Upper Rectory Farm Cottages


Operating in the highly competitive industry of UK country breaks and weekend cottage stays, Upper Rectory approached Clear to help revitalise their online presence, to engage with a slightly younger audience and create a website that would last the test of time.

The challenges they faced online came in 3 parts, firstly the overall brand wasn't engaging enough and felt like it blended into the rest of the industry to the point of not being memorable enough. Secondly, the website experience was lacklustre and lacked any aspirational notions especially for a business in the holidays industry. Finally, booking a cottage meant having to email or call Upper Rectory, rather than being able to make an informed choice of dates and cottage configuration online.

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New Brand

The first thing we did was look at the brand from the ground up. By treating the design of the new logo and website holistically, as an exercise in building a brand, we're able to ensure that all the elements balance well together. In isolation, we wanted to create a logo that felt timeless, that harkened back to the heritage of Upper Rectory, but when used within the overall brand balanced the more modern approach to all other communications. A perfect mix of the best of old, and the new.

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Well Thought Out Changes

The previous logo felt rushed and not considered in any way. Its presentation was uninspiring, and so together with Upper Rectory we knew it had to change. The transformation is stark, the new logo injects personality and charm, and starts on the path of building a brand.

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The Brand

Putting it all together, and dismantling the core components of the brand lets us create a brand toolkit with a suite of assets. Our font choices again reflect a balance between old and new, the stark lines of the choice for titles, paired with modern serif font for body copy. Colours are earthy and immediately convey a sent of the countryside. Alongside original photography, everything fits together to create a compelling brand proposition.

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New Website Design

The first thing we want to show users is the beautiful setting of the cottages. The vast majority of users have arrived on the site by specifically searching for the type of key phrases relating to Upper Rectory, so we want to hit them with lovely images straight away, to have them fall in love with the setting. Historically we know that users looking to book a break or holiday rely heavily on reviews. And so every page kicks off with a large beautiful image and testimonial from a past resident at the cottages.

Intelligent Navigation

At first glance there's nothing incredibly special about the navigation bar. But when you get under the skin of what we wanted to achieve it's clear just how special it really is. We had an option to add a new button that appears as a user scrolls, when clicked it sends the user back to the top of the page. This makes sense at first, until you realise that the final action we need from a user is to enquire or make a booking. Buttons for those actions are peppered throughout the page, so sending a user back to the top of the page removes them from the user flow of reading the page and making a final action. Instead, we have a sublte animated navigation that gives them not just the option to move to another section of the site, but a permanent and fixed enquire button.

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Optimised Pages = Better User Experience

We didn't want to create a vast sprawling website full of pages that the user had to traverse. Instead we concentrated our efforts in defining the core customers and talking to each one directly. The 3 groups we identified were:

  • individuals / couples or small groups
  • house parties / groups of all sizes celebrating an occasion
  • corporate visitors, whether they were looking for a daytime venue or an activity break

By defining those 3 groups, and building a very linear structure to the website we're able to optimise each page to communicate directly to each group. Talking to each group in a specific language and tone, as well as showing them information relating to their type of stay. For each group, every other page works to reinforce Upper Rectory as the place to visit and stay at. The user experience is enhanced because there are only 5 core pages for them to visit, and at least 1 page that relates intimately to them.

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Bespoke Booking Engine

When it comes to the booking engine we couldn't use one that we could get off the shelf. The nature of the cottages means that they can be configured into different sizes by locking off different areas. At the base level, a user can book cottages with between 1-4 bedrooms, but the physical configurability of the cottages means the number of bedrooms can be far greater.

All of which means we had to rethink the booking mechanism, as well as making the life of Upper Rectory much easier! The bespoke tool we built allows users to carry out a quick look up of availability as well as getting a cost, but it cross references against all configurable options - so someone who might want to book a larger cottage with more bedrooms, gets the option to book across a number of cottages, whether they're adjoined or on opposite sides of the estate.

It also means Upper Rectory can log into the content management system to manually book / block out dates where a cottage isn't available. It's a far more dynamic approach to booking, that means less wasted time making blind enquiries for the user, because they get to make more detailed and informed enquiries that lead to more positive bookings for Upper Rectory.

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A Step Change in Presention

It's easy to see just how much of a change we made to the website and brand presentation for Upper Rectory. But only once we had started solving issues with more than presentation, but how the brand communicates at its heart do we see just how poor the previous website was. It's easy to stick with the status quo, as long as a website is pulling in any sort of enquiry, but through our changes the quality of enquiries has increased, meaning more conversions. Good design, truly is good business.

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Beautiful images were a keystone of developing the Upper Rectory brand and website - the visual appeal of the cottages have the potential to sell the cottages on their own. We commisioned bespoke photography by the always amazing MLR Photo and the results are lovely.

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