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Website overhaul imminent - opinions please

 
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DivineMrsM



Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 151
Location: The Dordogne and London

PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 7:23 pm    Post subject: Website overhaul imminent - opinions please Reply with quote

My better half is hoping to have some time over Christmas to spend on overhauling our website. If anyone has a minute, could you please give us your opinions? I don't think it will be a major redesign, more of a polish and a redecorate if you see what I mean Wink .

I know that some photos need changing/updating. I want to do what Paolo suggested and include a whole "what's it like in winter" section too.

Here are Paolo's suggestions from his Announcement post, along with my answers:
1. Which are your target markets in order of importance? Examples: families with children, retired couples, newlyweds, students, big groups, walkers, surfers, birdwatchers, etc.
Families with children, big groups, mountain bikers (a currently untapped market for us, but we have connections in this field in the UK, and the Dronne Valley has some of the best mountain biking in Europe - we'll be adding this soon).

2. What would you say is the single biggest selling point of your rental property?
Swimming pool (!), child friendly, nicely decorated and furnished, comfortable and very spacious. We provide as many cots, highchairs etc as needed, plus toys and baby equipment (to be added to the site).

3. What are the other reasons why someone should want to stay in your place instead of another in the same area?
Um... we're bigger and nicer? Laughing.

Thanks everyone. Smile
_________________
Lynne
for Metropolitan Sanctuary and Retreat in London www.metropolitansanctuary.co.uk & www.metropolitanretreat.co.uk
and
Le Cheval Blanc in France www.lechevalblanc.co.uk
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Christine Kenyon



Joined: 19 Sep 2004
Posts: 625
Location: Glenridding, Ullswater Valley, Lake District, UK

PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi there - hope London has been as sunny and warm as the good ol' North recently!

I think you and your "other half" have a lovely website - it exudes quality and would entice me to stay at Le Cheval Blanc. It also looks like you've done a superb job of renovating the property.

A few comments for you to consider over Christmas as you "polish up" your site:

1. Your whole image is quality - and your home page rightly states "luxury holiday destination". I think you're underselling yourself by the big box on the home page saying "Cheaper prices now". This implies that nobody has been booking because it is too expensive - and I suspect the opposite is true! Maybe this should be moved to your prices page. I also think that the prices page should now be giving 2005 info already.

2. Your text is well written and has a good human voice to it - if you know what I mean. But what I've learnt from the Forum is that there should be more "you and yours" and less "I/We/Ours". Just a thought.

3. Your photos are gorgeous, but I wonder if they are too "arty" and reminscent of an up-market catalogue, eg, shots of the fruit bowl and chairs, rather than a family holiday. I shall probably be shot down in flames for that comment.....

4. But before the bullet lands Laughing can I also suggest that there should be more photos of the local area and more text on what there is for families to do - assuming they can tear themselves away from the house!

Hope the above helps and that your bookings are going well for 2005. Enjoy your Christmas!

Christine
www.stybarrowcottage.co.uk
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livinginitaly



Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 266
Location: Italy (at last!)

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mrs M (very enigmatic!),

Firstly, let me say that the layout and 'functionality' of your website is absolutely 'textbook'. So much is done so well, it's a shame to mention any 'negatives' ...... but you asked Smile

Christine has 'beaten me too it' ...... but the 'cheaper prices' banner on the homepage is such a 'spoiler'. Maybe "affordable luxury" would be better Smile

Also on the homepage the image could do with 'straightening up' a little (here's one I prepared earlier!)



Other than that, the only 'cosmetic' alteration i would suggest is to possibly work on the 'header / logo / banner'. In my opinion, it seems a little 'plain' and doesn't 'mesh' with the rest of the quality images. (then again i'm a big 'drop shadow' fan and have been known to 'overdo' things!).

On a technical side. There seems to be a missing 'gif image', 31 of your pages are linking to http://www.lechevalblanc.co.uk/gallery/images/pixel.gif which isn't there. This results in 31 'broken links' which will be penalised by the search engines. Simple cure is just to save a transparent image called 'pixel.gif' into your image folder. I'm guessing it's just something that you've used as a 'spacer' to line up your tables.

Another point for the search engines, i'd recommend making each of your page titles different. These titles inform the search engines what that particular page is 'all about' and should be full of 'keywords' that reflect the content.

Finally, rather than 'shoot anyone down in flames' Smile I kind of agree that the images by themselves are a little 'art for arts sake' ...... that said, in my opinion adding 'traditional' pictures to the same page, beneath the text block would make everyone happy. Certainly, when I clicked on the 'swimming pool' link .... i honestly expected to see pictures of the swimming pool.

Genuine congratulations on a 'well presented' site though!
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Tony
http://www.livinginitaly.co.uk
http://www.property.livinginitaly.co.uk
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DivineMrsM



Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 151
Location: The Dordogne and London

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many, many thanks for taking the time to look at our site and report back. All your comments are most welcome and I shan't be shooting anyone Wink . I'll store them up and give them to the website designer (my husband).

It's not actually our house (unfortunately Wink ). It belongs to my sister and brother in law who live there. I look after the bookings for them from the UK. Kinda feels like mine though and I work as hard on my side of it as I would if it belonged to me. I get free holidays in return so it's not all bad Very Happy .

I agree about the Cheaper Prices thingy. Doesn't look good, does it? Affordable Luxury is a much better option.. Smile

Does anyone have an opinion about the home page picture? Do you think we should try and get the pool on there too? I know Miles (my husband) is in favour of keeping each page to a size that means you shouldn't need to scroll.

