We hunched around Clare’s laptop while Trina on speaker phone guided us through the steps of posting a blog… “Look for the button that says ____ on the upper left…”
Su and Melissa demolished a large bag of BBQ potato chips in the process. And some candy.
Our brains needed it!
“I just think that machines don’t work around me.” -Amy Schumer, Mom Computer Therapy
We were in start-up and didn’t really know how to communicate what our business was or what kind of look we wanted… it just had to get… DONE.
Which it was – cobbled together out of existing photographs and using modified templates – it was the best we could do for where and what we were at the time.
Except that having a great website IS a basic.
As our business evolved – many upgrades were made in remodeling house and garden – and the website stayed behind. It was meh… OK but it increasingly didn’t reflect who and what we are now.
When we first took over the Dungeness Barn House it was filled with Victorian antiques and for many years was the owners’ full-time home.
Anyone who visited the Barn House felt the love and devotion that had been given to it from the very beginning of its renovation from a barn to home back in the 1950’s, which was reflected in their five-star reviews.
We are the third “generation” of owners to care for the property and barn house. Now it was Clare’s turn to put her own style to work and create a signature business that reflects our life style and intentions.
Rustic modern with a hint of edginess. Comfortable and eclectic – where masculine and feminine elements were balanced. We wanted to give our guests the feeling that they are not visiting our home but that we are here to share what we do. We live in the 200′ square apartment above the garage next to the Dungeness Barn House.
Our website continued to gather dust – it worked “well enough” with basic information and people could find us. We handled all of the bookings and reservations by hand so we didn’t think that it was hurting us.
Except it was.
Bookings that could have happened with a few convenient clicks of the button by a customer became an involved process of phone calls back and forth.
So… taking a deep breath – we decided to make the plunge and hired a web designer – Trina Packard. Someone who could “get” what we do and modernize it and make it reflection of our business NOW.
“I want for these doilies to be an expression of that love… that we have for our guests…” Portlandia Bed and Breakfast – The Doily Shoppe
An Informal, Opinionated, and Brief History Of The Business Of Bed & Breakfasts
The 80’s saw the rise of Bed and Breakfast’s as home owners who enjoyed entertaining, decided to earn some extra cash by opening up their homes as B&B’s. Hallmarks of the owner’s quirks included staying in a room with pictures of the owners family on the wall – or worse – their dolls on the beds. While some did an excellent and professional job, a huge part of the charm was that it was run by amateurs and “not corporate.” Travelers sacrificed convenience for a unique experience.
As the rise in popularity of B&B’s continued, they became more organized – and corporate. “Homes” were built specifically to be B&B’s and they became more organized as income-generating businesses. In some cases, they were also seen as a tax shelter for upper middle class people who were looking for a write off for whom it didn’t matter if they were a viable business or not.
2000’s and beyond
Corporatization and technology came to B&B’s. Booking became more sophisticated – and online booking became an expected part of even a very “low key” B&B operation. Public ratings from Yelp, TripAdvisor and similar crowd source reviews became extremely important. Google search placement and Google Maps meant the difference between a successful business and failing. It became harder for small B&B’s to compete without having a strong online presence. All of these conveinances come at a high price for a small B&B. The advent of AirBnB.com added a new player to the field.
“Those little soaps that you saw… those are cookies!”
Portlandia: Bed and Breakfast – Inspection
Businesses that facilitate travel, and work as liaisons between hotels/B&B’s and their customers have also consolidated and become much larger
Expedia.com and Booking.com – own many smaller online travel agents such as Airbnb .com, Trivago and Home Away. If a small business wants to compete, they need to work with these huge companies which take a hefty percentage of any room that is booked.
At the same time, savvy travelers also became more wary of “fake positive reviews,” photographs that looked “too professional” and obviously paid for advertisements by large companies to boost their web presence. The internet had transitioned from being a level playing field for all businesses to compete with equal access to an increasingly corporate environment with priority given to the paid advertising and those who could pay to optimize their website to be found by search engines.
Dungeness Barn House’s location on search pages had become buried. It was past time for an update. An update on every level and to make it a more streamlined process for our customers, and let us focus more on offering great experiences for our customers – like gourmet breakfasts. And tend our organic vegetable garden.
The website needed to not look like “Grandma’s B&B” and more modern, yet rustic to reflect what the Dungeness Barn House looked like now.
Clare researched different designers and options… Should we go DIY – “Do it yourself” That was quickly ruled out as a “Do it yourself – DON’T” or what Melissa likes to call a “DIYD.” Should we try and slowly update what we have just by swapping out old pictures for new ones? No. The format isn’t right… and it would have to be redone sooner or later. Sooner much rather than later.
Trina Packard of Packard Design Works was clearly the best fit – she understood that we wanted something clean, but warm – to reflect the “high touch” elements of the Barn House. Modern, but also honored the traditions we value. She and Clare did a deep dive into educating Clare about all of the elements that needed to go into the revamp. Clare’s brother Michael Monnin who is a competitive photographer and avid birder supplied many of the photographs. Terms that were initially unfamiliar but now roll easily off of Clare’s tongue: SEO (search engine optimization), OTA (online travel agent), VBRO (vacation rental by owner). She says: “Acronyms… It’s been painful…”
We also wanted the website to be a resource for both locals and visitors to the Olympic Peninsula. While the beauty of this location is breathtaking – many people are not aware of all of the hidden gems and options for inexpensive – and creative day trips.
Some transitions happen gracefully…
Trees turning color in the fall are a beautiful example of that…
Daisies are not…
But in the end…
totally worth it.
Just make sure that you have plenty of chips, candy AND the right designer!