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Sandwell Holiday Activities.

Sandwell holiday logo

Design, Development and Maintenance of Holiday activities booking website for the UK Government.

An Overview

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) needed a dedicated and functional website to promote holiday activities for children and young people across six towns – Oldbury, Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Tipton, Wednesbury and West Bromwich. The Sandwell council focused on providing nutritious meals and fun, enriching activities for children during school holidays.

Sandwell holiday mobile
Sandwell holiday image

Some key expectations & requirements from the Sandwell council were

  • Provide an online directory of the various activities.
  • Enable users to register interest in activities.
  • Create a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate website enabling users to discover the right holiday provision for their child.
  • Appeals to a universal audience and is not seen to target specific families.
  • Welcoming and friendly tone but incredibly functional.
  • Web design should be compatible with Sandwell branding guidelines.

Sandwell MBC wanted a welcoming and friendly tone but an exceptionally functional website. It should allow users to efficiently navigate the website and discover the perfect holiday activity for children and their families. They also emphasised that the website should appeal to a universal audience without stigmatising or targeting families experiencing hardships.

The Sandwell website became live on December 1, 2022, based on clear milestones and under the budget. Within 24 hours, the council received over 150 registrations to attend holiday activities from parents.

Sandwell holiday screen

A well-crafted Online Directory

The Sandwell council required over 50 activities to enter into the online directory. During the discovery phase, we identified that a potential online directory website must be user-friendly, clutter and confusion-free, and, above all, must be high performing

For building an effective online directory website, we considered the following:

  • Implement a location-aware option that automatically detects the location of users who grant permission for the website to access their location data. This feature will enable Service Directory to automatically filter results based on the user’s location without requiring additional user interaction.
  • We integrated Google Maps to display the location graphically and allow users to find their preferred activity based on their location.
  • Use a solid design containing a logical arrangement of screen sections enabling users to draw attention to crucial areas of the website.
  • Allow users to navigate through available activities effortlessly using simple filter options (age range, activity type, keyword, location or postal code).
  • We built a custom theme to create a unique look and feel for the website.
  • We prepared a mobile responsive website which worked seamlessly for all devices and checked the website functioning in 3000 media devices.
  • Create a stable online directory website by strictly following SEO guidelines to gain organic traffic.
  • Offer unique, relevant and meaningful content in simple and plain British English, which adds value to the visitors.

In collaboration with the findings, we developed a complete user experience and content strategy efforts and aligned them perfectly with visual design and development. Within two months, we launched the Sandwell Holiday Activities website with a user-focused intuitive web design to offer parents a platform for exploring enriching activities for their children.

sandwell-hollyday

User Experience Design

During the discovery phase, our creative team understood the problems users might experience while using the website. So we mapped the step-by-step user journey to resolve their issues. We considered some major points before continuing the project.

  • Understand the needs and wants of parents, young people and children.
  • Get a clear idea about where and how users might possibly interact.
  • Create design concepts and sitemaps.
  • Employ the best and latest design practices.

We followed the steps below to generate a great user experience and improve the website’s usability.

#1 Administer white space

We implemented white space to make the content more legible while enabling users to focus on elements around the text. White space offered a great feel and freshness for the overall website. We created a special logo using colours and components used from the design to keep the branding consistent with the Sandwell holiday activities.

#2 Optimise page loading speed

#3 Create attractive & actionable CTAs

We created attractive call-to-action buttons (CTAs) while thinking about the colour, message and colour psychology to evoke user trust and experience. We tested facets of colour variations and action messaging to trigger users to take action. As a result, we achieved a 10% increase in the registrations on the website. Our action-oriented buttons and activity listings on the home page enhanced the user experience and made the user journey easy. It also prompted users to register activities, and the Sandwell council yielded more bookings.

