Of all the Louisiana plantations I have visited, Oak Alley was my favorite. From the elegant, time-specific costumes of the tour guides, to the pristine cleanliness and well-preserved furnishings of the house, I was swept off my feet into the exquisite world of the Roman family.
The first image a viewer sees when visiting Oak Alley’s website is a photograph of the Grande Dame herself. The pictures scroll at a lively pace, not staying on one photo too long. A visitor will get a good feeling for what the plantation has in store for them. The tabs at the top are neat and few, with drop-down menus that allow for more specific searches. A few of them are also available at the very bottom of the screen with accompanying pictures that will attract more attention. Same links, just pretty pictures to entice people to click.
Also on their homepage, under the giant photograph of the house and tour crew, are links to a Plantation Overview, Upcoming Events, Support the Foundation, and Latest News. It is refreshing to see such an old, retired house that isn’t actually retired! Events go on year-long and this website is kept up-to-date so everyone’s calendar is on the same page. Keeping their website current is very important for their business. If they don’t advertise their events online, how will they ever get new visitors? Under each section there are a few most-recent events with links to click on for more information, along with the dates beside them. Seeing easy access to their events or ways to donate to the preservation and running of the Oak Alley business, people are less likely to become anxious trying to find links to something specific. Their most recent news is also on the sidebar of every page visited on their website.
Their contact information is at the very bottom, usually where I would go to look for a phone number or e-mail address. There are links to a map for directions, as well as one to go straight to an e-mail. The option to follow them on—wait for it—7 social media websites is one click away. Anyone can subscribe to periodic e-mails from the plantation just by submitting their e-mail address. I also noticed that articles can be shared on certain social media sites to spread the word about Oak Alley’s worldly involvement on the web.
There are so many events and services that go on at Oak Alley that we weren’t exposed to on our visit, and I should have looked online beforehand. My favorite tab, and the first one I visited, was the History tab under Learn & Explore. The reason why I love this page so much is due to the interactive timeline at the bottom. There is an annoying dialogue box in front of it, but once I closed it, I was able to scroll with the scroll function on my trackpad, or click on specific points to learn about significant events in the plantation’s history since 1714. For each point, I can click for more information and the dialogue box appears again, but with the information that I am interested in. Having interactive widgets on multiple pages keeps readers interested and excited to learn. They can play around with all of the different ways to read Ghost Stories or even search a Slavery Database with the names of the enslaved men and women who built and ran Oak Alley many years ago.
Because the website contains tons of information for interested visitors of any age, it risks being too wordy. However, it is organized into enough pages that not any one page makes readers feel like they have been scrolling forever.
All of Oak Alley’s photos are stunning. They are edited so that they don’t look like someone took them on a cellphone. It probably is normal for folks to just click around enjoying the pictures of this historic place. If the pictures are this impressive, can those who haven’t seen the plantation imagine what the real place must look like?
The tab labeled Plan Your Visit is troublesome to me, though. There are 11 options to choose from in the drop box, all of which could pertain to planning a visit, but perhaps some information could be consolidated onto one page. Although, consolidating could become cluttered. The options I would keep under the tab on separate pages would be Hours & Admission, Photography Sessions, Location Filming Fees, and Area Information. I would put the information from Map & Directions with the Transportation Services, and Group Tours and School Tours should also be on one link. I feel that the Dining and Shop pages should also be one, because there is no online shop to take up much space. If the shop really needs so many pictures online, it would fit just fine with the dining page. The Plantation Overview might do well as a link on the homepage. I wouldn’t tuck it away in a drop-down menu.
Oak Alley’s website is certainly working for them. The pictures, colors, and fonts are aesthetically pleasing and there is enough information on the website to educate readers enough that they shouldn’t have to call unless making a reservation for a room! I think the site does become slightly wordy in places where explanation is not needed, such as the Shop and Dining pages. There are a ton of places to find while browsing their site, and most information is easy to find. There is not a search bar, which I also think should be included, especially with all of the pages that are available. Overall, the website is friendly to anyone of any age or experience.
Oak Alley Plantation. Oak Alley Plantation, Restaurant & Inn, 2016. Web. 3 February 2016. <http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/>