Monday, December 26, 2011

Key West websites

I wanted to do a blog about Key West websites.  So many people plan their visits in advance and check out the websites, it’s really important for tourism businesses to get it right.

I do website marketing for a living so I am a bit qualified on this subject! 

So, what makes a good website?

It’s not a simple question, as websites need to do a variety of different jobs these days, but I would say:

  • Give a real feel for the place and what's it is like to visit.  So when designing it really think carefully before how you can do this.  It's tricky but it's worth the effort.
  • Very easy to find the basic visitor information – where is it, when is it open, how much does it cost – including maps and directions and telephone numbers
  • Lots and lots of great pictures- this is where many KW websites fell down
  • A few videos, well produced, not more than a few minutes otherwise it’s too long
  • About who owns the establishment, the history, the heritage
  • Some detail - An online tour of the exhibits so readers can be sure it's right to visit and not too risky
  • Good quality site so it ranks highly in search results – search optimised website.  This is not easy to achieve – you need great original content, regularly updated, and (just as important) also a website that is search engine friendly.  Not all website platforms are like this.
  • Finally, reference any awards, unique features, TripAdvisor citations, special offers, or visitor praise.

In general, the sites I visited were all ok or better, which is great as it means they ARE  doing themselves justice. However, lots of room for improvement, and in some cases simple changes for the better....


Conch tour train website
8 out of 10

Great branding, including a special logo they have made up for its 50th anniversary.  The main image box takes up a lovely big area above the fold and has very engaging photos.  The home page is a bit too long and crowded – they have tried to get everything including the kitchen sink on it!  There’s a good video, on the homepage, complete with compulsory tropical music soundtrack!  Telephone number clearly displayed, and a contact us section.  Could have linked the ‘Tour Route’ page to the map.  They even include the prices.  All in all, it’s a fun and engaging site and gives a good impression of the tour itself.

Old Town Trolley Tours website
7 out of 10

When you open this page, there is an embedded video that starts automatically (ie you don’t have to click it).  It’s ok but not helped by the singing Mike Myers looking hippe who comes on for a musical  cameo half way through the video.   A little bit embarrassing, actually.
The branding and feel of the site is not as good but it’s simpler and less crowded.  Static single image on the web (rather than revolving multiple images) is a missed opportunity.  'Meet our conductors' section is a nice touch.  The Our Company section is also genuine. 
The call themselves ‘Key West’s best sightseeing tour’ all over the website – not sure how they justify that!
The content here is better than the competition – the description of the tour is much better and more comprehensive – so it’s just a shame the pictures and the website isn’t as impressive on first look.


Mallory Square website
4 out of 10
This looks very corporate and boring – it doesn’t help that whenever the site mentions Mallory Square they put a little ‘sm’ after it (for legal purposes, I suppose, but looks really bad).  The pictures are small and don’t impress.  It’s known for the sunset celebration and they’ve chosen only a moderately good sunset, in my opinion.  I’ve got loads of better pictures of the Key West sunset they could use!

Hemingway home and museum website
9 out of 10
Very dramatic pictures and great branding on the site, including of a cute Hemingway House cat.  Very detailed content about the man and all aspects of the house – very impressive content indeed.  Also picture slideshows of the gardens.   On the logistics side, there’s a map and directions and a clear and easy contact us form.
Truman Little White House website
7 out of 10
Again, good content including lots on the man himself – so not just a few pages.  The branding and pictures are not as good  as Hemingway site.  But the separate photo gallery section, with lots of old pics,  is fascinating.  They have a social media section too.
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum website
7 out of 10
A really interesting, fascinating homepage that really draws you in.  Good volume of content, several 30 second videos.  Not the clearest navigation but all the info is there once you find it.

Key West aquarium website
8 out of 10
I was pleasantly surprised – this site is lively, colourful and really fun.  Lots of pictures and easy to navigate.   Almost all the pictures are close up of fish – would be nice to see what the aquarium inside actually looks like.  OK content on the animals.
Audubon House website
5 out of 10
This website is not as sophisticated as many of the others reviewed here but that’s not surprise as it’s a non profit organisation.  Bearing that in mind, they have done a good job although the pictures could be larger, and more numerous, the store is ‘under construction’ (just take it off the navigation for now!) and there could be some more content on.  This is such a cool place to visit in person, it’s a shame the website does not quite live up to it.
Key West tropical forest and garden website
5 out of 10
Another non commercial site.  They could really do with more pictures on the homepage, including of the gardens themselves which are totally cool – but this really does not come over in this site.  There is a good separate photo gallery but it’s a bit hidden.   I love their logo by the way!  The visit us section is nice and clear with good directions.