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simon_rutledge

New Member
Hi Everyone,
I would really appreciate impartial opinions on my website: www.whitehouse.ie
I know very little about computers in general so I have to depend on others to make decisions for me where my website is concerned.
My site was given a makeover some months ago and I was told by the person who commissioned this work for me that I was getting a top class site and that I'd have no problems getting a high ranking on Google.
However, when a good friend saw the finished work, he burst out laughing and said he had never seen a worse effort at creating a website before. He swore that it contained so many basic errors that he wouldn't know where to begin but he advised me to post on this site and ask you, the readers, here to give me your honest opinions.
To be honest, I am totally confused and would welcome candid opinions from anyone kind enough to take a look at my site.
 

mneylon

Administrator
Staff member
The video shouldn't automatically play when you land on the site
There's very little text on the main page, so it's not clear what you are promoting
You should convert your Facebook profile to a page - you're not meant to use the profile for a business
Make sure your version of Joomla is up to date and get someone to configure to give you more "friendly" URLs
Why are you using a gmail email address? You should use your own domain
Nobody cares if the CSS / HTML is valid ie. the buttons are just a distraction
Where's your privacy policy?
Where's your contact page?
 

cgarvey

New Member
My site was given a makeover some months ago and I was told by the person who commissioned this work for me that I was getting a top class site and that I'd have no problems getting a high ranking on Google.
Don't listen to that person any more (if that wasn't already obvious to you).

Whilst the name of the pub might be catchy, it'll be hard to compete with the real white house on in SEO. Not impossible, but certainly a lot harder than some other, less common, name. I don't expect you to change the name(!), but someone telling you you'd have no problems was misleading you.

However, when a good friend saw the finished work, he burst out laughing and said he had never seen a worse effort at creating a website before.
Start listening to this guy. If you're not IT/web-savvy, then maybe come to some arrangement with this friend for advice (or for him to manage it completely). Something loose like a few pints every month as a retainer for some advice every now and then, right up to a professional agreement, etc., whatever works; however, don't take him for granted as the fact that he's a friend might come in handy when it comes to dealing with guys who don't have you in their best interest (as you've already experienced).

As for what's wrong? There are lots of technical things (Blacknight has kindly highlighted loads of 'em for you). Some of those are quite serious when it comes to SEO, and would be considered basic requirements by most in the web design/development trade.

Overall, the site is very, very basic looking. It lacks the input of a good designer. It just reeks of "cowboys, Ted" (Father Ted reference, just in case!). By that I mean that trust levels are low. It tells me that the White House haven't invested a lot of effort (or cost) in their online presence. It tells me they don't take the website seriously, so they are unlikely to take my online booking seriously (and I'll have to ring 'em / chase them / argue with them... more hassle than it's worth). Of course, that might not be the case, but that's the initial impression. My impression might be a bit more critical given that I work at this, but that initial impression is important (as I assume your regular customers are not your target audience).

What to do now?
1) Start talking to the friend; he seems to have much better an idea than the guy you paid (I assume it was a paid arrangement?) to do the site. As I say above, don't abuse that friendship (by taking the advice for granted, without reward).
2) Look at getting the basics right. Simple things like the phone number in the header is an invalid phone number (and "00" is not the international access code in many countries).
3) A new design might not be affordable right now, but if it is go for it. Even a purchased template ($50-$150) would be a lot better than this. If not, small changes will help like not using YouTube for a slideshow, like fixing the gallery page, etc.

Certainly, as a priority, get the contact details sorted, and get them to the fore.

Sorry you've had such a bad experience.
 

Forbairt

Portfolio Building
Auto playing video = ouch ... especially when it has sound

You're using a free template for your website. It's not particularly amazing to be honest

Text on the Daily specials on the right looks a bit erm ... special ..

Fonts seems crap

The contact info at the top ... erm why is it in so far from the edge seems weird.

Having your number with (00353) erm ... generally people know international numbers these days they more expect the (0) before the 87 or whatever mobile number

The gradient / mask fading on your photos is awful

Function room page is a disaster

Your food and drink page is just an image?

