Ideas for your attraction’s digital marketing | Thrill & Create Newsletter, July 2015

Thrill & Create Newsletter

July 2015

Hello there.

I’m David Parmelee, and I design digital products – mostly for the amusement and attractions industry – through my company, Thrill & Create. Amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, tourism departments, amusement and attractions blogs, and anyone who works with them are all fair game for this.

For the past several years, I’ve been studying the amusement and attractions industry in great breadth and depth. I’m interested in sharing that knowledge with you as we work together to make the world a more fun place.

On this mailing list, I will be sharing great reads from the amusement industry and the field of user experience, written by myself and others. There are two main goals for doing this:

  1. Create value for you – whether you choose to work with my company on a more formal basis or not.
  2. Solve your pain – so that you can spend more of your time doing what you love at your attraction and reaping the rewards of that.

I may also include special offers for Thrill & Create services and company news.

Reading list

1. Ad Placement for Mobile

Aurora Bedford, Nielsen Norman Group

I often encounter amusement-related sites – such as industry blogs – that are monetized with advertisements. After all, website owners need to be able to pay their bills – or, at least, not run their sites at a loss. Sometimes, these sites don’t go mobile yet because they are not sure how to still generate ad revenue on smaller screens.

Aurora Bedford, a user experience specialist for Nielsen Norman Group, gives practical advice on how to effectively place ads on your mobile or responsive website without driving away users.

Learn more about effective mobile monetization

2. Polin’s Super Combo Waterslide Scoops Most Valuable Product Award


More and more attractions are achieving new levels of thrills by combining several existing ideas. Several prominent roller coasters that have opened in the past several years feature elaborately-themed dark ride elements. Water slides are now beginning to feature combinations of funnel elements, bowls, zero-gravity walls, and more.

Polin’s Super Combo slide at AquaFantasy in Turkey takes “thrilling for delight” to a whole different level. Super Combo’s initial drop into a slide with hundreds of rings of light leads into a bowl. The adventure continues with an uphill water coaster section and a sphere, which gives a different ride path on every ride. Finally, riders drop out of the sphere into another dark section with many rings of light, then into a splash pool.

Take a virtual ride

3. 5 Elements of Omni-Channel User Experiences

UX Magazine

A frequent goal in marketing is to get your product or service in front of its audience through as many means as possible: offers at your facility, signs pointing people to your facility, email lists like this one, websites, mobile apps, text message alerts – whatever it takes. People are more likely to buy from you through repeated exposure.

So, it makes sense that people who hear your message from multiple sources would expect a consistent message and a consistent experience with your brand across those channels. There is a lot more to this than just web design. Your audience expects consistent tones of voice, similar features, no instructions to switch devices to complete a task, offerings tailored to what they are currently doing, and the ability to start an activity on one device and continue it on another.

A tall task? Perhaps. But user experience designers specialize in making sense of it for you and your audience.

Learn more about omni-channel

4. Why Plain Language is Vital for Website Usability

Whitney Quesenbery

In my field, a common saying is that a website should read like a billboard. People should be able to look at it for just a couple of seconds and know right away what the site is offering them. Yet some sites I encounter rely on field-specific jargon and take a while to get their point across.

In this article for Net Magazine, A Web for Everyone author Whitney Quesenbery explains that using plain language is not the same thing as dumbing your message down. Web accessibility knowledge shows us that different groups of people who might use your site have different needs. And Whitney takes this message beyond just talking about your copy. She shows how you can design the layout of your company’s website to get your message across to potential customers faster.

Learn why you should keep it simple

5. Embellishments

Seth Godin

When is just building and opening an attraction not enough? Seth Godin, one of the premier communicators in marketing, provides a great 2-minute read on why we embellish – and even, by extension, why many of the most memorable attractions are themed.

It is interesting to consider what Seth has to say here in light of attractions and themed entertainment.

Get inspired  

How can we help?

Many of you have seen my business card at IAAPA or my website since then, and several of you have remarked to me that you like how it is structured around “How can we help?”. And the purpose of this newsletter is to provide value to you and your business and solve the pain that you encounter along the way.

