Combining early disruptive responsive design work with a larger business initiative to increase ROI for Disney Parks and Resorts.

The challenge


Disney recognized the need to serve all digital platforms for mobile and desktop devices. The challenge was to build visually engaging and digital approaches to the growing popularity of smart phones and tablets being used and accessed to all Disney websites.

As a designer with an early background in responsive design, Disney tasked me to lead the digital efforts in design for moving the organization forward in mobile first responsive design.

The outcome


I led the digital efforts in responsive design. I was the responsive design subject matter expert at Disney and worked closely with executive leadership on this effort. I also worked closely with other designers, content strategists, ux designers, and project leads, teaching the philosophical approaches to design thinking via mobile-first approaches. I worked collaboratively with user experience leadership to ensure our design efforts and methodologies were tested, prototyped and fully thought through before going into production.

Scope of work / Personal contribution


  • Brand identity
  • Strategy
  • Design
  • User Experience Design
  • Interactive Design
  • Mobile Design
  • Responsive Design
  • E-Commerce Design

Introduction


My role at Disney was involved with working on high level digital design initiatives, global marketing across multiple Disney brands, sustainment and production design, and creating innovative new approaches to digital design and the human experience.

All of the these efforts where in coordination of a larger global strategy surrounding the importance of design and content related to digital platforms. I contributed to developing strategies, producing creative design approaches, and leading the digital organization in responsive and mobile design.

In conjunction with a broader theme park initiative to begin a digital and physical human experience, also known as the MagicBand, the team I worked on designed the digital experience. This served as the user journey starting point for the MagicBand and also served as the platform to plan park and resort experience before they arrive to the park.

While at Disney, I worked for 7 different Disney brands (Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Aulani, Disneyland Hong Kong, Shanghai Disney Resort, Disney Cruise Line, and Disneyland Paris) leading the digital efforts in mobile and web design related to human physical experiences in various Disney parks. Innovative approaches to mobile app design led to design proving ROI value by increasing revenue from $2 billion to $5 billion in 3 years after initial design efforts were launched.

Defining the brand


The Disney brand is a global worldwide symbol of magic, happiness and creativity. Each brand within Parks and Resorts exist as it’s own unique brand under The Walt Disney Company umbrella of brands. Therefore, the responsive design needed to support the existing brand pillars of each brand the responsive design touched. To do this, the digital responsive approach focused on existing digital brand work done by the creative team I was involved with at a higher level. This was then translated to this work at a more nuanced level.

The responsive work needed to support the overall Disney brand. From creativity, brand elements, content, messaging, art direction and photography. This platform was meant to support and move the brand into the future by translating these pillars of the brand into new ways. Specifically to support the brand experience on mobile, tablet and desktop devices. The focus was to provide a singular user experience approach that would serve all Disney digital platforms.

Responsive design needed to be applied to every Disney brand within the Parks and Resorts umbrella. These brands included, but not limited to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Aulani, Disneyland Hong Kong, Shanghai Disney Resort, Disney Cruise Line, and Disneyland Paris. From here, this platform and design thinking would then be applied across all Disney digital platforms.

To approach this, the design needed to account for and consider the wide range of different use cases to support the Disney brand. The user journey was defined and then tested and translated to mobile and tablet usage. From a guest considering a vacation purchase, the e-commerce of a vacation transaction and supporting all aspects within a vacation experience. These experiences included but not limited to attractions, dining, entertainment, events, guest services and recreation for a guest visit to a park.

Brand attributes defined

Understanding the audience


The audience in this challenge was segmented. Meaning, the same user needs to use the responsive platform for different reasons at different times during the user journey. We needed to ensure that the mobile-first approach addressed every touchpoint a user would have during their journey. From browsing things to do at the park before buying, to purchasing a trip for their family, to planning their itinerary and finally using the platform in-park with all their saved activities. All of these pieces of the journey were carefully mapped and considered. The design needed to be performance-driven and mobile-first while allowing the user to quickly and easily move through and navigate the platform at whichever point they were within their journey of the digital experience.

