Redesign of the
Guagus River Inn Website
The Innkeepers at the Guagus River Inn wanted to make some minor changes and take over maintenance of their website. They were pretty happy with their site and had gotten a lot of positive feedback from guests. I don't think they really wanted to redesign it, but when I looked at it I was horrified. I didn't feel the site matched the elegance of their Inn.
Why did their guests like their old website?
- They loved the slide show with pictures of the Inn.
- Half of them loved the music, the other half wanted to turn it off.
Why didn't I like their old website?
- The slide show was great; it had neat transitions between the pictures. However, the pictures were too small and you weren't given any information about what you were looking at.
- To me the background seemed too dark. It made me think of a dark, old inn instead of the bright modern place it is. (Turns out the Innkeepers also loved the old background, but when I showed them what I was talking about they said "Well it looks different on your computer than on ours, we thought the color matched our brochures" (which are a light, not a dark tan). Remember the lesson that pages look different on different computers!
- The Navigation was terrible. The buttons were dark and hard to read, and often several screens down. (Now putting the buttons at the bottom forces the reader to view the entire page ... this is fine the first time you visit a site, but gets to be a pain when you return looking for particular information.)
- The pictures are too small. You want to create an initial impression of a big, beautiful Inn. Sure you could click on some of the pictures on the old website to see a bigger version, but how many people did? First impressions are important, even on websites! Bigger pictures have the drawback of taking longer to download over a dial-up line, but with higher compression (usually at little loss in quality) you can make the right trade-off for your site.
What did we change?
- The background on many pages is now a softened picture of the view across the Narraguagus River. (On some pages which are either long, or the river detracts from the rest of the page we just use the sky. Exactly which background to use on each page is still an on-going experiment.)
- We put a big picture of the Inn on the Home Page. The Innkeepers realize it is important that the guests recognize the Inn when they come the first time.
- We animated the welcome text so there would be some action on the home page.
- We put Inn's phone number and address (both snail and e-Mail) at the bottom of every page. That way no matter which page a potential customer prints out for later consideration, they will know how to contact the Inn.
- Now instead of an automated slide show, you have to click for each page. The advantage of this is that we could add text to go with each picture and the customer could spend more time with pictures that interested them. They could even print one to show a traveling companion. One drawback of the bigger pictures is that it takes more time to load each picture. In downeast Maine with only dial-up lines, this is a problem that many viewers don't have--each year more and more people have high speed access and the display is almost instantaneous. We put the text on top to give the customer on a dial-up line something to read while the picture was loading. Another possibility is to be loading the next picture while the customer is viewing the current page ... I have mixed feelings about whether it is worth the effort. To see an example of this check out these Railroad Pictures. Choose "Slides" or "Small Slides" if the entire picture and caption doesn't fit on your screen. Be sure to wait until the progress bar of your browser shows that loading is complete (it will seem complete, but it may still be loading the graphic on the next page). If loading is complete, notice how quick the page changes are even on a dial-up line.
- Notice that the animated Welcome is repeated on it's own page. The main reason for this is that it allows search engines to index all that text. It also allows a customer to print it if they so choose.
- The location page contains additional driving directions for the visitors as well as better maps. Consideration was given to how these pages would print.
- Think like your customers, try printing any pages a customer might print. Try printing from different browsers.
- We're still experimenting with the music. It's only on the home page ... probably the right answer. We also stopped it from looping, now it stops after the song; however, it starts again whenever you return to the Home Page. How well a control to turn it off works depends on the plug-ins installed with the viewer's browser. At the moment the control is included at the bottom of the page, we'll see ...
To understand better what we are talking about, see the current version of the Guagus River Inn website. The original version of the Guagus River Inn website is no longer available on-line, but we'll compare the old and new pages in one of our classes. It's a good example of how a good site can be made better.
The original Guagus River Inn website was created several years ago, and obviously was successful in attracting customers. I really like some of the newer websites created by the same company. I'm sure if they had been given an opportunity to redesign it, they would have made similar changes. What's important is not who creates your website, but that you continue to work with whoever designs it to make sure it meets your current needs.
The primary business of Cherryfield.net is website hosting. We would like to work with whoever designs your website to make sure it meets your needs. Cherryfield.net will be offering courses in website design and maintenance, many of which will be free to those hosting sites on the Cherryfield.net server. There will be courses this winter in Florida, and next spring in Maine.
Come back, we'll be adding more lessons.
Even better, host your page on Cherryfield.net and come to our classes to discuss your pages.
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