So let me know – what are some challenges you’re currently facing in your business? It doesn’t even have to be related to your website, app, software product, or digital marketing. I want to continue understanding the big picture in order to keep giving you value.

A new interview, two new guest articles, and two new services

Thrill & Create was featured in guest posts for Theme Park University and Optimal Workshop. We are now offering usability improvements and homepage audits.

A new client (and interview): Theme Park University

At the IAAPA Attractions Expo in November, we were fortunate to meet the editor-in-chief of one of our favorite blogs in the themed entertainment industry: Josh Young of Theme Park University.

Over the past several years, Josh has interviewed many insiders in the amusement industry and provided great insight into Disney and Universal parks, haunted attractions, immersive theater, escape rooms, and other attractions. Josh became one of our clients earlier this year. And in April, our work for him went live!

We worked with Josh to make the Theme Park University website easier to use, using two techniques that are foundational to user research: first impression studies to provide valuable feedback from users as to why they might leave his site without reading his content and a card sorting exercise where his readers told us where they might expect to find many of the site’s most popular articles. There is more about that project in our portfolio and on Behance.

Josh interviewed me soon after the changes went live. Among other topics, we discussed the following:

    • Now that most amusement parks and attractions have reliable websites and active social media channels, what’s next in digital marketing?
    • How can smaller and mid-sized attractions get the results of a UX team without hiring an entire UX team?
    • Why shouldn’t an attraction just buy a website or app template?
    • What are the trade-offs between an attraction working with a local designer versus with a designer who specializes in their industry?
    • Do interactive rides have to be shooting dark rides?
    • How can amusement parks and attractions have apps that get used regularly – if they need an app?
    • What are the motivations behind a program like Disney’s MyMagic+, from a user perspective?
    • Could we see programs like MyMagic+ in other national or global destination parks in the future? How about at regional parks?

Read the full interview here!

Guest columns for Optimal Workshop

We also have two new guest articles for Optimal Workshop, a UX design tools company based in New Zealand, who makes the OptimalSort tool that we have now used for several of our clients.

The first guest article discusses World Information Architecture Day, or World IA Day. This global UX conference happened in 38 cities around the world in February 2015. Attending it remotely due to local weather conditions, I watched sessions from 6 cities live and wrote this post about what I learned.

The second guest article discusses the current state of user-centered design in the amusement industry. Here are some of the questions that it answers:

    • Which companies are working on improving guest experience in amusement park, attraction, and exhibit design?
    • How are amusement parks and attractions currently designing their websites and apps?
    • What are some of the wins that user-centered design is giving clients in the amusement industry?
    • Which factors in the amusement business have implications on the in-park guest experience and the digital user experience?
    • How can attractions improve their online user experience?
    • How can UX designers who work as a “team of one” be more effective in providing the most value they can to their clients and users?

You can find that full article here.

New services

In response to the Theme Park University project, we are now offering two new services: usability improvements and homepage / landing page audits.

Usability improvements

Before, we were only offering new designs, redesigns, and evaluations (or audits) of existing websites, apps, and software.

But many organizations in the amusement industry are relatively small companies. Or, they just don’t see a reason to hire two separate teams for telling them what to fix in their product and then actually fixing it.

We are now going to give you the option to have us do usability improvements ourselves.

Because each usability improvements project differs according to the changes that we recommend, we are now offering free, custom quotes for these. This also means that we now have a more user-friendly form for requesting a quote instead of presenting you with a full table of prices. You can find that form here.

Homepage / landing page audits

Lastly, we are also now offering homepage audits. This is somewhere between a usability test that you can get from a company like, TryMyUI, or Userlytics, and a larger-scale usability evaluation from us.

What’s different between one of our new homepage audits and a usability test from a tester?

