How Running a Website is a Lot Like Building a Theme Park


Creating an amazing web experience for your visitors is a lot like building a theme park.

Guests come to both for a specific aim – with theme parks it’s often for amusement and escape. With websites, it’s often for entertainment or information.

But what both have in common is this: visitor experience.

By delivering excellent content and focusing on the overall experience of your visitors, or “guests”, you can ensure they will come back and even become devoted to your brand, product or mission.

It’s All About Guest Experience

Walt Disney revolutionized the amusement park industry by creating a theme park on a different set of principles. Keep it clean, keep it fun, make it about great stories, and guests will always want to come back.

Unlike other parks of the time that only focused on cheap thrills, Disney focused on quality content and an atmosphere that his audience would love – one that would keep guests coming back for more.

Similarly, websites must focus on delivering unparalleled experiences to their “guests” in order to stand out in a very busy and competitive landscape. In the same way that a great theme park is free of mess and litter, good websites are free of coding errors, and grammar mistakes, and bad links.

By creating a great user experience for website guests, you can ensure that they are going to want to come back for more.

Quality Content Drives Traffic

Back in the 1950s, Disney knew that his intellectual property – Disney Movies – would be one of the primary drivers behind getting guests into Disneyland. Today, intellectual property continues to be the main driving force behind what gets guests in that front door. The groundbreaking success of themed lands like Harry Potter World have proven this concept to be just as true today as it was over sixty years ago. People come for quality content.

Websites are the same way. You can use tricks to get people in the door, but the quality content is what gets them to stay. And that’s easier said than done. Just about anyone can write a blog post, for example. But not just anyone can write a blog post that will rank highly in search engines while also entertaining, informing and inspiring your guests.

Just as how theme park rides are always evolving, so is content. You need to stay ahead of the curve, and experiment with various kinds of content to continually excite your guests.

Answering Visitor Intent is Key

Disney understood why people came to his theme park – it was to have good, wholesome fun. And his park adheres to that to this day. Similarly, we must understand why guests come to our websites. Are they looking for an answer to a question? Are they simply browsing for the sake of it? Are they looking to buy something?

Understanding the intent of your website guests will help you curate experiences for them, and ultimately will cause them to become return visitors, or convert into customers or subscribers.

Thinking In Terms of Themes

Disneyland is more successful than its competitors because of the concept of theme. Although Universal Studios has recently picked this concept up itself and indeed revolutionized it, they understand that rides and experiences do better when clustered around a specific topic.

In this same way, your website should be clustered around specific topics. Pillar pages, the most important ones that you want your users to land on, are like the big ticket rides in each themed land. Just as there are shops, smaller rides and things of that nature built around the big ticket rides, so too must your pillar pages have accompanying and complementary blog posts, white papers and more.

Not only will this help with SEO, it will improve guest experience.

Provide Value First, Ask for Money Second

Of course, getting into Disneyland will cost you a pretty penny. Most websites are not in the position to require an entrance fee, at least not when they are starting out. For many others built around products, it wouldn’t make sense to gate their content.

No matter what the business model, however, your best bet is to provide value first, and ask for money second.

Disney does this in spades. Well before you step foot into Disneyland for the first time, you are already familiar with their brand. You have seen their movies and their television shows. You know who they are. They have provided value. And yet, they don’t stop at the door.

They could continue to harass you for money. They could make you pay for every ride, and send you worker after worker asking for money for hot dogs. But they don’t. They continue to provide value even after you enter the park. They let you go on world class themed rides for completely free. Then and only then, at your discretion, do they make a killing off of you because you buy the churros, the mint juleps and the mickey ears.

When it comes to your website, don’t bombard your guests with pop ups, ads and products they will love. Provide them with excellent experiences, and then make it easy for them to become paying customers.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the experience.


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