Be sure to check out the remarkable new website for L’Auberge Provencale in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, recently launched by our friends at White Stone Marketing. We collaborated in the art direction and concept with Innkeeper Celeste Borel and the team at White Stone, so this project is near and dear to our hearts. L’Auberge is a long-time client and friend and it’s such an unqualified pleasure to shoot and to work with them, on so many levels. For years we have been impressed by the way the Provencale theme is executed so beautifully and so consistently at this gracious inn, from the gardens to the decor to their renowned dining experience.
It’s worthwhile spending a few minutes to look through the site, to learn and to be inspired. Here are a few items of note:
Pictures first. We love that the pictures are HUGE and the site looks great on everything from an iPhone to a 27-inch monitor. As you move through the site, the pictures continuously sell you on the incredible experience the inn offers. There’s still plenty of fact-providing text–which is key for good SEO–but it’s tucked neatly away if you want to see it. A prime example of this is the verbiage on each room page: the text is keyword-rich, but accessed through scrolling, rather than right in your face. We’ve shot many times for the inn over the last 6 years and the new site really features the richness and sweep of what we have shot over the years.
Pushing the theme. We conceived the “50 Ways We Transport You to Provence” page to celebrate the way the innkeepers have carried this theme through so richly. At this inn, the Provence theme is far deeper than just decor. The “50 Ways” page is teased on the homepage and then linked and teased throughout the site. Also, the passport stamp graphic and Celeste’s excellent new tag line “Escape to Provence. No passport required.” help carry through this unique marketing message. Even small details like the hand-washed color behind the menu subtly whispers “Provence”.
A complicated site made simple and clean. L’Auberge Provencale is a complex business with many facets and services to communicate: lodging, in-room dining, fine dining, alfresco dining, special events and weddings, gardens with European-style orchards…and the fact that a portion of the lodging options are located two miles from the main building. White Stone implemented a “mega-menu” to clean things up and make the site much more user-friendly. For example, just one click on the “Weddings” menu and you have an informational sub-menu. where you can order a wedding info packet right away. This is a massive site and this structure helps people find the info they need FAST. White Stone does property visits to each design client to iron out the site map strategy. We can’t help but feel that this complex and technically-challenging site in the hands of many other website-designers would have been a hot mess! White Stone executed it brilliantly.
Bold new branding changes. Innkeepers Celeste and Alain Borel have been at L’Auberge for over 20 years…but instead of becoming complacent, they constantly embrace change. Case in point: during the website design process, the team suggested renaming and rebranding their nationally-known restaurant, formally known simply in conjunction with the inn, L’Auberge Provencale. The restaurant was relaunched with a new name, logo and stand-alone website, now known as “La Table Provencale”. This major change offers great new synergies and internet marketing opportunities for both the lodging and dining aspects, allowing for “cross-pollinating” when folks search on either the inn or the restaurant. A major benefit of this separation is that it will help to drive local restaurant business. Oftentimes, country inn dining can fly under the radar of locals who have little reason to search on lodging right down the road…or it can be associated with less-than-full-service or a less professional restaurant experience. Giving the restaurant a stand-alone presence and identity will elevate the visibility and perceived quality of the restaurant experience. This is a trend we have been seeing quite often in the city hotel, cruise ship and resort worlds, and we think they will see great benefits from marketing and branding with this new strategy. Check out the new stand-alone restaurant website for La Table Provencale.
Farm to table. Long before (almost two decades!) “Farm to Table” became a trend and moniker in the fine dining world, Chef Borel’s kitchen had been using fresh ingredients from local sources. You’ll find this phrase throughout the website, celebrating and bringing to the fore something L’Auberge has been doing for over 20 years.
Inspiring longer stays. L’Auberge Provencale is not really in a destination town or in an area that tends to see mass tourism. Getting potential guests to understand all the riches of the area, from wineries to river rafting to farm tourism, was a major challenge for the new website. The amazing “Plan Your Stay” feature is a large and robust part of the site. Be sure to check out their 3-day itineraries in outdoor adventure, cycling, local history, wine touring and history. This will not only encourage and inspire longer reservations, but will provide a great guideline for staff and innkeepers to assist guests in planning their stays while they are actually at the inn. All of this is pulled off with a fantastic visual menu–very, very image forward. Get teased right from the mega-menu with great images that inspire you to spend more time in the area. Kudos to Celeste for the incredible work on this part of the site. We have seen hundreds of websites over the years, and NONE has come close to this level of depth and care put into helping guests plan their stays. It’s is awe-inspiring. Hotels: consider yourselves served!
Want to see other web-design projects for which we have contributed photography? Check our “projects” page on our website for more inspiration. We’d love to have your feedback and comments below!!