Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center - Oglesby, IL

Finding the Lodge in the heart of Starved Rock State Park.

The Lodge in Starved Rock State Park

Rebuilding a Website for a Top Tourism Attraction in Illinois.

Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center sits within the gorgeous, 4,600-acre Starved Rock State Park in North Central Illinois. The park’s close proximity to downtown Chicago (a mere 90 miles) and more than two million annual visitors makes it more popular than many top-tier national parks. The lodge is one of the few remaining original log structures hand-built in Illinois in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

With its beauty, history, and location, it’s little wonder that Starved Rock has been ranked as one to the top tourist attractions in Illinois.

In 2015, Amy Trimble, the President and CEO of Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, contacted us to take over the web hosting of her WordPress websites. Her hosting vendor was having issues handling the growth of traffic to her websites. We had worked with Amy over the years, and she was a fan of the award-winning web work we have done for DMOs and communities in Illinois. We were thrilled to work with such a popular tourism destination.

Right away we started talking about rebuilding her website. Her existing site was getting on in years, and while it looked good, it was out of step with modern design trends. The imagery was small, the text copy was wordy and unfocused, and the navigation was confusing. We decided to rebuild the site from the ground up using WordPress 5 once it was released. 

Fast Forward to late 2018, we started working with Amy and her team to define a vision of what a new website should do for Starved Rock Lodge. What kind of story should the new website tell?

Improving Lodge Visibility

Amy and her team talked about how very few of the two to three million annual visitors to the park end up visiting the Lodge or even know there is a historic lodge, hotel, log cabins, and restaurants sitting atop the scenic bluff within the park itself. Amy wanted to convert park visitors into becoming lodge visitors. Even a small increase in engagement with up to three million annual park visitors would be a big win. 

Starved Rock Lodge – Oglesby, IL

Our strategy started with a simple idea. We wanted to prioritize the word “Lodge” in their promotional messaging without formally changing their branding. The “Lodge in Starved Rock State Park” would replace “Starved Rock Lodge”. Putting the word “Lodge” upfront in their messaging keeps the focus on what drives revenue. All messaging had to be viewed through this lens. 

Show More by Saying Less. 

Our design goal was to use the visual beauty and history of the Lodge to do the heavy lifting in our storytelling. More big beautiful imagery, less text, and a general feeling that is warm and authentic. The Starved Rock Lodge team wanted to be involved in copywriting and image acquisition, so we collaborated with them by defining the message flow for each page and then worked as coach and editor as they created their content. This provided them with a fresh third-party point of view.

Custom Content Blocks

Constructing elegant and visually complex content layouts is incredibly important in a project like this. We wanted to give the client the ability to easily change up their layouts and messaging as needed without needing a coder.

We took advantage of the new WordPress Gutenberg block editor and created eight custom blocks that allows the client to easily trick-out their content. Animated slideshows, content grid stacks, calls-to-action, headlines, feature sliders, galleries, and many others were purpose-built for Starved Rock Lodge. Creating page content with these custom content blocks is as easy as using Legos. They can quickly add, remove, or reorder their promotional content elements on any page.

Taming Activities and Events

We also installed and customized a powerful WordPress calendar extension The Events Calendar to manage the hundreds of activities and events they run each year. We worked with the client’s team to develop a process that is more productive in creating and managing their events, saving them precious time.

Other important features we created for the project was an alert system within their website so the client can easily create warning or informational messages that will display on all webpages. This alert system was used often once the COVID-19 crisis struck. We also improved the visibility of revenue-related touchpoints on the website such as creating a “sticky” reservation call-to-action button that always displays on every page. The website is fully responsive which looks and behaves great on any device. And, of course, the website is fully ADA-compliant. 

Since launching in October 2019, the website has become a powerful marketing tool for Amy and her team. They are able to quickly adapt content to promote specials and deal with historic business interruptions such as the Coronavirus pandemic. More importantly, it’s a powerful digital marketing platform that will serve their needs for years to come. 

Great work happens when a client and an agency develop a strong collaborative bond. Each listens to each other and trusts in their commitment and ability. 

We LOVE our website! I think it is very warm and inviting. The website does a great job of reflecting our history and natural setting. The photos are so much better now (thanks to your guidance). I am so proud to be putting this quality of marketing out to the world. TDG just gets tourism marketing.
Amy Trimble
President & CEO
Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center
Oglesby, IL


2020 American Advertising Awards - Black Hills. Silver Addy Award for Online/Interactive Consumer Website.

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