Just my two cents ... apart from that it's grand :D
 

simon_rutledge

New Member
Thanks very sincerely to all who replied. I am a lot wiser now.
I suppose it's easy to spot mistakesnow that so many have been pointed out to me but I can understandjust about everything that has been explained to me and I realisejust how bad my site really is.
My friend has gone through the reviewswith me that are posted here and it's fairly obvious that my siteneeds another makeover and a fast one at that!
Incidentally, this man had told me hewouldn't give me a detailed list of the site's mistakes until I hadreceived some impartial reviews first. He said that he didn't want tobe the bearer of bad news and now I understand what he meant.


Thanks to those who answered my call for advice, I now see what has to be done.
 

simon_rutledge

New Member
Well let us know when you've made changes and we can rip it apart again :)
The time has come to put whitehouse.ie under scrutiny once again.:greedy_dollars:
I listened to the advice those of you who were good enough to give to me here and I had the site taken offline.
(I had a good deal of bother with the booking process on top of the design flaws before the site was shut down.)
My brother recommended another designer to me and I got him to do a total revamp of the site. The priority was to get a booking system up and running as soon as possible as I’ve lost a lot of potential custom because of the old site.
When I told him I was going to submit the site for review on this forum again, he told me he had no problems with that but he said he still had a fair bit of tinkering with the code to do before it was fully optimised.
I had asked him to get a booking system that worked up and running as soon as possible and the latest one seems to be working fine.
(The old one sometimes generated two or more confirmation emails after a single booking and one time I got no indication at all that a booking had been made. Money was lodged to my account once with no indication of what it was for. I had to email the person who lodged it and say I had no record of the booking. That was very embarrassing to say the least!)
I’m happy with the new site but I’m curious to know what others think of it.
Maybe some of you would be kind enough to give me your opinions.
 

link8r

New Member
I'm sorry I missed the old site - it sounds almost legendary.

The idea that great websites also rank well is in danger of becoming a Unicorn of the internet as an idea.

I really hope you haven't paid for this "new" site, its truly 1990's....
 

simon_rutledge

New Member
I'm sorry I missed the old site - it sounds almost legendary.

The idea that great websites also rank well is in danger of becoming a Unicorn of the internet as an idea.

I really hope you haven't paid for this "new" site, its truly 1990's....
Thanks for taking the time to critique my site.
Is the new one really that bad?
I sat down with the new designer before he got to work and discussed strategies. My premises date back to 1629 and much of the original structure still survives. Many overseas visitors, especially Americans, have told me that they love the place and would very much prefer it to the modern nondescript type of hotel we see so much of today.
“See one; see ‘em all,” was how one of my guests described them.
I mentioned this to the new man and he said that it would be a good idea to emphasise the old world atmosphere of the premises to set it apart from the general run of the mill establishments that are in competition with me.
So we agreed in principle that there would be no flash animations or the likes in the new site- it was to be plain and direct and leave nobody in doubt as to what the purpose of the site was, ie to advertise that I was offering accommodation in an old fashioned establishment that had modern facilities.
The last site may have been legendary but it was for all the wrong reasons. The booking system was a complete disaster and I’ve been threatened with civil action by two very disgruntled persons who both turned up expecting accommodation which they had booked and paid deposits for. Unfortunately, there was no record of their bookings at my end.
I had to ring around other hotels in the area and fix them up with accommodation as well as providing them with taxis to convey them there. I had to do this for another disappointed arrival as well but he didn’t get too annoyed about the mix-up. (All this happened around St Patrick’s weekend so I can’t say there won’t be proceedings taken against me yet.)
So I emphasised that my first consideration was to ensure I had a reliable booking system and everything else could follow.
TBH, I’ve had mixed reactions from friends and guests who have stayed with me since the new site went up. They either love it or hate it; there is no middle ground.
 

link8r

New Member
Fair play Paul, well spotted!


