Earlier in my career, I worked for a prominent hotel company as an in-house UX designer within the global product group. I had the privilege of working on the redesign of the company’s flagship brand website. While this was an enormous undertaking from any standpoint, the lift was further intensified by the fact the brand was also transforming its positioning and related messaging.

In the redesign, we had several goals and objectives to achieve from a business, customer experience, and technology perspective. For the home page, a key objective was to ensure the new brand experience was clear so everyone who landed on the home page would understand the new branding, be inspired by this elevated change, and thus want to engage deeply with the new brand experience.

The brand leadership team hired a creative agency to collaborate with our internal team. This creative agency was awesome to work with. Together, we prototyped a high-impact experience by presenting an interactive collage of images that truly expressed the heart of the brand and drew people into “living” the experience online. One would hover over an image within the collage, say of a woman enjoying an espresso in the café at the hotel in Paris, and then the collage would animate and present a new collection of images related to the location, food, cafés, and city hotel experiences. The brand team and everyone involved loved the concept and practically gave the “green light” to move forward after reviewing. Fortunately, our team already planned multiple tests ranging from first impressions to messaging and usability as a next step. So, while everyone was on-board with the concept, we needed to validate it before taking this to production.

With much anticipation and excitement to see the reactions and gather consumer feedback, we tested with existing and prospective customers across various demographics, and persona attributes to ensure we had accurate representation. Test after test, unanimously, we received very similar outcomes. People loved the home page and would spend considerable time playing with the interactive collage, exploring various hotel properties and destination experiences. Our initial joy at feeling we had hit a “home run” with our new design quickly dissipated, and our hearts sank. Over and over, people would keep playing and exploring, but they seldom booked a room! While the call-to-action was available, the experience we designed had created a blocker in that booking a room had truly become secondary in their mind. Of course, once the data had been presented to leadership, we revised the design to ensure a more prominent call-to-action was presented throughout the exploration of the booking customer journey.

Having the prototype to test before building and launching the live website was a lifesaver, or more accurately, a career saver! To this day, I still share this story when clients ask about the value of prototyping and how it can significantly reduce risk. In this case, having a high-fidelity prototype that truly simulated the website experience was critical.