Disney World and Six Flags: Lessons in UI, UX, and CX

Six Flags roller coaster

Disney World and Six Flags: Lessons in UI, UX, and CX

Your website is the face of your company. Even if you have a brick-and-mortar establishment, your website is the window into who you are and what you can do. It’s often the first impression of your company after, perhaps, your marketing materials and it’s the first real customer test of your capabilities and fit.

A good website with an intuitive layout and design can help you generate leads, find new customers, and generate sales. Naturally you need a good product or service. The best website in the world cannot make up for awful products and poor service. But an engaging user interface and a smooth user experience on your website work together to help you improve your customer experience.

User interface (UI), user experience (UX), and customer experience (CX) work together to help you accomplish your goals, from lead generation to sales. Each plays an integral role in drawing customers in, encouraging actions, and bringing customers back repeatedly.

But how do they work together to contribute to an overall stellar customer journey? How are they different and how are they related?


Analogy: Disney Parks vs. Six Flags

To better illustrate the differences, co-dependencies of UI, UX, and CX, let’s look at a non-digital comparison of Disney Parks vs. Six Flags.

Both companies operate theme parks. Each has traditional rides, roller coasters, water parks, resorts, mascots, and themes. Six Flags operates more parks yet Disney Parks see almost five times more annual visitors each year.

Why are Disney Parks so much more popular? While many factors play into the dominance of Disney Parks over Six Flags, a strong argument could be made for Disney’s intense focus on UX and UI and their overall CX.

Disney Parks

Anyone who has been to a Disney theme park knows that the park is more than just a collection of rides–it’s a fully-immersive experience in the Disney universe. Disney has a detailed vision of exactly what they want customers to see, feel, imagine, and become. The user experience starts well before the entrance to the park and continues long after the customers have left.

Inside the park, Disney has carefully crafted the user interface of the park to optimize the experience for their visitors. Characters walk the streets; roller coasters and other rides are built to look like movies, countries, or even other worlds; the ride times are extended through story-like adventures; restaurants serve food appropriate for the area of the park they are located; and even the queues are dressed up to mitigate the pain of waiting three hours to ride a three-minute roller coaster.

The user experience at Disney parks is dressed up appropriately with an extensive user interface. The focus on UI optimizes the overall experience and perfectly compliments the overall Disney brand–which increases the Disney customer experience.

Six Flags

Six Flags, on the other hand, is much more of a collection of rides without an all-encompassing user experience goal. No doubt, Six Flags has some exciting roller coasters and fun rides. However, the Six Flags experience is only the fleeting time on the rides plus, perhaps, a delicious churro. The majority of the rest of the time in the park is spent walking on minimally-decorated asphalt and standing around waiting in endless queues for rides that last less than 30 seconds.

Six Flags focuses on its core product: thrill rides and fun attractions. And they do that very well. They have a sound business structure of delivering fun and safe rides. But the lack of focus and effort on user interface decreases the effect of the user experience and, in turn, the customer experience with Six Flags in general.


Digital Application: Your Website

Obviously you want to follow Disney’s example with your website UI, your product or service UX, and your company CX.

So what does a Disney UI, UX, and CX look like in digital and website terms?

Customer Experience

Firstly, you must provide an overall great customer experience through your employees, customer service, products or services, marketing materials, and website. You need a solid, likeable brand. Yes, you must focus on your core competencies like Six Flags. Your brand will be weak if you lose that focus. But, like Disney, when you know and perfect your core competencies, you can create great customer experiences around your brand.

User Experience

Secondly, focus on every touchpoint and every interaction your users have with your products and services. Disney has an incredibly clear understanding of their visitors’ journeys through their parks. As a result, they are acutely aware of everything that requires attention–from the rebranding of older rides to the specific placement of characters throughout the park to the type of food to serve and where.

Research your customers and your competitors. Figure out what your customers want and what your competitors are doing to meet those needs. As you build your products and services, develop and test the processes that the users will experience. After launch, analyze the results and website analytics and make necessary changes.

Never disregard an opportunity to improve an experience on the basis that it won’t have a noticeable impact on the bottom line. The uniforms and costumes of Disney’s “cast members” are certainly more expensive than the uniforms of Six Flags employees. But you’d be hard-pressed to draw a direct correlation between the outfits of the restaurant staff at a Disney restaurant and the number of the visitors to the Disney park.

Yet enhancing the user experience does impact the bottom line–sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. Consider the impact of shortening the customer path to conversion. Or of adding predictive search and related results to your internal search function. Or testing the optimal frequency of your newsletters. Of course you have time and budgetary restraints, especially if you are a small business. But attention to detail is what sets apart successful businesses from everyone else.

User Interface

Thirdly, design a user interface that will help users accomplish their goals quickly and efficiently. Many customers’ first experiences with you are with your website. You need a phenomenal user interface that draws people in. Experiment and A/B test colors, fonts, sizes, images, navigation paths, etc.

Disney understands that the devil is in the details. Therefore, they curate everything from the magnificence of the firework show at Cinderella’s castle all the way down to the dust on the bookshelves of the Tower of Terror. They know that long ride times are a necessary evil at any park and have taken the necessary steps to mitigate that pain point as much as possible. Six Flags, on the other hand, can’t be bothered to install anything but metal bars for their attraction queues.

Follow Disney’s example and remove any barriers that might impede a user’s experience. Ensure whatever paths to conversion you set up are intuitive and simple. Have a creative 404 error page. Personalize your conversion success pages to reflect your brand culture. Move the share button in your app to the other side of the screen to make it easier to access. Do anything you think will make a positive difference in your users’ lives in relation to your website or app.


UI, UX, and CX Takeaways

Just as Disney understands and controls every interaction visitors have in their parks, you must know how your products and services fit the needs of your customers and ensure each experience is optimized for success.

By focusing on every detail, your user interface will attract visitors to your website, your user experience will convert visitors into customers, and your customer experience will keep those customers for life.

Jeremy Lindström
[email protected]

Husband. Father. Digital marketer. Performance jump roper.