next adventure without looking for an internet café first.
Let’s take a look at a few other tourism websites and see how they stack up.
Presenting Suffolk's neighbours...
With the same colour-scheme as most hospital websites, a cluttered double carousel and extremely text-heavy/image-light landing pages, this is an uninspiring site, that doesn’t remotely do the otherwise beautiful county justice.
I lived in Cambridge for a few years and I can vouch for its beauty, endless parks and impeccable kindness to cyclists. This makes it seem like you’ll mainly be queuing up at Post Office counters and hiding in a field.
It took me a full minute to realise this was a wooden pig.
Uh… yeah…. I’m sure I once heard a saying about throwing stones and a glass house, but I don't remember it. I'll just save this one for another time.
For more on travel website UX, check out Voyage Prive and Secret Escapes: how the travel flash sale sites compare.