Ohio Renaissance Festival website Redesign

A Case Study

The Client

The Ohio Renaissance Festival is a locally and nationally beloved institution, recreating a 16th century Elizabethan English village in Harveysburg Ohio every summer. The event has everything you’d expect from a Renaissance Festival: a full armored joust, plenty of shops selling hand crafted goods, shows, music, and of course turkey legs!

The Client’s Growing Needs

Over the past few years Renaissance Park, the parent company of ORF, has renovated and upgraded the Renaissance Festival as well as  expanded the venue to include other events throughout the year such as a Celtic music festival, a haunted halloween attraction, and a year round recreation of a neolithic sunhenge.

The User

ORF has many enthusiastic fans, with some people literally counting the days until opening day each year! Renaissance park is also growing and reaching out to new generations with a renaissance festival that is anything but stuck in the past. Their target audience ranges from long time “rennies” to families looking for exciting events to attend.

The Design Challenge

2019 marked the 30th anniversary (a diamond jubilee!) of the Ohio Renaissance Festival, and the client wished to celebrate with a redesigned website that would capture the excitement and recent growth of the event.

The Design Problem

The Ohio Renaissance Festival’s current site had been designed and built on WordPress a few years prior and was serving them well in a few aspects, but failing them in others.

What Worked

Many custom pieces had been built for their WordPress site such as the ability to change event dates and descriptions in the WordPress backend which dynamically changed the content on the frontend of the site. The general layout of the homepage was informative and worked well to draw users into the site with the use of calls to action.

What Did Not Work

The overall aesthetic of the design felt dated and did not stand out from other sites in their competitive field.

The homepage of the previous design

Not enough planning had gone into the layout of inner pages, and many had turned into long lists of items with ill-used white space.

An inner page of the previous design shows the trouble the client had with laying out content.

The Project Scope

Since many of the WordPress custom pieces, the general structure, and content of the site was working well for the client it was decided that a theme revamping was best. This would keep the custom elements, content, and structure of their site while giving them a fresh look and feel. The goal of the design was to update the look of the site to that akin of other summer festivals while remaining true to the theme of 1572 England.

Coming Up With a Design Plan

The Design Board

RubyHaus, Inc. began with a design board that would marry their long-standing branding with brighter accent colors as well as pairing historical typefaces with a modern sans serif font to strike the right balance in tone.

The design board for the Ohio Renaissance Festival 2019 website redesign

Planning Page Layouts

Since the general content and hierarchy of the homepage was remaining largely the same we moved on to exploring different ways to style the page and what elements we might add in or alter to make for a better user experience.

Alternate homepage layouts and elements were explored for both large and small screens.

New User Interfaces

We explored new ways of showing the user information quickly and dynamically such as a dropdown list in the header delivering event dates as well as a rotating calendar on the homepage to display the most current theme weekend and a few upcoming events.

Additional dynamic user interfaces were developed to help festival guests get to the information they needed more quickly.

Since the site would most likely be accessed by festival guest while on the grounds much emphasis was placed on making these interactive elements responsive and planning how they would behave on small screens.

User interface elements had to be mobile first!

Executing The Design Plan

The development began mid-May of 2019. A new WordPress theme was created that took advantage of all of the custom pieces previously built for ORF. Modern coding techniques were utilized such as the use of a grid and coding styles in SASS to help future-proof the theme and make it easy to update and expand in the coming years.

Automating Common Processes

Custom widgets were created that would allow the client to update commonly changed information such as event date, times, and descriptions from the WordPress backend without the need to know code and have this information displayed in interesting and dynamic ways on the frontend.

Taking Advantage Of WordPress Blocks

The native WordPress 5 Blocks system was used to build and layout inner pages, creating an easy platform for the client to use. This made it easy and intuitive for the client to edit and build their pages and opened up a wide variety of layout elements to vary the content.

Use of WordPress native Blocks ensures the site is easy for the client to use and update.

Pages that contained long lists such as the food and entertainment page were organized into logical categories with shortcut anchor links to help get users to the information they wanted faster.

Developing New Elements

New elements were also added to enhance user experience, such as an interactive map that included tooltips and was completely mobile friendly for use by festival goes while in the park.

An interactive grounds map with informative tooltips was added to the site to make the site more useful to visitors already inside the park.

Connecting To The Audience With a Blog and Social Engagment

A blog was developed that would not only increase engagement but also keep visitors coming back!

A beautifully designed blog increased engagement.

Finally, an Instagram hashtag was created and a feed placed on the homepage so that fans and visitors could share their own adventures and stories to the community.

Social engagement is crucial for the success of any company. A hashtag is great way to let your users feels involved and spread the word!

This Is Only The Beginning

The site launched in early June 2019. Continuing forward, RubyHaus will help the Ohio Renaissance Festival with maintenance and expansion.

See The Finished Site