Today in Great Design: The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks

Google has an ambitious vision: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Most internet users will know about the company’s large-scale efforts to achieve this goal, which range from the ubiquitous search engine to offers like Google News, Books, Maps, etc.

But in addition to these major initiatives and websites, the company also continues to build smaller projects that are just as important to consider. One of them also happens to be a great design winner for us: a website about the Hidden Presence of National Parks in the United States. Here’s why we love this website.

An Interactive Experience

In many ways, this website is much more than simply a way to read content and click your way through a call to action. It’s an interactive experience, just waiting for its visitors to explore and learn more about national parks.

The very first page warns that you should use headphones, and for good reason: what follows is a sweeping info that both allows you to appreciate the sounds of nature and pay attention to a voice over that explains just why you should appreciate America’s most famous natural parks.

Stunning Visuals

In this website, Google also take advantage of what we know to be true: visuals sell your audience. Studies consistently find that simply including photos and videos in your content marketing will increase your audience attention span, and allows them to convert at higher rates.

Of course, in building this website, Google had two unique advantages: a canvas just waiting to be visualized, and the lack of a need for a specific, sales-oriented call to action. And yet, businesses interested in a more practical approach can still learn quite a bit from the world’s largest digital company. Use visuals that are both attention-grabbing and relevant, and your audience will be much more likely to stay on your website and eventually convert.

Taking Advantage of New Media

In building the website, Google also took care to integrate not just images and videos, but new types of media to keep up the interest level. The most obvious example are 360 degree videos, which are attached to each National Park section. Viewers can follow divers as they explore a shipwreck in Dry Tortuga, or climb a glacier in Alaska.

Virtual reality is quickly entering the marketing realm. Integrating VR aspects like the above-mentioned 360° video can make you appear as a technological thought leader, and keep your audience engaged.

Cross-Promoting Other Features

Hidden within the design of the website, Google has found a number of ways to integrate its other features for audiences ready to explore. All videos, including the 360° variety, are hosted on YouTube and embedded into the site. At the same time, a geographical overview is presented as a custom Google Map, subtly letting audiences know about both of these platforms’ capabilities.

Impressively, both of these features are integrated without attracting significant attention to them. The result is a seamless experience in which visitors learn to appreciate Google’s services, without feeling like they’re being promoted to.

Given these features, it’s no surprise that The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks has been rated highly by designers on Awwwards.com, and won a Website of the Day award last month. Not surprisingly, these designers ranked it most highly on content, but creativity and design also stood out as major positive factors.

Google’s National Parks website is far from an e-commerce platform. And yet, through its creative use of visuals and new media, along with subtle cross-promotion, it can teach businesses in any industries valuable lesson about great website design. We’re excited to follow this page as it expands, potentially adding new national parks and new types of visuals into the individual pages.