    • We have formal training in usability and user experience and experience in front-end web and full-stack software development. Usability testing websites now generally advertise themselves as low-cost services where the testers are not usability experts.
    • We know what our field’s biggest names (like Jakob Nielsen, Steve Krug, and Alan Cooper) would recommend. We are very well-read in literature pertaining to usability, user experience, design, business, marketing, and other topics – and continually improving in each. Everything we tweet about on @ThrillAndCreate and @DavidParmeleeUX is something we have read in detail.
    • You get your choice of formats for the evaluation: video screencast, Skype chat, or phone call.
    • If the format allows, the evaluation can be a two-way conversation that helps determine your digital strategy. You can ask us for clarifications in the middle of the video. You’re not limited to a video that you can only watch.
    • You get more of our time: 1 hour versus 15-20 minutes.
    • You can get us to look at your competitors’ homepages too and find out what we think your competitors are doing well, versus what we think they can improve.
    • If you’re in the amusement or attractions industry, the person evaluating your site has already analyzed thousands of websites in the industry in detail and has deep familiarity of what these sites have to offer. (We’re willing to work on almost any digital product, even in other industries.)

Prices for homepage audits currently start at U.S. $100 per product. Larger-scale usability evaluations start at U.S. $525 per product, and usability improvement projects are custom-quoted. Up-to-date pricing is always available on our Pricing page.

Interested? Leave a comment, send us an email at, or inquire here!

Introducing our Pricing page (discount on usability evaluations for January!)

In response to several inquiries at the IAAPA Attractions Expo and in more recent conversations, we have introduced our new Pricing page, which lists our pricing for user experience design projects, usability evaluations, and accessibility evaluations.  Its information is current for the month of January 2015, and we will keep it up to date.

We recently ran some remote, unmoderated usability tests on our new Pricing page.  One of the advantages of this kind of testing is that it leaves us designers out of it, so testers don’t feel like they’re offending us if the feedback is negative.

We did identify a couple of small changes to make.  But, by and large, the testers loved it!  Here are some of their comments:

“I like the different colors… the greenish bluish and the orange… The website looks nice, very clean, [and] simple.”
—A user from the UK.

“I think it’s very, very professional. … I like it a lot.   The colors are amazing. … When I scroll down through the page, I don’t get bored, because each section has its unique design. 

“What stood out to me: its simplicity, its user-friendliness (I found it very user-friendly), its colors (very clear), very simple to understand. I would love to use it, actually.  It’s not boring at all, creative, vivid, has vivid colors.  There was nothing that I didn’t like about this website.  Overall, I see it as an excellent website, very good.  I liked the experience a lot, and I would definitely use it if I needed a designer.
—A user from the US.

UX design project pricing

We currently price our user experience design projects either per hour or per iteration.  Since we work primarily from the Washington, D.C., area, our hourly rates are in line with those of other user experience designers in that area.  Our current hourly rate for design services and other work related to these projects is U.S. $75 per hour. Iteration length and pricing is determined during a project’s exploratory phase, but iterations for us generally run several weeks.

Usability evaluations and accessibility evaluations

We sell our usability evaluations for websites, apps, and software, and accessibility evaluations for websites as fixed-price products. Currently, there are ten preset offerings, ranging from U.S. $477 (for a basic usability evaluation of your site only) to U.S. $5187. Add-ons for determining the ideal navigation for large websites and evaluations with other custom options are also available.

The prices for each evaluation are all-inclusive, based on our hourly rate, an hours estimate, and materials costs. In the higher-priced evaluations, we hire users like the users of your site to test the site for us and/or to help you understand more about your users from a personal and a technical point of view, in order to improve your digital marketing efforts.

Next on our site

We’re working diligently on order forms for each of our design and evaluation options.  While many items on those forms will be optional, filling them out will help our free project consultations to be even more profitable for your business.

We practice what we preach regarding testing with users.  We run tests of our website almost every month. Several days ago, we ran some tests of our new Pricing page, which were very well-received!  We’re in the midst of tuning up other areas of our website.

Sale on evaluations for January

Until January 31, our usability and accessibility evaluations are locked in at their current prices, based on the hourly rate we used for most of 2014.  On February 1, the prices will go up to reflect our current hourly rates.

To lock in the lower rates, contact us to order an evaluation by the end of January!