Askew Brook were hired to create a design DisoverYorkshireCoast.com which is Scarborough Borough Council's official tourism website. The job developed into much more, allowing us to develop an overall strategy for the website and in some respects the tourism board as a whole. This is the story of our process and journey

Project update

As of October 2016 this version of the site is no longer live. We've left this here for posterity, we're very happy what we achieved on this project.

Background and starting point

The DiscoverYorkshireCoast.com website is a very popular and important website for both Scarborough Council and for tourism businesses up and down the coast. It’s recently enjoyed its most successful year to date with over a million unique visitors to the site in 2013 alone. The tourism stats for the area are staggering, too: the visitor economy in 2012 contributed £470m to the local economy in terms of visitor spend and supported in the region of fifteen and a half thousand jobs. In the same year, Scarborough was identified as the third most important destination in the UK for domestic overnight stays, behind London and Blackpool but ahead of Great Yarmouth, Torquay and Bournemouth. There are a lot of people who depend on the website for their income, including nearly 1,000 accommodation establishments – and many attractions and support businesses spread along the coast.

The website was very important on a local political level too as it was the first time in a number of years that the coastal regions of East Riding would be connecting with the Borough of Scarborough and the North York Moors to create a complete destination.

Original site homepage

Original site events

Original site mobile

Engagement with stakeholders

To kick this project off we met with the council and various tourism interest groups to try and understand what both frustrated them in the branding of the coast as a whole and what excited them. We also wanted to try and understand their customers. The key points that came out of the sessions are as follows:

Key business goals and constraints

  • Booking levels must remain at current levels
  • 48 current banners - already sold on principle of destination
  • Only Welcome to Yorkshire members appear on the site

Stakeholder sessions

Preconceptions and location

  • The location of the Yorkshire Coast is often perceived as a problem but the journey is always worth it and some may not see the location as a negative. Generally when people arrive they are glad they made the choice. Locations generally delight first-time visitors who often have negative or uninformed perceptions of the area. The key is to attract visitors and then pursue a longer relationship.
  • There are a lot of gems that if located elsewhere would be revered - Hockney’s Wolds, Scarborough Jazz Festival, Musicport. Flamborough Head. Many well known films and TV programmes have been filmed here including Harry Potter and Old Jack’s Boat. Scarborough is the first seaside town, does it get sold enough?
  • 'The Yorkshire Coast' is yet to achieve a strong identity and is best placed in the context of the destinations

Showing what the area can offer

  • People want different things from their destination. Buzz or seclusion, experience and/or relaxation - the area can offer them all.
  • Visual identifiers of the area are valuable - Obvious landmarks followed by shots that will surprise.
  • Themes are perceived as a good way of encouraging extra spend and convert day trippers to overnights.
  • There is much that is undiscovered or undersold that can act as a prompt.
  • Big events are crucial and need to be clearly presented.
  • Both ready made itineraries and letting users identify their own interests are a good way of introducing experiences .
  • There are many villages in the area that are famous in their own right (Staithes have a World famous art scene for example) but they easily get lost alongside the major destinations.

Tourism Team Session

Tourism Advisory Board Session

Staithes Session

Analysis

It's obvious that the perception of the main destinations on the Yorkshire Coast, possibly with the exception of Whitby, suffer from the same misconceptions as a lot of other Northern seaside towns - that they are run down, cultural wastelands with their best days behind them. This isn’t true for the Yorkshire Coast and we suspect that it’s location has an awful lot to do with that. The communities here need strong, homegrown culture, restaurants and events because travelling elsewhere isn’t an option for a lot of people.

The address of the website is DiscoverYorkshireCoast.com, the key word here is Discover and the existing website didn’t encourage this. We wanted to take this notion of going on a journey through the site to unearth gems that people weren’t expecting or make sure that the things didn’t expect to see here were visible. It felt like the existing website was one you would use when you had decided you wanted to go to the coast, we wanted to introduce it into thought processes a bit earlier and help convince people to come.

Aspiration or experience?

The Scarborough Borough Council recently signed off on a 10 year tourism plan that talks about raising the bar. We, like others, took this to mean catering to the luxury end of the market with better hotels, more upmarket eateries etc. We investigated the aspirational aspect of the destination, a perfectly fine and logical goal but it does it have negative connotations too.

It implies that a visitor's lifestyle isn’t good enough and they should want more, it assumes that people shouldn’t be comfortable with what the region offers to most people - the coast needs to understand that low cost holidays are fine. This is where experience comes into play, it’s subtly different concept to aspiration but it allows you to still utilise that in the relevant areas:

  • If a family with a £5pppd spend comes make sure they know they will get the best ice cream and beaches that there money can buy.
  • If a middle aged, well off couple comes show them the best restaurants, crisp linen and chilled glass of wine.

