Why Legoland should consider the peak-end-rule

Entrance to Legoland Windsor

I recently visited Legoland in the UK (Windsor, to be more precise – the Queen is a close neighbour) with my family. For those that don’t know, as the name suggests Legoland is a Lego themed theme park. Along with lots of Lego models, Lego pick-n-mix (no seriously) and Lego based rides and entertainment, there are all the usual hallmarks of a theme park, such as long queues, fun rides, expensive food and an eye watering admission charge. However, one thing that Legoland does, that other theme parks don’t do is charge for parking (at least I’ve never been to another theme park that charges for parking). And not just a few pounds, a whopping £5 per day (or £8 for premium parking). That means that if like me you visited the theme park over 2 days, you end up spending an additional £10 in parking!

Legoland parking notice

Not the last thing you want to experience at Legoland – a dreaded car park charge

Whilst I and my family undoubtedly enjoyed our two days out in Legoland (the food was certainly better than expected) having to pay for parking at the end of each day left a somewhat bitter after taste. Not only was it grating at the time, but it soured our overall experience because it turns out that how we remember and rate an experience is heavily influenced by the positive and negative peaks of that experience, and by the end of that experience. This is something called the peak-end-rule.

The theory is that because we can’t remember everything that we do, rather than remembering the whole of an experience, we tend to remember snapshots – a bit like going through your holiday snaps to remember a past holiday. These snapshots are skewed towards the positive and negative peaks of that experience, and towards the end of the experience. The peak-end-rule is why a lot of very low TripAdvisor reviews (or indeed, very high) seem to fixate on one particular experience, such as a dirty hotel room, or very rude member of staff. That particularly experience created one of the peaks, which heavily influenced how that person remembered and rated that experience. So by creating a very poor experience at the end of the day Legoland not only created a negative peak (or trough I guess), they also formed a negative lasting impression of the experience – a double whammy that you certainly don’t want your users to experience.

Holiday photo album

It turns out that we tend to only remember snapshots of previous experiences

Instead of getting it wrong like Legoland, here are some ways that you might instead use the peak-end-rule to your advantage.

End on a high

Like a rock band playing their best songs during the encore, a great way to utilise the peak-end-rule is to end on a high. Think about the last experience that your users will have and ensure that it’s a really great one. This could be as simple as having a really nice order confirmation page at the end of an online checkout; or ensuring that if a user has ordered something online that the delivery is a great experience. I particularly like Wiggle (an online sporting retailer in the UK) who put a small packet of Haribo sweets in each delivery parcel – a tasty snack during a long bike ride and a lovely way to end the experience.

Foo Fighters on stage

Like the mighty Foo Fighters, always try to end the experience on a high

Focus on creating some fantastic moments of experience

Given that users will only remember snapshots of an experience, it’s arguably more effective to focus on creating some fantastic moments of experience, rather than spreading your UX resources across the entire experience. Of course that’s not to say that the entire experience isn’t important, but that focusing on creating some great experiences on the way is likely to provide a better return on investment. For example, you might utilise surprise and delight to create some really positive peaks. Send users a personalised thank you note; go above and beyond with your customer support or give some of your users an unexpected freebie.

Consider the entire end-to-end user experience

Legoland is a good example of why it’s important to consider the entire end-to-end user experience. Users don’t just experience the theme park, they also have to plan out their day, book their tickets and get to and from the theme park. As 99% of families are likely to drive to the theme park in their own car, their experience will also include parking (and therefore having to pay for parking). It’s no good designing a fantastic experience in the theme park itself, if what comes before and after is very poor in comparison.

See also