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Self-Catering Web Awards

...Didn't get a mention...

Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns at Orchard Farm

No! We didn’t even make the short list, sorry! Obviously not everyone can win and we will try and learn from those that did. I must admit I thought the overall winners’ website – Mortons of Pitmilly – is super! I also particularly liked the Welsh winners’ website, East Jordeston Cottages. They’re both very clear and informative and make you want to visit them.

There were 327 entrants apparently, competing in three different categories: agency, owner operated, self-catering portal; also four regional winners from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, and one overall winner. The scoring criteria was content, navigation, design and functionality.

I think the idea was generated by SuperControl who provide an online booking service for a growing number of self-caterers (including us since 2009); however they were not involved in the judging process. It comes from the assumption (clear intention, no doubt as in SuperControl’s case) that more and more self-caterers will incorporate online booking.

Apparently according to a Mintel report (no source provided!) 7/10 holidays were booked online last year.To digress for a moment, I can’t help feeling that this is slightly misleading. If one is booking a package holiday, or a special offer bargain short break where the emphasis is on speed, on bagging the bargain offer… ‘Book now!” “Offer closes at midnight!!” – the priority is on speed; you know what you want, or you don’t really care as long as there’s sun, a bed and a beach or to spend as little as possible. However, when you’re looking for holiday accommodation of a superior quality it’s not about speed, but about careful choice. You may mull for weeks over the perfect spot for your family get-together, that perfect romantic cottage for two. We have many honeymoon couples who don’t take their choice of venue lightly.

We certainly have had more online than ‘admin’ bookings over the last three years, but not significantly so. Herein may lie the weakness of my argument and maybe why we didn’t even make the short list!

Is it because our website is not clear, because the design is faulty or unattractive, or difficult to navigate? We’d appreciate some honest responses, if anyone is kind enough!

However, a surprising number of guests do like to have a chat first, just for reassurance. They may go on and book online as had been their intention, but often will ask us to do it for them while we’re chatting. It’s all about building a two-way trustful relationship.

To return to the competition, it is disappointing not even to make the short list and even more disappointing that we will never know why as I think it is only the short-listed entries that get feedback. I have had a quick look at the winners‘ websites and will try to see what we could learn from them. One thing strikes me, is that they are quite all big outfits, not small and more personal ones like ours whose needs may be slightly different.

Our website is constantly evolving as John, Jeremy Brough our web designer, and I try to think how we can improve its usefulness and fun all the time. But one thing remains constant: our website is for you our guests. It is a unique online relationship with you, just as we feel we have with you when you stay here ‘on the ground’! It’s for us, not necessarily to win competitions!


7 comments for “Self-Catering Web Awards”

  1. If you really want some constructive feedback from people who know what they are talking about in this industry I’d head over to the forum at http://www.laymyhat.com/forum/.

    Posted by Windermere | January 20, 2013, 11:05 am
    • Yes, I certainly do want feedback so thank you so much for this tip. In my ignorance I’d never heard of Lay My Hat but have registered and await approval. However, having looked at all the winners it’s beginning to be very clear to me the way the fashion is going and how – for a start – we have way too much information on the Home Page!

      Posted by Marion F-S | January 20, 2013, 11:53 am
  2. Hello, sorry that we are unable to give feedback to all of the entrants. We will be writing a series of articles over the coming few weeks to give general feedback of what worked well, and what didn’t work as well. Hope this helps.

    Posted by Self-Catering Web Awards | January 22, 2013, 9:38 am
  3. For what it’s worth I personally don’t think you have too much info on the home page! All the extra little details were what made me want to book Douglas’s Barn in the first place :-) In fact I thought your website was so good, I passed the address on to my sister, who was just about to open her own barn conversion to paying guests in Yorkshire, as an example of what I thought was a really excellent site! Hoping to come back some time this year!

    Best wishes


    Posted by Susan Moss | January 26, 2013, 1:11 pm
    • Susan, how lovely to hear from you! And it was so reassuring to read your comments. We had been feeling rather downcast, as certainly all the winning sites are very different, with the Home Page very clear and uncluttered, just more or less showing you where to go to get the information you need. We certainly are going to reduce some of the words. I have been wanting to for some time; Jeremy and John fear that we may lose the personality and individuality which so many of our guests remark on and say they like.

      With luck we’ll be able to tidy things up a bit and hide some of the words away, without actually changing the nature of the site! I do think that the fact that we are so small, so intimate really, with John and me, our guests and our barns so closely interlinked, makes our situation very different from that of the very much larger and inevitably less personal outfits. Our website is for present, past and future guests; as long as they all like it, it doesn’t matter about not winning competitions!

      The weak link in that argument of course is the question mark hanging over future guests; if the fashion is now for a very different style of website we may put off the very people who might love it here!!

      What is your sister’s site? I’d be so interested to see it. And finally, we’d absolutely love to see you and Jonathan again!!

      Posted by Marion F-S | January 26, 2013, 2:01 pm
      • Ahhh, how nice to read your response Marion, I do occasionally keep tabs on Orchard Farm from time to time as we have such fond memories and I really enjoy reading your blog! I regularly highly recommend the barns to friends if asked. It must be a very tough balancing act trying to ‘keep up with the times’ website-wise but without losing uniqueness and personality. I’m sure you and John and your team will do a great job whatever you decide! You seem to have the ‘instinct’ for it. Incidentally, we are currently looking for a summer holiday rental in the south of France and our No 1 complaint/frustration on websites is not enough detail/photography provided – which then means one has to go through the time-consuming process of contacting owners, waiting for replies, and generally feeling like a pain-in-the-proverbial for asking questions/ requesting photos etc… we have on more than one occasion referred to your website as a ‘benchmark’, viz a viz “ah, but on the Tom’s Barn site, they also gave you x, y, z information…” However, as you say, even with the most comprehensive set of information, it’s often a question of what goes where on which page, so I do understand your pondering whether to ‘separate out’! But I do honestly think all the info you provide is wonderfully helpful and personal and long may it continue! My sister’s barn opened for business last year, how kind of you to ask about it -


        She’s aware that the site needs some work, but the barn is doing well so far with a fair few repeat customers – they are a similar set-up to you and John in that she and her husband occupy the property next door and are also concerned with the ‘green’ aspects of tourism.

        Best wishes for a successful 2013 season, Marion, and hope to see you in Parwich before too long.


        Posted by Susan Moss | January 27, 2013, 10:37 pm
        • Thank you, Susan, for your time and encouragement. You are most understanding and constructive and your comments very heartening!! I shall certainly look at your sister’s place and thank you for all your kind recommendations. Jeremy, John and I are planning a brainstorming meeting in the next few days… John will need some persuading as he strongly feels like you! Watch this space, as they say!

          Posted by Marion F-S | January 27, 2013, 10:53 pm

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