Oh - the arty photo thing. They're kind of a hangover from when we had to build the site with no photographs of the property at all apart from the exterior shot and a really old crappy picture of the swimming pool. I guess the space is better used now by pictures of the real thing.

Thanks again for the tips - very much appreciated. Smile
_________________
Lynne
for Metropolitan Sanctuary and Retreat in London www.metropolitansanctuary.co.uk & www.metropolitanretreat.co.uk
and
Le Cheval Blanc in France www.lechevalblanc.co.uk
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paolo



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
Posts: 3952
Location: Provence, France

PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrsM,

I find your site very attractive, and as a potential renter its quality would give me the confidence to book from you. It’s very user-friendly, easy to navigate, and as there is no scrolling needed there is less work for the site visitor.

Here are a few ideas I’ll just throw out at you:

First impression is “It’s a hote!l”. That’s because the name, the logo and the picture of the house all suggest it. Is this a problem? I’m not sure. It does say it’s self-catering if you read the intro paragraph. Then again the ‘Cheaper prices’ box is also something you’d associate with a hotel, so all the major visual clues suggest you’ve come to the wrong site. Some people will simply move on. It’s a question of how many. Do your site stats show how long individual visitors stay on the site? If so you can see if this is a problem by the number of people who leave within 10 seconds.

Agree with the ‘Cheaper prices’ thing. I also think that instead of a price offer there, you should be communicating the idea that smaller groups can also stay and only pay pro rata.

I think one of your big selling points – judging from your posts here – is that you are very child-friendly. I’d state that prominently on the homepage, perhaps changing the last sentence of the first para to “We sleep at least 14 people, and we’re very family-friendly”.

I’d hyperlink from ‘very family-friendly’ to a new page on how family-friendly you are, bullet-pointing all the amenities and free extras. Demonstrate that you are really thinking about parents with toddlers and trying to lighten their packing needs by supplying lots of cots, high chairs, a sterilizer, a push-chair, etc.

For older kids, mention what you have for them too. Another advantage you have over the competition: that looks like a no-messing pool security system you have – no need for parents to worry about how near the water the children are straying as the pool is locked up and walled in. As an owner of toddlers, a page like this would definitely sway me, and my wife even more. And as the old sales truism used to go, the husband writes the cheque, but the wife decides!

The floorplans are an excellent idea, and a must-have for houses of this size. Why? Because as you say, you’re inviting them to take a look and work out who will sleep where. This is a great psychological move. Once you have a potential booker imagining themselves and the rest of their group sleeping in your house, they are practically ‘in the bag’.

Where you do need to update the site I think is in the photos on your Living room, Bedrooms, Pool and Garden pages. At the moment they show one picture illustrating the idea of a living room, bedroom, etc. We want to see YOUR living room, bedrooms, etc. You have room for a row of three pics under the copy, while still keeping the whole page on the one screen - I’d definitely use it, because the pic gallery reveals some lovely rooms.

And as pointed out above, there is nothing on the location, nearby places of interest and attractions. Holidays are chosen on location first, accommodation second, and not everyone reaching your site will know where you are.

Apat from that, it's divine, Mrs M!
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Paolo
Lay My Hat
http://www.laymyhat.com
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DivineMrsM



Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 151
Location: The Dordogne and London

PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2004 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aw, thanks Paolo.... Embarassed .

Your and everyone else's input is very much appreciated. T'other half will have his work cut out...!

Le Cheval Blanc was indeed a small Auberge originally (converted from a barn in the dark ages..), but I hadn't really thought that it might still look that way from the front page - good point.

Thanks also to livinginitaly for straightening out the pic. I always knew there was something not right with that one... Laughing .

I will be working on updating the text too. Thanks for the compliments on the feel of it though. Too many years coming up with prize descriptions for shows like The Price Is Right made me confident, but also worry that we may come across all cheesy....!

I will put my sister (the owner!) onto doing more on the locale. She flippin' lives there after all! I guess that's why there is less of that on the site. It's mainly written by myself and my husband so we go on what we know. Our own children are of the age where tourism is not what we want to do so the property is of paramount importance to us. There is so much to do in the area though too so we must do better to represent that.

Please don't get me wrong - the owners are wonderful hosts and managers, it's just that I'm always at my PC (as some of you will have noticed Razz ) so that's why we look after the bookings and the website. I really enjoy it too - honest!

I'm sure my husband will have a lovely Christmas, chained to the PC, poor thing Razz .

Thanks again everyone Smile
_________________
Lynne
for Metropolitan Sanctuary and Retreat in London www.metropolitansanctuary.co.uk & www.metropolitanretreat.co.uk
and
Le Cheval Blanc in France www.lechevalblanc.co.uk
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DivineMrsM



Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 151
Location: The Dordogne and London

PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2004 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forgot to add. We are listed with a site called babygoes2.com. We've only had two enquiries via them this year, but it does mean that if you Google "child friendly dordogne" then we come up at number 6... Very Happy

I'm also going to sign up with familyfriendlysite.com which appears to be free for a listing (if you put their link/logo on your site). That would most likely put as at number 1 if you Googled "family friendly dordogne pool". We're currently at number 3 for that search due to a mirror site (which is badly in need of an update Sad ) with quickonthenet.com.
_________________
Lynne
for Metropolitan Sanctuary and Retreat in London www.metropolitansanctuary.co.uk & www.metropolitanretreat.co.uk
and
Le Cheval Blanc in France www.lechevalblanc.co.uk
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