We took some time away from our desks this week to visit The Look Out Discovery Centre. The Look Out is a science centre for children, with lots of hands-on exhibits, a building zone and even a giant tower to climb in the forest.
The centre is a part of Bracknell Forest Council, and along with Coral Reef across the road, draws a lot of visitors to the area. When we got there, the woodland attraction was in full swing for the summer holidays. We wanted to find out what their visitors thought of the website, and what we should change in the redevelopment.
We went round asking visitors about their experiences of our website, their visit, and about other leisure attraction websites they have found helpful. We wrote their responses on Post-it notes (which are increasingly become the foundation of everything we do), and stuck them up onto Eric the Owl.
We had a few assumptions before we started:
- that visitors would be largely local to the Bracknell or Berkshire area
- that visitors would have visited the website to get information before their visit
We were wrong!
The majority of people we spoke to had travelled to The Look Out from other nearby boroughs and counties, and so hadn’t spent a great deal of time on the Bracknell Forest Council website at all. Those who did live in the borough hadn’t needed to look at the website before visiting.
At first this was a bit of a knock, as we had hoped to ask wider questions about the website as a whole. But on reflection, it was really useful to know that the redevelopment for The Look Out will need to be geared towards non-resident visitors as much as towards those who live and work here.
We also discovered more about how leisure attractions work together to promote each other within an area. Many people had found all they needed to know about The Look Out through social media, word of mouth, or printed leaflets and publications. It’s great that word travels fast like this, and the fact that some visitors didn’t feel they needed to visit the website shows that The Look Out do a great job of marketing themselves.
But the website needs to be there to answer the questions that people have, which don’t fit on a leaflet. Some questions people wished they had been able to find on the website were:
- Are the activities age appropriate for my children?
- Is there provision for learning disabilities?
- Is there somewhere for me to leave my bag while we go around the exhibits?
The current website for The Look Out is functional, and answers most critical questions. But we want to reflect the exciting, family feel of the place in our design and content. We feel that this calls for more images, more capacity for promotion of shows and events, and a more exciting presentation of simply worded content.
We had a great time looking around the venue, talking to people, and having a quick go on the exhibits ourselves.
Now that we know what The Look Out is like, we hope we can design better content for them and a website which advertises what they do. The next stage is to meet with the managers and key players in the council’s leisure team to discuss their needs for the new website.