Responses by Nat Hobson, technical lead; and James Piper, creative director, KOTA.
Background: Started in 2002, Adams & Butler is an award-winning luxury travel agency who offers its customers unique, authentic experiences designed in the most inspiring surroundings. All of its itineraries are tailor-made to the needs of its customers, creating long-lasting, memorable moments. They have a wealthy and sophisticated client base, including celebrities such as the Obamas and the Kardashians/Wests.
Adams & Butler approached us during the first national COVID-19 lockdown. As it was unable to operate due to restrictions, the travel agency decided this was a perfect time to overhaul its existing website, which was not reflective of the high-end experiences it offers nor easy to navigate between all the services it provides.
Design core: From a design perspective, we wanted to keep the site minimal and clean. This lends itself to the luxury market and also enables the beautiful photography from Adams & Butler’s experiences to take the spotlight.
As Adams & Butler wanted to feature detailed experience itineraries, a lot of work went into these pages to make sure they not only looked great but also were extremely flexible from a CMS perspective, as the content for each itinerary is extremely varied.
Challenges: Figuring out the UX for different types of users. Through our research process we established that while the site has quite a niche, wealthy audience, the way they browse is extremely varied. Some only knew the destination they wanted, some only knew the type of holiday they wanted, and others weren’t sure of either and wanted Adams & Butler to inspire them. We tackled this with clear landing pages for each user journey, all of which end with a detailed itinerary of their chosen experience. We also built a “Plan your journey” page where the user could provide Adams & Butler with detailed information about the experience they were after.
Technology: The website is built on WordPress on the front and back. We find that WordPress offers a great editing experience and handles images and media particularly well with responsive markup and cropping all baked in. Given the website’s content-heavy nature, WordPress was the right tool for the job.
On the front end, it was key to showcase video and high-res imagery but without compromising site speed. Therefore, we made sure that everything was highly optimized, from compressed videos and lazy-loaded images to a fast content delivery network.
Special technological features: Adams & Butler wanted to include a wishlist functionality, where users could save destinations and also optionally share the resulting wishlist. However, it was also felt that having to create an account to do so would deter a large portion of visitors from using the functionality. Instead, wishlists are stored client side, meaning a user can simply add items to their wishlist and immediately view and share it without any interruption to the user experience.
Filtering is used heavily on the site to help users refine a large selection of destinations and rentals. To keep everything fast, filtering happens via AJAX on the client side. This ensures that page loads remain fast by only loading what is needed for the initial view. After filtering, new data is loaded without the need for a page refresh.