@OP: Bold font

here are my thoughts:

1. Be careful with serif fonts - I think a sans serif would look nicer
2. Your logo should be a logo, not a font. It should be top left or prominent
3. Your tel numbers are bold - they may be clearer not bold
4. Your customers may benefit from knowing which number is a landline and which is a mobile. For example, some national numbers in the UK start with 086 or 087 but look like mobile numbers to an Irish audience
5. Photos: You need better quality. That photo is too dark. What about the interior. Surely the easiest photo would be a roaring fire with a pint of plain in front of it, full or with a sup taken is up to you. Get an image scroller. Get it in HTML5 and it will work on mobile devices too. Its not costly
6. Look at the Dunraven Arms' site - its just imagery and good use of fonts. They command a high price but its an old building, largely featureless, and in dire need of an upgrade. But you'd happily pay €120 a night from that site
7. Page titles - why repeat your brand name/domain name within your page title. Talk to your web developer about SEO. If they don't know SEO then they should try learning it. Not pretend to know it and then read up on it.
8. Why are the social channel icons so small? the web designer doesn't like social?
9. where are the tweet this or fb like icons (not the same as the channel follow icons) - these are the most important and must be prominent
10. Is there a garden?
 

cgarvey

New Member
Maybe some of you would be kind enough to give me your opinions.
Firstly, I commend you on your handling of all this. You've taken the criticism (even if it was constructive) well, and it's obvious you're trying here.

Secondly, this is an improvement, but it's still a good bit short of what I'd expect from a small/independent accommodation provider (of any size). The problem is (still) that you're falling down on conveying trust. That is, a website that screams "this is no amateur effort, we're serious; you can trust us".

