Robin Parker, marketing director for The Westminster Collection, talks us through the design decisions and brand new features of the venue collection’s new website, which launched officially this month.

Venue choice in London can be overwhelming as there are so many locations, building styles, budget options and varying degrees of quality to consider. We know from our clients that efficiency at the venue sourcing stage is absolutely critical, because that’s often the most time consuming part. You have an event theme, an intended date and a full marketing plan ready to get off the ground for your event, but until you find the right venue, very little of it can get underway.

Efficiency for the event planner was central to the rebuild of The Westminster Collection’s brand new website, which I’m pleased to launch this month.

Saying it quickly, saying it well and making it easy to enquire are important aspects of the new design of the site, which was built by Design Incorporated. Event planners were telling us they wanted a speedy foot in the door to some of London’s best and most centrally located venues, and that their initial decisions about which venues to book are driven by venue location, capacity and style.

Taking that feedback, we stripped down our original site and took it right back to basics. Location is a huge lure for The Westminster Collection but the boundaries of this borough are often misunderstood. The City of Westminster is home to some of the finest meetings, conference and events venues in the capital, and it accounts for a huge area of Zone 1 central London, encompassing major landmarks, world famous shopping streets, beautiful parks and an assortment of restaurants, attractions and entertainment.

It borders the London Borough of Camden to the east and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the west, incorporating districts including Bayswater, Belgravia, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Marylebone, Paddington, Pimlico, St James’s, St John’s Wood, Soho, Victoria and the famous West End.

With a responsive design that makes it compatible with mobile and tablet devices, venues can now be browsed and selected from an interactive, Google-based map, which emphasises the breadth of the City of Westminster and the wealth of venues available within it. Venues are pinned to the map and when clicked, give the user the option to view the full profile.

Explore and compare venues side by side

The site’s new venue shortlist facility now enables event planners to add one or more of their preferred Westminster venues to a shortlist, from which they can then compare venues side-by-side according to location, size, room specifications and accessibility. If they’re happy with their selection, they can click ‘enquire with selected venues’ to complete a brief form which will then distribute this single enquiry to all of these venues.

The site is very image-led, which is a way for us to showcase the unique attributes of every one of our venues. Through photography displayed on the venue profiles and with our dynamic, dashboard style homepage, we have developed the website as a full-screen experience to maximise the accessibility from the large array of devices that people use to browse the internet today. The website features a considerable number of interactive features that have been built using JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3 to ensure that they are usable across as many devices and browsers as possible.

Integrated news and special offers

The special offers page of the site now syncs smartly with the individual venue profiles, so if you view a profile, you’ll see the venue’s most recent corresponding offer appear in the left hand toolbar. The news page is also much more user friendly, with an attractive layout and the ability to share individual articles across social media channels – a feature we now expect when we access content online. Readers can also comment on articles and perform a keyword search of the site’s blog content to find relevant posts.

The project team

A particularly rewarding part of the build process of the new website is that the project has been steered by a specially formed committee of representatives from venues within the collection, led by Craig Wallace, conference and events manager at 1 Wimpole Street, with support from Anna Glazebrook at One Great George Street, Clare Hodgkinson at Church House Conference Centre, Maria Schuett at Central Hall Westminster, Petra Bones at The Banqueting House and our marketing and communications agency Custard Communications.

What we have now is something we’re very proud of and feedback during our recent soft launch demonstration phase at Confex is proving valuable. Although we’re confident the website is a much stronger tool for events planners, we will not stop the site development here. We’ll continue to polish and refine features and site functionality and we look forward to the platform this now gives us to better communicate with the events community and those looking to do business in Westminster.

Any feedback and suggestions are welcomed. Please email [email protected].