Five Rivers MetroParks

For more than 50 years, Five Rivers MetroParks has been focused on one primary goal: connecting people to nature. In a world where natural areas and resources are often taken for granted, Five Rivers protects nearly 16,000 acres of lands, trails, and waterways for the ongoing benefit of both residents and visitors of the Dayton metropolitan area. With vast conservatories, lush wildlife, and a variety of activities, the regional park system has something for everyone to explore.

Project Scope

  • Engagement Facilitation
  • Website Design

Using Guide Studio’s proven wayfinding methodologies in the development of our website, we have reimagined our online navigation to better serve visitors’ needs, as well as our own business needs. I’m confident that we are delivering a better experience across every single interaction our visitors and supporters have with us.

Amy Forsthoefel

Five Rivers MetroParks

The Problem

While Five Rivers has made the Dayton area synonymous with outdoor recreation, it lacked a virtual experience that reflected all of the beauty and adventure the park system had to offer the community. The website was cluttered with lengthy text and had poor navigation that could lose even the most sophisticated user. In reviewing online metrics, park leaders saw that 55 percent of traffic was coming in through mobile devices. As a result, they wanted to develop a visually engaging, mobile-friendly online destination that would position Five Rivers as conservation trailblazers, while also opening up virtual streams for revenue generation and community support.

With big revenue goals to help counter five years of budget cuts, Five Rivers required a design team that could deliver quality work on a tight timeline and budget. Despite not being familiar with Guide Studio prior to receiving the firm’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ), they valued the firm’s background in helping place-based brands connect their physical and virtual together across all stages of experience (Before, During and After).

The Solution

Guide Studio led the overall design strategy for the project and worked with two other firms – Insivia for web development and Emerge Inc. for backend eCommerce to manage and track online signups, rentals, and reservations.

  • A meaningful, results-oriented website cannot be constructed without the audience in mind. Before making decisions on design and functionality, the client and development teams immersed themselves in the mindset of their visitors and created user personas, and discussed each visitor group’s goals, motivations, attitudes, and behaviors which could be utilized for this project or anytime the organization wants to do something related to visitor acquisition and retention.
  • Between their limited budget and a team of passionate in-house park experts, Five Rivers decided to write the web copy themselves. In support, our team provided the organization with a content marketing matrix that delivered high-level guidelines and templates for the language, images, and calls-to-action that should appear on key pages of the site. 
  • A semi-flat site architecture (versus a deep architecture) was implemented to ensure content was discoverable and visitors could get what they needed without being overloaded with information. This approach meant downsizing the site from more than 1,000 pages to 150 pages – a much-needed change to eliminate a host of redundant or irrelevant information.

The Results

Five Rivers’ revamped website made its official debut in May of 2016 – right on time for the organization’s summer magazine to drop into community members’ mailboxes. If readers flipped through the print pages and decided to visit the website, they were met with a new and improved virtual experience. Almost immediately, they received a lot of positive feedback from visitors saying how impressed they were with the new site and how easy it was to navigate across any device.

The optimistic sentiments were quickly followed by impressive numbers. Within three months, Five Rivers witnessed just how much of a difference a compelling, brand-aligned website can make. Park rentals and reservations, which are big revenue sources for the park system, increased by 73 percent and there was a 100 percent increase in online volunteer applications. Additionally, Five Rivers’ e-newsletter subscriber base went up by 33 percent and general inquiries increased 122 percent. The mobile-friendly design also contributed to a 19 percent increase in mobile traffic, and visitors are more engaged in the content, spending 41% more time on the new website compared to the old one.


Emerge, Inc.

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