Bristol Zoo is one of the UK’s premier city zoos and is a leading force in wildlife conservation, education and breeding programmes worldwide.

The Zoo was opened 179 years ago by a local group of eminent Bristol citizens and in more recent years, it has developed it’s educational and scientific roles to educate people on conservation and wildlife.

In an effort to modernise their online presence, they required a website that echoed their brand - a site that is modern, fun, and education, and at the same time, it needed to play an important role in their commercial and charitable efforts.

First Steps

Bristol Zoo’s attraction is vast, with tens of thousands of visitors each year from a wide demographic. Each customer is as important as the next and with Bristol Zoo’s wide range of exhibits and offerings, there was a risk of diluting the project’s objectives amongst the amount content and information.

To help us identify the project’s key areas of focus, we ran an initial discovery workshop involving all project stakeholders. Over the course of two days we worked through the requirements of the business and highlighted the specific needs of their customers. From this, we developed a range of personas that encompassed the different types of users and created key user journeys that fulfilled common objectives and achieved key user goals.

The Zoo’s focus was twofold; as a business there was a requirement to increase revenue through ticket sales and donations, whilst as a charity they had to communicate their active involvement in conservation projects and educate users.

The requirement for users was around the experience. The current website was cluttered, with a confusing structure and layout. Therefore the focus needed to be on clear and quick navigation, information about what they can see and experience, and the facilities that are available to them. The ultimate goal would be to guide the user to making a purchase online or give them enough information to allow them to commit to visiting the zoo.

Our Approach

Users found the current navigation difficult, with a saturation of menu options. We needed to streamline the site and ensure theirs was a visual approach to engage and inspire.

We initially addressed the look and feel of the website. The brand is very visual with a friendly tone of voice, whilst the zoo itself has a multitude of textures and colours born in no small part from their variety of exhibits and attractions. We wanted to convey this through the visual language in a structured and educated manner. Although children make up a large percentage of the audience, it’s the adults who will make the decision to purchase tickets.

A sample of colours and textures were taken from photographs of the exhibits allowing us to create a palette from which to work. These reflected the different habitats around the zoo; jungle, arid, and aquatic. The design and CMS was then developed to allow the Zoo to change the colour of the page to match the content or subject matter.

To convey the friendly feeling of the brand, typefaces were considered and chosen to be adaptable across a range of sizes and applications, whilst still appearing playful. For the most popular attractions, individual logotypes were created by hand using a range of media, from acrylic and brushes, to potato stamps and twigs. A full set of icons were hand illustrated to signpost headings and information, adding to the personality of the site.

Colour palettes were generated from photographs of exhibits and zoo scenery. The colour schemes were created to reflect the different habitats of the animals. Each feature exhibit had a hand crafted identity inspired by its theme, and coloured to match it’s habitat.
next previous
01 / 01 Image Title

During the design stage of the project, we quickly realised how visual the site needed to be and the impact that would have on loading times, particularly for mobile users.

To keep page sizes and graphics to a minimum, we used vector graphics in place of bitmap wherever possible. This also allowed us to scale and resize furniture as required by the screen size or user’s device.


On a website with the breadth of content as Bristol Zoo, it can be easy to get lost in the all of the pages and information available.

One of the main areas of focus was around the site’s usability. With the current site structure, many users found the navigation difficult with too many menus and journeys to find content being much too long.

A content audit and site review was run at the start of the project and one of the areas identified was the current homepage with a total of 127 links to other pages, and the number of items available in the top level navigation (13 parent pages). One of the main areas of focus was the site’s usability and structure as many users found the navigation difficult with too many menus and unclear signposting for user journeys.

The homepage provides a range of relevant content for users who are exploring the site without an objective, and help them towards one of the key goals, for example, purchasing a ticket, or finding out more information. There should also be regularly updated content for returning users to find a new reason to visit the site or the zoo. The result, was a homepage that held content aggregated from other key areas of the site, alongside snippets of commonly requested visitor information.

In addition to offering the normal search function of page titles and content, we added in a useful feature of tagged content. This allowed Bristol Zoo to tag commonly accessed pages with relevant keywords. For example, a user wanting to find information about ‘food’ or ‘cafes’ would get the most helpful page suggested straight away. This increases the speed at which a user can access the required content and complete their journey as quickly and painlessly as possible.

It's all about results

During the first quarter after launch, the number of users entering the ticket purchasing process has increased by over 102%, with an increase in users making a purchase of 9%.

The User Experience has been well received with focus groups giving positive feedback. User Journey time has been drastically reduced, users are engaging more with content, and the number of visits to the events pages have increased by 77%.