We also needed to consider the role that this experience tied into other digital and new experiences that Disney was embarking on. The platform was a first touchpoint at introducing the new MagicBand (LINKKKKKK) It was also the first engagement for first-time guests to a Disney park. These experiences needed to be seamless, on-brand, and of the highest quality because guest satisfaction, at whichever Disney brand engagement, is of utmost importance. Knowing these elements, we worked closely and carefully to ensure we were aligned with those brand elements as well.

Brand Archetypes Defined

Trip planners

In-Park Guests

Tech savvy

Positioning


The commitment to going fully responsive on all Disney Parks and Resorts digital platforms was an innovative and disruptive decision at the time. Responsive design was not seen as a standard for the web and our team led the discussion for business and brand to lead Disney into a design approach that would become the norm.
My role was to share my knowledge and experience in responsive design, give insight and feedback to business, discuss the business and brand benefits, and be the go-to subject matter expert designer within Disney for converting all efforts to a mobile-first performance driven design platform.

Positioning statement

Introducing disruptive responsive design thinking and execution to all Disney Parks & Resorts digital platforms. Combining performance, responsive design, and mobile support to enhance commerce, experience and brand engagement.

User Experience Design


A small team consisting of art direction, content strategy, user experience, development and visual design made up the initial team I was a part of. We worked quickly and collaborated to address each stage of defining and designing the platform. Ideas were greenhoused. No idea was dismissed and creative ideas generated came from anyone within the team. This proved to be a testament to working collabortively, failing fast, testing and iterating. This approach was not siloed and became a model of success to the project and the larger digital efforts.

Creative ideas, collaboration and allowing the team to work together across disciplines allowed us to move fast and create the best solution to our challenge. We abandoned the notion that each of our disciplines were sacred and used our experiences across disciplines to collaborate and work together to an end goal. This is in contrast to known waterfall model of creative work.

The first steps were to define the brand, the goal, and the approach to our methodology. From here we collaborated to move into wire framing the platform to serve mobile and tablet devices. A mobile-first performance driven design was our metric for early success. We evaluated a user’s needs for various devices and made decisions about how a user will utilize content and actions across different devices within a user journey. From here, those decisions determined what content needed to be prominent and which content could be dismissed for the sake of performance and creating a rock solid experience for a user. This translated directly to the Disney brand pillars.

Mobile Platform Design


Working alongside a very small team of diversified disciplines, combining content strategy, ux, visual design and development - we had a vision and moved at lightning speed to develop and show the value of this design approach.

Our initial prototypes were done in a team collaboration, working together in a single space. A room of developers, design, user experience and content strategy collaborated and focused on building a fully formed and functioning prototype.

Evolution


After testing and iterating, we were able to incorporate the responsive design platform within the larger business and goals of Parks and Resorts. Truly a team effort. The success was proven through constant iteration and testing post launch and the results within the platform generated a $3B increase in ROI for Parks and Resorts over 3 years of implementation.

Today, this design thinking and approach is the standard for The Walt Disney Company. I was happy to be a part of the early disruption model of design for such a large project. I had the pleasure of working and collaborating with some of the smartest and brightest people I have met in the industry.

Credits


Client

Disney Parks and Resorts

Creative Director

Yasunori Inukai

Senior Art Director

Nicholas Ashbaugh

Senior Art Director

Ken Oelerich

UX Lead

Ben Bennett

Art direction

Euhna Kim

Design and Responsive Strategy

Jordan W Lee

Strategy

Max Greenhut
Sam Bloomberg Rissman

Development Lead

Chris Saint-Amant

Platform Development

Disney IT, Engineering and Front-End Development

Platform Design

James Yule
Eric Hansen
J. William Washington
Jeff Webber
Wes Lebsack
Jonathan Zarco
Patrick Dugan
Vanessa Chan