With regards to your business, I'd recommend:
  • You spend a bit of time on review sites, to establish your brand. For example, I couldn't find you on TripAdvisor after a couple of minutes. Other White House Hotels were coming up in the results (for Dublin, even though they weren't in Dublin), but you weren't. Then I stumbled upon "The White House Motel, dublin" which looks to be you.
  • You have a bit of a diluted brand issue. You have multiple sites, with similar content, but slightly different names/domains. That needs to be cleaned up. I don't know if that's a change of ownership issue, or you no longer have control of those sites, but the motel (.net) site needs to go (actually, it needs to redirect to your main .ie site).
  • You need branding. Whether that's the cheap Vistaprint-style of logo from the .net site, or you already have a logo/branding that's not on the main site. You need an identity. The "Welcome to the WHH" font at the top is not that.
  • You need to invest more in to your online presence. Gone are the days where people are grateful you have a site at all. You now need to convince visitors to trust you. Again, the current site (even though it's an improvement) doesn't do that (in my opinion, anyway). You also need to invest in your SEO. You have an unfortunate name (catchy, descriptive it maybe be, but very common), which is why a "build it and they will come" approach won't be enough.
With regards to your site, I'd recommend:
  • Get a designer on board. Whoever did that current site, is probably more a technical coding type of guy, a DIYer, or whatever, but not a creative designer. There's too many basic things wrong with the site for that to be taken seriously (some of which is covered in earlier posts, and some notes here). Again, I'm trying to be gentle here because I recognise you're trying, but this site isn't at the races. If cost is an issue, then maybe consider a purchased template. Maybe your guy can help you modify that. A $50 template would look a lot better than the current site (even at the risk of it being obvious that it is a templated site).
  • Get some proper imagery. You need to sell the place. The outside looks great (genuinely; it's very well kept looking, and a very unique old looking building.. that's not an easy combination to maintain). However, the photo is crap. The tiny images of the rooms (& bar, etc.) don't cut the mustard at all. That's one area that badly needs work (and it shouldn't be too expensive/hard to fix).
Finally, lots of small issues with the site:
  • The phone number formats are inconsistent. The standardised international format for Ireland is +353 1 123 4567 (or +353 1 834 2683 and +353 86 839 6462 closest I've ever seen to my own mobile!). Now, as with all things Irish, that standard isn't too often adhered to and you'll see lots of variations (like sticking "(0)" in the middle of the number, etc.). Or, for internal/national format of "(086) 839 2683", but that looks suspiciously like a broken US number to US visitors. If you stick to the standardised international format, it's consistent, and mobile phones (any decent smartphone, especially) or Skype plugin no desktop browsers will pick up on the format and add a convenient link to easily call the number. Small thing, but important.
  • The phone number as an image is a very bad idea. Not googleable, not easily copied/pasted, and forcing users to type it out manually is just asking for a mistake.
  • The green gradient under the phone number/book online boxes in the banner is just nasty as well as inconsistent (all those small things sound like OCD-esque nit-picking in their own right; but they all add up to give a pretty lazy appearance/approach to your site).
  • The "logo". All kinds of wrong.
  • You don't need the big picture of the hotel on every page (waste of space.. means I have to scroll down to see any real content).
  • The formatting on FAQ page is all over the place.
  • The route map and location pages need to use real "embedded" Google Maps. You probably don't need half the verbosity of the route page. The two pages could be merged. Using an embedded Google Map allows me to easily add it to my saved places (great for holiday planning), allows me to get directions from where ever I want, and allows me to easily explore the area so I can get some context on where you are even if I don't know the country. Make sure your imagery (map and direction photos) are licensed.
  • The text on the homepage is probably (but not definitely, by any means) a bit too verbose. Moreover, its formatting is very poor, making it hard to read and un-inviting. I'd have used more to-the-point bylines to sell the place, rather than laying out all the features on the front page. Combine that with a "call to action" (like your "Book Online" button, only better!) for some features. "Book your Park & Fly" or "Take a Photo Tour of our Rooms"... they can lead to other pages which detail the features, rather than laying it on so thick on the home page.
  • More photos, and better photos needed for the food & drink page, the functions page, and the hotel page. Use a gallery/scroller plugin to make this nice and presentable, and allow me to see (much!) higher resolution photos if I want to click on any of 'em. Use a wide-angle lens to make your rooms appear a bit more spacious, take out the wonky old chair out of the bedroom photo, etc. Right now it looks like you're trying to hide the fact that the rooms are basic enough. I'd be promoting the fact that whilst they are basic, they are clean, and not run-down.
  • The contact page has better phone number formatting (and mobile/landline descriptions as mentioned in the earlier posts). Missing the + sign and consistent formatting (again, I suggest using the standardised international format, for Irish numbers, above). Use email address cloaking (a javascript bit of magic) to display a standard email address, as a contact form with captcha is just too much of a turn-off/deterrent for something like this (where you really want to make it easy for them to contact you).
  • The social sharing icons in the footer look like they are links to your own online/social profiles (not links to share the page/site). I'd take them out of the footer and put them within the page itself. Consider using a tidier (free) plugin like ShareThis.com to provide better sharing options and some bonus analytics. The Print option is redundant (in my opinion).
  • The code was generated by an off-the-shelf editor which generally means pain. The code it generated is pretty darn ugly, HTML4. Somewhat outdated, but that really is getting pedantic now.
  • Lots of SEO work needed (that can be done cheaply). Image titles/alts, link titles, fix up use of headings (<h1>, etc.) tags, and fix page titles ("The White House Hotel - Page 5" is such a waste it should be a criminal offence!). There is still an amount of SEO work to be done after that simple stuff is fixed up, but that'll take some cash/expertise.
  • Finally, the booking engine you use makes me nervous. Firstly, I'm very obviously leaving your site (no branding continuity, etc.). Secondly, it's powered by something "FREE" provided by a third party. That scares me, especially if you start asking me for payment details. It scares me because it's not a known, or trusted, 3rd party, so I'm not convinced my booking will go through. It functions just fine (searching, room selection, descriptions, etc., all work fine), it's just a trust issue again.
Plus you have lots of feedback in the posts before mine from seasoned professionals.

An improvement on the old site, but way too many small things make it look bad. The overall theme is amateur/dated looking, but the bigger problem is the attention to detail is lacking making it look bad. It's not horrendous, and there's lots of things that can be fixed easily/cheaply, but it is poor enough at the same time.

