The Washington State Ferries (WSF) website provides locals, commuters, long time riders, novice travelers, and tourists with rider information, routes and schedules, real time alerts, and online ticket sales. In 2020 it served nearly 35 million viewers; however, the site was not user friendly. It was difficult to understand and navigate, and many users did not find what they were looking for and would resort to calling the help line instead. The helpline was overwhelmed with phone calls and had to use the same site and printed pages from the site to answer all the needs of their customers. The goal of this project was to help all types of users find what they needed and decrease the number of calls to the call center.
The Washington State Ferries (WSF) site is a subsection of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) site. The goal of the WSF site redesign was:
decreasing calls to the call center
creating easy access to top tasks
providing an interim site while the WSDOT site undergoes redesign
In this project we addressed:
content strategy and maintenance
Project Team from Anthro-Tech:
Designer, Content Strategist
Timeline: March 2020 - October 2020
The original site was not user friendly and drove many viewers to call the help line. The homepage had too many links with little explanations or hierarchy, lacked visual appeal, and was difficult to navigate. The top tasks were hard to complete and the subsequent deeper pages shared similar issues.
With a service design approach in mind, the team visited the help line call center to understand the needs of the operators in their work environments.
Insight from call center:
Many cubicles had printed maps and schedules annotated and pinned to the walls for operators to find information easily and quickly.
The content strategist then conducted a series of surveys and card sort activities to create a foundation for the new information architecture and site map.
The research activities led to a new structure that focused on the top tasks of the users based on analytics. Together the content strategist and I worked to create an organized categorization of information that lead to a new information architecture and navigation strategy that allowed users to understand the content of the site and quickly access their needs.
Using an iterative process, the homepage development went through a variety of versions to balance the technical restrictions and stakeholder requests.
The final homepage design focused on the three top tasks, clear navigation to all sections of the site, and static and dynamic information for both new and frequent visitors to the site.
We established a task based hierarchy to answer the most common questions and address the most popular needs based on analytics to decrease calls to the help line.
We included real time dynamic information on the homepage for frequent users to find out top alerts.
We introduced a local navigation to categorize everything available on the site to help users find the information they need quickly and easily.
The bottom of the homepage has links for first time riders and static information for everyone.
Deeper pages & Personality
Along with a new homepage, we introduced landing pages and content guidelines to establish structure and consistency to improve readability and scanability, all while maintaining the WSF personality.
The new local navigation consists of 5 major categories of information. We introduced landing pages to help create context around what people will find in each section.
These pages also incorporate links to various social media outlets that WSF uses to communicate with their community. The casual, witty voice that makes up their personality that many of their users have come to know and love was an important part of the design language in this project.
As an interim site, the aesthetics had to match the WSDOT site, so for the improvements on the deepest level pages, we worked to streamline text layouts and create clear left navigation to establish a sense of place and simple pathways.
The majority of the design work was completed for a June 2020 launch but with the coronavirus pandemic, the project was extended into the summer. Being under budget we provided more support to co-create content help with content management.
With a more in-depth improvement, the launch included a new homepage, deeper pages, and content on many deeper levels and associated applications. On the day of launch, I provided live support to the WSF team. After a small technical hiccup, the site went live with no negative feedback from any social media in the 4 week tracking period after. The following is a quote from a director of the WSF team in regards to the WSF team's commitment to this project and collaboration with my content strategist and myself on the site design, content, and end result.
"This is exceptional work. The site looks so much better than what we have now, and it seems to me to be much easier to navigate and find information. HUGE thanks to you and to ___ for investing so much time into this project. I know it's our job to be customer - focused, but you all do it SO WELL and never stop thinking about the customer, even when it's sometimes easier not to. Thank you, and KUDOS to all! Bravo to all of you for this effort - Really stellar work."
A few weeks after the project went live, we had an internal debrief to reflect on the work, collaboration, and moments of opportunity. The following are some thoughts from the WSF team: