About Port Stephens Coaches
Port Stephens Coaches is a third generation bus and coach hire business that has been operating in the Port Stephens area since 1957. They service locals of Port Stephens as well as operating 14 services to Newcastle, Monday to Friday and 6 on weekends, with 4 additional express services between Newcastle and Newcastle Airport. They also transport over 3,000 children to schools around Port Stephens, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. Alongside that they run a popular daily Sydney Express service.
About the Project
We started this project in July of 2017 and went live October 2019. We know, that’s 2 years and 3 months! And there is a good reason for that. The further we got into the project and dug into how things were setup, the more apparent it became just how complex it was. This wasn’t simply a new website. This was a complete restructuring of Port Stephens Coaches entire internal booking system. We put what they currently offered under a microscope and examined whether it was the best it could be. The system overhaul included integrations between bus drivers, receptionists, website visitors, admin staff & much more that needed to be synchronised.
Now this project was an absolute mammoth. By far one of our largest, longest and most labour intensive website builds we have ever done. The team were pushed to the absolute limits of their intuition, but in the end it all paid off and the transition could not have gone any better.
Below we will go into details about the User Experience for both the Staff and the End User on the website itself. Then we will look at the Conversion Optimisation and what sort of outcomes were yielded with instant results! Thirdly we will look at SEO and some of the results we saw from simply making a website that is built to be Google friendly. And lastly the all important Performance & Optimisation. These are our 4 pillars to a website and we applied them with skill and precision to this project.
Port Stephens Coaches User Experience. This was something we refined over the course of the project as we found out details such what their most popular product was (the Sydney Express). But first things first. We address the current sitemap and menu. The ironic thing about the old site was that their most popular item was not even in the main top level menu. This was a priority for us. We broke the main menu down into Tours, the Express, Coach Hire, School Info, Timetables & route Info, added an FAQ section to help relieve the staff from answering the same questions over and over, some additional info and of course the contact page.
This resulted in the user being able to navigate quickly and easily to exactly where they needed to be. Which helps with conversion optimization and we will touch on that below.
From the staff’s perspective we removed the need to print individual tickets for each person as the customer now receives an automatic email sent to them with their invoice which includes a QR code that the bus driver scans to check the customer onto the bus. This has helped reduced the strain on the admin team and freed them up to focus on taking bookings.
We also improved the new tour process. Previously a member of the admin team would ‘design’ a Brochure and create the tour themselves. Now they simply submit a tour via an online form which gets sent to us and we make up the brochure, get approval and roll the tour out across social media, the booking system and an eDM (electronic Direct mail). Again this has free’d up the admin team to focus on great customer service and take more bookings.
We made a 13 minute video where you will see a direct comparison between the old website and the new one. If you would like to see the difference between the two take the time to watch it. We look at the menu, the Sydney Express, the page speed and the booking process.
Conversion Optimization for Port Stephens Coaches became essential once we found out how many people were booking online compared to having to call and make a booking. To put it bluntly, people simply were hardly making any bookings online. This was largely due to the poor user experience mentioned earlier, but to give you an idea of what was involved there were over 24 options for the Sydney Express alone. We reduced this to 4. Previously they needed to plaster warning labels all over the site about how they didn’t offer a weekend service for a certain area, and now that service simply isn’t an option when a weekend date is selected those stops are unavailable.
With the dramatic decrease in options made available to the end user, the whole booking process became much simpler and abandoned cart rates fell dramatically. In fact bookings were made online within the first 30 minutes of going live! And that was on a mobile device!
Outside of the Express we kept all the other tour options like Day Trips, Multi Day Tours, Shows & Concerts. Multi Day tours were our next focus and we recommended to the client to have specific landing pages set up to inform and help sell the tour to the customer. Previously there was only a 200 word description for these often $1500 – $3000 tours. One thing we know is that the higher the price for an item, the longer the landing page should be. So we made specific landing pages with all of the info needed for the user to feel confident in what they were booking and what they would be receiving.
Other Conversion Optimization implementations were having a very clear and large phone number in the top menu visible at all time. This was placed next to the handy, bright and impacting Book Online call to action button. These are both placed into a ‘sticky’ header which means it stick to the top of the page at all times so a user can access the menu when they are ready.
The other tactic used was on the actual Book Online page we stripped back the page including the menu to limit the amount of distractions for the customer and increase the chance of a full checkout process.
We included a strong call to action on every page prompting users to take a next step and not leave then at a dead end.
And lastly, one of the conversion optimisation tactics we get most excited about, especially for a business like Port Stephens Coaches, was the Live Chat feature. We implemented Tidio Chat and because they signed up to the premium option, we were able to set up all sorts of great ‘Bot’ features including answering FAQ’s, setting availability times, having multiple users, auto responses and welcome back messages. It’s pretty cool. And even better – users started contacting the admin team instantly! Which of course has helped lead to conversions of sales.
SEO was a major concern for not only Port Stephens Coaches, but also us to be honest. We found out that their Analytics, Google Search Console, Hosting and Domain services were spread out across multiple accounts via multiple companies. It took weeks to track the people down to get the right info and was an essential part of the process to help us make a solid transition plan from the old (insecure) website to the new one.
Once we finally gained access we discovered they were in fact getting over 500,000 visits to the site every year. No pressure, right! We also discovered a myriad of pages that we had no idea even existed and this helped us create a redirect plan that would help reduce the chances of any loss in traffic.
We monitored this closely after launch and are pleased to say there has been absolutely no drop in traffic. In fact, because of the optimisation we have done, including making the site secure, adding local SEO data, setting up the pages properly and increasing the internal linking of the site Google has noticed and rewarded us for the efforts by re-indexing the site quickly and increasing their organic rankings.
We also integrated Google Analytics into the booking system so we can track all that info too and this also helps with re-marketing and re-targeting. The errors that were showing previously in Search Console for mobile issues are now resolved and performance has increased.
Performance & Security
On the Performance side of things, you will see below in the comparison slider that we increased the page speed score by a staggering 70%! By switching to our super speedy host and reducing the scripts and resources being run, the YSlow speed also increased by 20%. Reducing the page content site by a massive 4.3mb helped the full-page load time remain under 3 seconds (which = Google love) and this was all with a website that looks fantastic!
Another major improvement was the website’s health. You will see in the screenshot below the cliff dive in errors! Reducing the website’s errors from over 1700 to less than 250 and still reducing. The site’s crawl-ability also increased by 16%.
Security was the first point of call for the new website. Previously there was no SSL certificate on the site, so this was one of the first things we installed. As they are taking people’s sensitive data (including people’s details via forms), we wanted to ensure the user felt secure when visiting the site (good User Experience = cue Google Love).
Drag the middle slider below to see the transformation in page speed & performance.
Check out the Before/After on Pagespeed!
- Client: Port Stephens Coaches
- Date: September 2017 – September, 2019
- Category: Website
- Website: Port Stephens Coaches
- Multi Page Site
- UX Overhaul
- Conversion Optimized
- SSL Install
- Custom Landing Pages
- Custom Booking System
- Custom Internal System
- Custom Sydney Express
- Coach Hire & Booking
- Facebook Integration
- Google Integration
- Strong Call to Action
- Online Support
- Tidio Chat
- Automated Form Emails
- eDM setup
- Performance Optimized
- Custom Contact Page
- SEO Optimized
- Custom Team Pages