Good luck with it, the place looks very well; now just polish up the site to reflect that.
 

simon_rutledge

New Member
Fair play Paul, well spotted!


@OP: Bold font

here are my thoughts:

1. Be careful with serif fonts - I think a sans serif would look nicer
2. Your logo should be a logo, not a font. It should be top left or prominent
3. Your tel numbers are bold - they may be clearer not bold
4. Your customers may benefit from knowing which number is a landline and which is a mobile. For example, some national numbers in the UK start with 086 or 087 but look like mobile numbers to an Irish audience
5. Photos: You need better quality. That photo is too dark. What about the interior. Surely the easiest photo would be a roaring fire with a pint of plain in front of it, full or with a sup taken is up to you. Get an image scroller. Get it in HTML5 and it will work on mobile devices too. Its not costly
6. Look at the Dunraven Arms' site - its just imagery and good use of fonts. They command a high price but its an old building, largely featureless, and in dire need of an upgrade. But you'd happily pay €120 a night from that site
7. Page titles - why repeat your brand name/domain name within your page title. Talk to your web developer about SEO. If they don't know SEO then they should try learning it. Not pretend to know it and then read up on it.
8. Why are the social channel icons so small? the web designer doesn't like social?
9. where are the tweet this or fb like icons (not the same as the channel follow icons) - these are the most important and must be prominent
10. Is there a garden?
Well, thanks once again for taking the time to help a complete stranger.
You web builders amaze me. The advice I have been given here is a great help to me and to my new web designer also.
To be fair to him, he took on the job at very short notice and told me to go ahead and submit the new site for review here but he thought I’d wait a bit longer before I did so.
He had told me when he put up the site that he still had a lot of tinkering about to do to make the site more search engine friendly. (I never heard of SEO before I came across this site but I’m getting the hang of things now.)
He says he agrees with just about everything you have to say but he said he’d not recommend a site like the Dunraven Arms one because small white writing against a black background would be hard to read on a small screen. He says he repeated the hotel name in the page titles as he had used the same top half on every page. Here again, he wished I had waited a little bit longer before re-submitting the site.

He also appreciated your advice about the phone numbers formatting as he didn’t know that some UK regional numbers started with 086 or 087. Overall, he says you have been of great help to him and also to me.
I’ll gladly second that.
 

simon_rutledge

New Member
@cgarvey
That’s a truly amazing review!
In my wildest dreams, I never expected the amount of help I got here when I first went looking for opinions.
I don’t mind criticism one little bit. I know it’s all constructive and has been of great help to me. It is also appreciated by the man who put this site together.
He’s a Microsoft Office instructor first and foremost and only took on the job because he is a good friend of my brother.
I accept that I am the main culprit as I landed the job on him at short notice and told him I wanted to get a site with a reliable booking script back online as soon as possible.
He wasn’t happy with the quality of the photos I had to give him but said they’d do for the present and asked me to come up with better ones as quickly as possible.
I left the job of gathering photos and coming up with questions and answers to one of the staff and she assured me she’d take care of all minor matters. I suppose she knows as little as I do about websites and was only trying to help.
All of this will be sorted out within the next week.
I never considered the branding on the booking pages and neither did the man who set it up. He said the whole booking process and the control panel were the most intuitive he had come across and decided to use that program because he knew that everybody at my end would struggle with any other.
Looking back, I know I resubmitted the site too quickly for his liking. He had said that he had no problem with me doing so but he also mentioned that there was still a lot of tinkering behind the scenes to do before he would be happy. I didn’t really understand what he meant by this when I came back here looking for fresh reviews before he was satisfied with his work.
However, he is happy now that I did.
He feels he might have spotted around 50% of the issues you, and the other reviewers have pointed out but he had never even considered the rest.
Thanks to all of you here, I’m confident that I’ll have a very much better site soon but I don’t think I’d have the neck to come back to trouble you again!
I hope to visit this site more often to look about and learn as I go along.
I only wish I was 50 years younger and had the time and energy to get involved.
Thanks for all the help I got from you and the others.
 
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