Connecting the past to today
- What we did
- UX & UI
- Web Development
- SEO & Analytics
Sovereign Hill has occupied a space in the collective consciousness of Australians for more than 50 years.
Founded by local Ballarat volunteers in 1970, this icon brand has grown to encompass brands including Sovereign Hill Learning, The Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades, The Australian Centre for Gold Rush Collections, Narmbool, plus seasonal programs, events and even products made on-site.
In recent years, Sovereign Hill has experienced significant change, reflecting on its identity, culture and values, and developing a new, future-focussed strategic plan, supported by comprehensive market research.
Sovereign Hill asked Liquorice to help them put their plan into action, designing and developing a modern, user-friendly new website and a tone of voice guidelines.
Nostalgia and modernity
Sovereign Hill has earned a rare kind of love and respect – the kind that feels organic and unmovable. But when change comes, tensions begin to grow between perception and reality – between the desire for nostalgia and the need for modernity.
The research uncovered as much, highlighting the following challenges:
- Audiences have a shallow understanding of what Sovereign Hill is, what it has to offer and to whom
- The perception is that Sovereign Hill only has a few core attractions which never change, so audiences aren't compelled to visit
- Misconceptions that audiences have about Sovereign Hill are deeply entrenched
- Emphasis on core attractions reinforces perceptions instead of challenging them
- The website needs to move beyond logistics (buying tickets) and work harder to communicate the real excitement of the visit
Goals and challenges
Our goal was to help Sovereign Hill express their true identity and value, and give their team the tools they need to embody that identity into the future.
One of the main challenges for this project was to tackle the misconception that there is nothing new happening at Sovereign Hill. The new website needed to highlight the diverse range of new and exciting events and activities, as well as seasonal and temporary activations.
We also needed to speak to a broader demographic, including some user groups who had traditionally been overlooked. By addressing the needs and concerns that these groups expressed through the research, we were able to set tangible goals for the UX and design of the site.
Simplifying the user journey
There were a number of UX issues that needed to be addressed within the current site, most notably (and put very simply) was that it was hard to find things. Navigation was obscure and the overall site structure was complex. So, in addition to designing a site with a contemporary look and feel, we applied the most modern standards of accessibility to every UX decision, and organised the structure of the site in a way that was intuitive and simple.
We used imagery that better conveyed the visitor experience and connected on an emotional level. In order to capture the attention of these audiences, we had to share emotive visuals and stories that give insight into the day-to-day hardships of the time, as well as the ingenuity, inventions, and rare trades that emerged from them.
The new Sovereign Hill website sets a new bar for brand experiences; giving a wide range of users from many different backgrounds a simple and intuitive way to discover what it’s really like to visit Sovereign Hill.
Finding your voice
Sovereign Hill is extraordinary and diverse, but its diversity made communicating in a consistent tone of voice difficult. Add to that a rapid pace of change, competing priorities and crowded messaging, and the Sovereign Hill team were ready to invest in a comprehensive tone of voice guidelines.
We conducted a series of 1:1 interviews with people from a broad range of roles, including Executive, Collections and Curatorial, Learning, Events and Programming, Rare Trades and Forgotten Arts, and Volunteers & Workplace Learning and Development.
These talks aimed to gain an understanding of the brand from the perspective of every corner of the organisation. We discussed everything from their interpretation of the brand’s personality, their experiences with the existing website and expectations of the new one, to what they hoped to get from a tone of voice guidelines. It became clear that the personality was well understood and deeply felt, the team just didn’t have to tools to articulate it and its nuances in written and verbal communications.
We then held a workshop to discuss the interview insights and recommendations, ran some activities to flesh out the personality traits across departments, and to brainstorm ideas for the tone of voice and how we might use it.
Following the workshop, we developed a first draft of the tone of voice guidelines, which included a tonal scale, examples of the tone in action across a variety of content types, and a writing guide spanning:
- Dos and don’ts
- Writing, grammar and punctuation tips
- Writing for web and social media
- SEO and keyword guidance
It was important to include representatives from across the organisation in the development of the tone of voice guidelines, because they were the end users. If it didn’t make sense to them, it wouldn’t make sense to anyone. By engaging them in open conversation, we were able to get a deep understanding of how Sovereign Hill’s people live the brand every day, and how guidelines could best help them.
Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades
If all that wasn't enough, we also worked with Sovereign Hill on a brand identity refresh and a website for the Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades. This ambitious new hub is dedicated to preserving Australia’s rare arts and trades through workshops, masterclasses, events and residencies, and our designs reflect that mix of vintage earthiness and modernity. Check it out here.
In May 2023, we proudly launched the brand new Sovereign Hill website. Visitors can now enjoy a simpler, more engaging user experience, where vivid imagery and exciting narratives set the scene for a one-of-a-kind adventure. Congratulations, Sovereign Hill!
Working with Liquorice to produce two websites over the past 10 months has been a great experience from start to finish. The Liquorice team have been accessible, super easy to work with and responsive to queries. They’ve been quick to address and service issues and problems. They’ve worked seamlessly with other third parties from digital ticketing to CRM, and they’ve answered all our queries as well as provided information, feedback and recommendations on so many additional things throughout. It has felt that they are truly a specialist extension of our internal team. Happy to work with and engage them again and again.
— Mark Hemetsberger, Head of External Engagement at Sovereign Hill
Tone of Voice
Emerald Cowell: Digital Strategy
Will Batrouney: Digital Design
Molly Edwards: Project Management
Shane Loorham: Creative Direction, Brand Strategy
Madeleine Baud: Brand Strategy, Copywriting
Matthew Storey: Technical Direction, Development