#4 Include relevant keywords in headings

Our SEO content writers included relevant keywords for targeting potential audiences by constructing well-designed headings to stand out and improve searchability. It guides the users to scan the website and find the right content they are searching for. The titles curated by our writers are consistent, stand out in size, font, and colour and describe the content precisely

#5 Ensure web pages are consistent

We ensured consistency between web pages by matching heading sizes, colours, fonts, button styles, spacing, illustrations and design attributes. These inputs improved the quality of designs and users’ trust. It also provides the user’s bespoke and memorable experiences to surf the website.

Sandwell holiday lap screen

Content Style Guide

Visual Design

Our web designers led a visual design discovery process to help users engage and build trust and interest in the brand. The visual design process revolves around website aesthetics by strategically implementing images, colours, fonts and other design elements. We were open to sharing ideas, concepts and perspectives with the council for a collaborative design process. It offered insights into branding preferences, established a shared vocabulary and motivated us to align with the project vision and design phase.

With visual design discovery, we could establish a crystal clear design consistent with the Sandwell organisational goals for transforming the website for a global audience. Our diligent effort in research, user journey mapping, user experience and content strategy offered significant value in the success of the Sandwell project.

From typography and colour palettes to design patterns, our web designers brought life to the website by co-existing with Sandwell’s core values: giving value to all, creating fun in activities, offering a range of new activities, trusting all activities, feeling welcomed, happy and valued.

Designers primarily focused on presenting high-priority web pages beginning with the homepage designs. We regularly checked and reviewed the web page design between the teams and with the council. We continuously refined the web design to ensure feasibility with the Sandwell council’s perspectives and improve the overall website experience for users.

Accessibility

Sweans understand accessibility from the ground up and are committed to making the journey to accessibility easier, faster and more successful. Our engineering team works collaboratively to improve accessibility by removing barriers and giving equal access to information, particularly for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

We are part of developing accessible websites for future generations. We don’t simply understand accessibility. We make it work for you by ensuring all elements are cohesive by continuously testing for speed, usability and accessibility.

Our approach to the accessibility testing process

To make a website accessible, we must put people of all abilities at the centre of the process to implement solutions. We incorporate state-of-the-art practices using cutting-edge technologies to ensure accessibility across multiple platforms. With the help of our experienced web development team and test engineers, we identify accessibility issues and run accessibility testing regularly as part of the rapid development routine. We combine accessibility and usability to increase ease of use for everyone.

Sandwell accessibility
scan the website

1. Scan the website

accessibility

2. Screen reader testing

Using the latest screen reader versions of NVDA, JAWS and VoiceOver, we conduct effective screen reader testing on the web content and offer a more accessible website experience for all your website visitors. We use screen readers to test our pages manually. Regular screen read testing is an effective method for checking any issues on your web pages. If there is a video, we refine closed captions and check elements like colour contrast, headings, buttons, lists and navigation.

3. Assess keyboard accessibility

We use keyboard accessibility testing to navigate the page, including all menus and interactive elements without using a mouse. We ensure that a disabled person can navigate your website with a keyboard.

contrast

4. Test the colour contrast

At Sweans, we consider accessibility right before we think about a solution. Our team is on a consistent mission to ensure that the websites are perceivable for a wide demographic. We found an efficient and authentic approach to have usability and accessibility as common factors in the web development process. We closely listen to users rather than designing the website first and questioning second. We get in-depth insights into how our users look while searching for information or services.

With engineers detecting accessibility flaws and designers crafting the website using effective font styles and colour contrast, we designed and developed the Sandwell website partially compliant with WCAG 2.1 level AA standards.

Accessibility Results

We aimed for WCAG 2.1 level AA standards but could not pass AA standard criteria due to noncompliance with two guidelines linked to contrast. However, there are no crucial errors for common users. We could have resolved the issue if the design strictly adhered to WCAG 2.1 level AA standards.

