In today's Customer Spotlight we are excited to introduce you to the team over at Westgate Resorts who proudly use X to power their big time registrations site and who have been kind enough to share their process from ideation to execution.
Q: Hi Westgate Resorts! Can you tell us a little bit about your company and the Westgate Resorts Reservations Team?
Westgate Resorts is a Vacation & Travel Company that offers resorts and properties to our guests all across the United States. Unlike typical hotels, we make sure that our resorts have everything that they might possibly need during a trip and are close to the best attractions.
Now, let’s talk about our Westgate Resorts Reservations Team! We are a group of tech geeks that happen to love data and “analytics, bro.” Mix that with our background in development, coding, marketing, and design and you get a solid team to enter the all-mighty website revamp challenge.
Q: When revamping the site became your “next destination,” what was your biggest challenge?
As you can expect, we had our internal goals and customer ones. When it came down to our internal team, we decided to use a theme that allowed even the WordPress “noobs” to be able to collaborate and add content to the site. On top of that, we needed consistency. When you are working with a group of people with different skill sets, things can easily go awry. So once we had our strategy and look & feel for the site locked, it was crucial to keep that element of uniformity across all pages. Things like fonts, colors, imagery, and spacing, had to be consistent and user-friendly.
As far as customers, we needed to make sure that our site had a balance between modern but also comfortable for the potential families that are looking to book a vacation. Also, it was essential to ensure that the content covered all steps throughout the traveler’s decision-making process.
Q: Walk us through your design process. How did X help with the online user experience?
We started with keyword research to understand the consumer behavior on both search engines and our site. We then grabbed those popular terms and used them to then establish the site architecture:
Because X Theme has so much flexibility, every person from the team, even those without any coding experience, were able to contribute ideas for the layouts.
In our brainstorming sessions, we had to think of how our site was going to continue evolving and take that into consideration. For instance, because we cater to people from different parts of the world, we knew there would be a Spanish & Portuguese Phase 2. As a result, we eliminated any kind of text on images from our site guidelines to create a more efficient process.
Q: Shortcodes are a web team’s best friend, right? Any tips on creating custom shortcodes?
Yes! Having shortcodes handy improved efficiency by cutting the time needed to build layouts for +200 pages and for all types of devices. Almost anyone on our team can build a page layout from a sketch or PSD mock-up. Some of our favorite X Theme elements were:
- Visibility – We used this one to add our call to actions in a more prominent way according to the layouts and devices.
- Column – We used this to easily divide our pages to match our mockups, creating a worry free design experience when you build a page out.
- Custom Headline – We love this especially for SEO purposes, the ability to use the “looks_like” function was very helpful for our SEO efforts. Members of our team that optimized the pages could now keep the design feel the same while adding all the H tags in order within the site.
Shortcodes are all about identifying those elements on the website that will end up being repetitive. Take the time to pinpoint them and, trust us, you will end up saving time in the long run. Here are a few that we ended up creating for WestgateReservations.com:
- Phone – Insert dynamic phone number based on market source (this also includes the code for Google Adwords tracking).
- Search Availability – Insert our Booking Engine (search form) with multiple options: resort, special, destination, and layout.
- Content Block – Insert content from custom post type so we can easily use duplicate info throughout the site.
- Newsletter Subscription Form – Easily include our newsletter form throughout the site.
Q: Which plugins do you recommend when building a massive site like Westgate Reservations?
This is a big argument for our team as we have marketing team members and web developers in the same space. While marketing wants to get things done fast and easy with plugins, web development doesn’t want to sacrifice speed or clutter the site. But here is what we agreed on using:
- X Theme Extensions:
- SEO & Speed Optimization:
- Yoast SEO (Paid)
- WP Smush Pro (Paid)
- Broken Link Checker (really needed on a large site)
- Simple Share
- Revolution Slider (included with your X Theme purchase)
- UberMenu 3 (paid)
Q: Launching can be both the best and scariest feeling. What are some of the “Must-Dos” once you are live?
We were very organized with the whole process on redesigning the site. We knew all of our pages, what was wrong with them, what traffic each page brought and what we wanted to achieve. So the whole site started by spending a couple of weeks looking into Google Analytics. Here are the Must Do’s we think are important when you launch a site like ours.
- Check URLs – Make sure you have your site pages organized and have designated new URLs on the new site. 301s are your best friend! Make sure the old pages that are replaced or get a URL change forward to the appropriate page on the new site (make sure if you have a mobile site that you also 301 redirect mobile).
- Google Analytics – Set all your Goals again and make sure you have the appropriate URL’s so you can track your funnels.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Submit your Sitemap and don’t forget to unblock your pages on your robots.txt.
- Adwords/Paid Campaigns – Change your URLs and make sure that no errors pop up in your dashboard on those first couple of weeks.
Overall, we are extremely happy with the end result and will continue to analyze and adjust our layouts and site look in order to improve our goals in design and conversion. Thank you X Theme. 😉
A big thanks to the Westgate Resorts team for sharing their behind the scenes process for using X to power their reservations site. We are proud to have products in X and Cornerstone that can be used on sites ranging from hobbyists all the way to government agencies. The Westgate Resorts reservation team have done a superb job storyboarding their vision then using the power of X for the heavy lifting! Interested in possibly being part of a future Customer Spotlight? We'd love to hear from you.