We need to put the visitor in the moment:

  • That could be us
  • That could be my child

Families get old, when they get older and have more disposable income make they pick the coast - that's the ten year plan.

Four Audiences

  • Families (interested in traditional beach holidays & family-friendly attractions)
  • Tourers (can be families or couples, likely to have a multi-faceted experience appreciating both the traditional seaside, sense of place, entry-level heritage & culture)
  • Explorers (most likely to be adults, most open to the concept of the coast as a place to explore. possibly attracted by an existing interest eg. history, theatre etc.)
  • Sitters (established audience who know and like a destination. can be families or mature adults. they need to know it's as it was last time they came.).

Take aways

  • The coast must be seen as a joined up destination, encourage people to travel between individual destinations.
  • We must find ways to unlock smaller, less well known but no less appealing places, restaurants and attractions.
  • We must show that the area does the traditional seaside experience as good as ever but show all the other things the area can offer. If a visitor has a specific interest and makes a destination decision on that basis (Food and drink perhaps) then show them there is more than enough here to make a holiday.
  • Sell experience as well as place.
  • Create shareable content - the current site isn’t getting shared at all on social networks.
  • Show there are reasons to stay over.
  • Make the website as a more attractive proposition for members and non-members.

Solutions

Navigation

The introduction of North York Moors and coastal villages into the main navigation allow us to introduce destinations that appeal to those who want something completely different to a traditional beach holiday. It both allows us to provide a good experience for explorers and tourers and underline the fact that all of the places are reachable from the coast, which many people don’t realise. It strengthens the Yorkshire Coast's offering.

Imagery

Wherever possible the imagery used seals the ideas of experience rather than place. It depicts situations that the viewer can imagine themselves being in, for example a girl running and playing on the beach rather than a high shot of a beach.

We've also tried to use imagery that surprises too, the banners are a perfect way to show the coast for what it is, an exciting destination with things happening that you don’t know about. It will hopefully make the site more interesting than similar destination sights, sweeping vistas are a safe option and we hope the imagery will underline the excitement of the coast.

Place

Experience

Scenery

You will still find a lot of landscape imagery too, the coast has some stunning coastline and countryside so it would be foolish to not leverage that.

My Yorkshire Coast and focus on

We were very keen to introduce editorials onto the homepage for a number of reasons. We introduced the “My Yorkshire Coast” and “Focus On” sections in the hope that less well-known attractions and places would be mentioned straight from the homepage - unlocking things off the beaten track. It also allows the tourism team to focus on a particular niche depending on time of year or something that comes into fashion. We launched in January so we started with a “Focus On Romance” to show people that the Yorkshire Coast was an option for Valentine’s day. These should change every month which allows us to keep the site fresh and relevant, the Tour De Yorkshire is coming to the coast in May and these spaces can both have a cycling focus.

Categories

These are probably the most important aspect we introduced into the site, they do an awful lot for us. They are more descriptive than “things to do” and “things to see” that are prevalent on destination websites. They allow us to talk about a specific interest and what people can do related to that across the whole coast. When you get to the destination it gets more specific but the repetition of these categories reinforces the idea that the whole coast can be linked within these interests. It should increase overnight stays as people see there is plenty to do in a particular category across the coast and take a night or two to enjoy it properly.

They allow us to showcase things that would otherwise be buried. For example “Old Jack’s Boat” a popular children’s TV series is filmed in Staithes. If you select the “TV & Literature” category on the homepage it gets mentioned straight away.

They allow people with specific interests who think that the coast is a traditional bucket and spade holiday to see beyond that and allows us to show we have things to offer them straight away. On the flip side it presents the traditional seaside experience alongside them, with the imagery reinforcing the fun aspect. The number of categories and their specific nature means that we can use a wider amount of imagery and they don’t have to be one size fits all. The imagery used for each category on each destination is unique and they could feasibly be used as stand-alone websites in their own right.

From a business point of view they are very helpful too. They allow advertisers to target their advertising. For example if they’re a high-end restaurant then they should get more traffic from advertising within the “food and drink category” than “Family and seaside”. The number of advertising slots for the website has also increased.

Finally they help with navigation, they are consistent across all pages so if a user gets confused or lost then they can easily get back on the right track. They also allow you a user to jump between interests without having to complete search after search, it should make the decision process quicker.

Final Solution