We rigorously work on improving our design and development practices by:

  • Attending conferences to expand knowledge and understand the latest advancements in accessibility.
  • Providing basic to advanced training to web designers, frontend and backend developers.
Sandwell desktop screen

Search Engine Optimisation

Our Search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts began with a comprehensive SEO audit for the top web pages of the Sandwell website. The audit enabled us to gain insights into SEO challenges and opportunities and generate a mapping for our SEO team.

Curating meta descriptions and page titles

We collaborated with content strategists and the SEO team to create unique, relevant and informative title tags and meta tags for all the web pages on the Sandwell website. We had a deep understanding that titles and meta descriptions positively impact the search engine rankings and organic traffic to the website.

We emphasised the following points while writing the meta description

  • Write page titles under 60 characters and meta descriptions under 155 characters. 
  • Curate readable and compelling page titles.
  • Optimise the title tags based on best SEO practices.
  • Administer keyword research.
  • Use target and meaningful keywords.
  • Keep the brand voice consistent.
  • Ensure active tense for higher ranking.

Improve page loading speed

We implemented some measures mentioned below to load the Sandwell website swiftly:

  • Build a custom WordPress theme that can balance speed and performance.
  • Uninstall or remove unwanted WordPress plugins.
  • Avoid a large number of web fonts.
  • Reduce the size of image files.
  • Minimal use of external scripts or codes.
  • Avoid image sliders.

Add Alt text for images

We used Google guidelines to write the best alt texts, which are relevant, information-rich and meaningful. Most importantly, we avoided filling alt attributes with keywords (commonly known as keyword stuffing). We double-checked images uploaded have well-defined alt tags and file names.

Google Maps API

Website Training

Our team held online meetings with the client to answer all their queries and concerns. We offered support and training on state-of-the-art practices, content management and elementary website maintenance guidelines. The ongoing website training allowed the Sandwell council to empower themselves by taking responsibility and making necessary content tweaks for their latest WordPress website.

Sweans provided a suite of guides and training materials for the council.

  • A comprehensive WordPress guide to maintaining design consistency and managing the website effortlessly for the Sandwell staff.
  • A visual design style guide highlighting all the design elements that any holiday activity provider can refer to ensure the design is consistent with Sandwell branding.
  • A package of training videos on the WordPress version to enable the Sandwell staff to learn and enhance their skills.

Launch

In tandem with Sandwell council, we delivered a visually aesthetic and friendly website enabling users to register interested activities seamlessly. We could create new digital experiences to help users identify holiday activities based on the user’s current location. We embraced the latest technology and best practices to improve the website performance, support and train Sandwell staff.

After the website launch, Sweans posted the Sandwell designs on social media, which received favourable and encouraging responses. Everyone remarked that the website design helped users find the information quickly and navigate the site more comfortably. We also received feedback that the content is crisp, transparent and easier to understand for the target audience.

Our Strategy

Our creative team worked diligently to create a fully functional website for Sandwell council to showcase over 50 holiday activities. Our designers generated a child-centric design to reflect and support the child-based persona loved by kids of all ages, young people and parents. Our design attributes are welcoming, fun-filled and strictly adhere to extensive demographics. We created a bubble effect inspired by the Sandwell logo concept to design the six activities listed on the homepage.

We built the Sandwell Holiday Activities on WordPress CMS based on the guidelines given by the council. The council emphasised that the website must include a location-aware option. This feature automatically detects the location of users who grant permission for the website to access their location data. It will enable the website to filter results based on the user’s location without requiring additional user interaction. Our web developers did remarkable work in developing the high-octane website within a short time.

Another daunting task was to enter numerous activities, images and descriptions into the website. But with perseverance and hard work, our team successfully removed the bottlenecks and completed the work meticulously.

Results

Sandwell MBC had a new, user-intuitive, welcoming and friendly website aligned with their branding perspectives. We ensured website accessibility for all users and abilities on desktop, mobile devices and the latest browsers. The users could easily navigate and explore the activities the children and families might be interested in and spend their holidays. As an outcome, there were over 150 registrations for holiday activities within the first 24 hours.

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