For over ten years, Magellan Vacations has been a leading destination for luxury hotels. Today it has grown into one of the web’s largest sellers of four and five star hotels with over $80,000,000 in annual sales. In today’s self-serve dominated travel industry, Magellan Vacations aims to be a travel agency you can still trust for knowledgeable guidance. They accomplish this through personalized one-to-one service over the phone rather than a web checkout. We worked with Magellan to establish a design and experience that matched the quality of the service they offered. We focused on building the core technology that would allow their business to continue to grow and be responsive to new opportunities and competitors.

Project Goals

  • Modern online luxury

    The primary challenge of the project was establishing a design and UX that was easy to navigate and conveyed the quality and luxury of the hotels Magellan offers. Previously operating under many domains, we were building a new, unified brand along with a completely new feature set and sitemap.

  • Mobile experience

    Like much of the web, Magellan’s customers were increasingly coming from mobile devices. They had no mobile presence and were losing a sizable percentage of potential customers. We needed to create a mobile experience that converted on par with the desktop site while preserving the luxury experience.

  • Flexible technology

    Magellan needed a powerful CMS that had requirements well outside any off-the-shelf solution. They also needed a technology stack that was modern and flexible to allow the company to quickly try new ideas and integrate with partners. Finally they needed many specialized tools for analytics, ad management and A/B testing, while maintaining very high uptime requirements.

  • Increase conversions

    Since Magellan’s business required users to call in to make a purchase, the barrier to entry for most users seemed high. Educating the user on why Magellan uses the phone and why it is a better experience was a key challenge to increasing conversion.

The Team


Interface Designer


Interface Developer


Software Developer


Product Manager

Strategy & UX

The first part of our plan was to update Magellan to follow best practices across all aspects of their business, from ad sizing to technology, as we believed this change alone would have a large impact. From there we looked for opportunities to innovate on key aspects of their product. The first thing we established was a consolidated sitemap as their previous offering was spread over 12 individual sites. Once we had a plan for a single domain for all Magellan content we worked to establish a new brand tone and style guide. Our early focus was on content strategy and establishing a standard of high quality content throughout their offering. Once we had resolved the design and UX, we worked to plan an entirely new technology stack including a custom CMS to power their site. Finally the new product would roll out into one market at a time allow us time to test the usability and conversion thereby minimizing the risk to their existing income streams.


We knew the Magellan design needed to be modern and luxurious. We conveyed the quality of each hotel with large images, magazine-style layouts and custom assets. The site has great depth and a lot of content but is still very simple to navigate for new users.

Hotel Pages

The hotel pages are the heart of the site, and each one needs to feel like both the Magellan brand as well as the brand of the specific hotel. Each page conveys that these are luxury hotels with world class amenities, locations and style.


The mobile site needed to have much of the same depth of the desktop site while still remaining fast and lightweight. This was a significant design problem as the desktop site is full of large, heavy images. We created a Magellan mobile experience that was both fast and stylish while also ensuring an easy path to conversion.


Magellan is known for expert advice and in-depth knowledge about their locations, and the destination hubs were designed to illustrate this fact. These pages were designed to tell small stories about each city and with a focus on beautiful imagery.


Click me

Designing and building the custom CMS was the largest undertaking in this project. They needed a tool that was easy to use while allowing for complete control of both the desktop and mobile site. The CMS needed to integrate with the numerous external systems powering their hotel database, and remain a simple and flexible tool for future iteration. We built a powerful web application to power Magellan that is as easy to use as their customer facing portal.

Where it made sense we built custom drag and drop interfaces for easily organizing a page's content.

Drag me

Skip Photoshop and speed up workflow.

Our custom client-side image cropping tool allowed content managers to bypass Photoshop and do all image resizing right on the site. Being a client-side tool made previewing and editing images practically instant.

Resize me

Detailed map customization.

In order to keep the maps on Magellan as beautiful as possible we designed a tool that would allow users to place pins precisely and choose how they would display to prevent pin overlap in dense areas.


Building a strong brand on top of a business is a challenging endeavour. Previous to the technology and design overhaul, Magellan Vacations had built their online business on the back of terrific ad buying, SEO and customer service. With a modern technology stack, updated requirements for high quality content, and integration with their legacy architecture, there were growing pains in line for Magellan. By building a trusting relationship, we were able to help at every step of the way. Custom service is how they built their repeat business, and that level of service is what we delivered to help them through this transformation.