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E-Commerce and Content Management System for a Botanic Garden

Botanic gardens situated on the Isle of Wight.

Evergreen Challenge:
Ventnor Botanic Garden came to Evergreen with an existing website that was impossible to maintain and lacking in key marketing features.

Evergreen Solution:
Evergreen created a fully-featured CMS website with additional e-commerce functionality. The site was migrated to Evergreen's secure servers for work to begin on updating and modernising the design as well as adding a whole host of exciting new facilities.

Key Benefits:

  • Easy to use custom built Content Management System.
  • Online gift shop, payment gateway and blog.
  • Improved navigation with visual signposts.
  • News archive section and ability to upload PDF documents.


The site is now fully under the control of the management staff through Evergreen's custom built content management system, communication with local residents and visitors has improved through regular blog posts and a new source of revenue is generated from the new online gift shop.

Full Case Study

Ventnor Botanic Garden is nestled in the micro-climate of 'The Undercliff 'on the Isle of Wight and has a subtropical and exotic plant collection, which is unrivalled anywhere else in the U.K. Here, plants which would normally be found in protected glasshouses thrive and naturalise in geographical plantings based on the Mediterranean zones of the world. Situated on the site of the former Royal National Hospital for diseases of the Chest, the garden was originally founded in 1970 by Sir Harold Hillier, as the Steephill Pleasure Gardens and was donated to the Isle of Wight Council. Ventnor Botanic Gardens has had a long and chequered history and prior to control being transferred in 2012 from the local authority to a new CIC (Community Interest Company), Curator Chris Kidd recognised that the website needed to be brought up to date with the navigation and site layout desperately needing to change.

On personal recommendation, Chris contacted website and database experts, Evergreen to help and the relationship between the two organisations was solid from their first meeting, as Chris explains.

'Andrew at Evergreen was easy to get along with from the very start. He was very patient and hand held us through the process. He was sympathetic to my lack of I.T. knowledge and talked to me at a level that I could understand.'

During the turbulent changes of management of the gardens and whilst the future of the garden lay in the balance, the website was the main form of communication with a lot of energy and emotion being invested in the project. Chris outlined why the website is so important and why it was paramount to make it more current. 'It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It's a communication tool for the staff, students, interns, university professors as well as the local Isle of Wight residents. We wanted a website that we were not embarrassed to direct people to and Evergreen delivered.'

Enthusiasm and commitment from the start

So what challenges lay ahead for Evergreen? The botanic site navigation was poor and needed a complete overhaul. An e-commerce section also needed to be added to the site – all this needed to be achieved within tight financial constraints. Evergreen took a copy of the existing website and reconstructed it on its own hosting servers using a temporary domain name. The team at Ventnor were able to view and approve the website in its temporary location prior to switching over the domain name. A CMS (content management system) was then added to the site, so that Chris and his staff would be able to easily change the text, images and links on each page as well as manage the pertinent search engine attributes of each page, whilst Evergreen looked after the overall menu structure and features such as the Virtual Tour Map.

The Ventnor team were very impressed with the way Evergreen managed the project and when asked what differentiates the Evergreen experience, Chris was quick to reply that he always felt that Evergreen had the garden's best interest at heart. 'What I liked about dealing with Andrew was that he was not financially driven. He just showed enthusiasm and commitment to the project from the start.'

The overall design of the site and the planning of the new e-commerce facilities, enhanced reality apps and plant database were discussed, as well as other methods of promoting the website including SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media marketing. 

Asked if there were any teething problems when the site went live, Chris advised that there were a few minor problems with the e-commerce section of the site to begin with but they were quickly resolved. Chris recalls how Evergreen Project Manager Joe, robustly tested the e-commerce section of the site, making countless test purchases to ensure that it was in full working order. Chris is quick to praise Evergreen's ongoing support.

;'I can ring someone at Evergreen and they are able to correct the problem quickly without putting a bill in the post each time. It's wonderful to be able to pick up the phone and talk to a human being that understands my needs and can resolve any issues promptly.'

Evergreen are just wonderful! What more can I say?'

Chris Kidd's passion for the Ventnor Botanic Garden is evident and he expresses that community involvement is paramount to the garden's success and is the cornerstone of the the ethos of the botanic garden. The website is such an important communication tool not just for enticing visitors from afar but also engaging the local community. With steady growth, hits to the website increasing  and visitor numbers are up, Chris is full of renewed optimism for the future of the garden and is extremely pleased with the way the website now looks, reporting nothing but positive feedback from those who have visited the site.

'Since Evergreen have completed the work, our website has opened up to a whole new world of people. We can now stand proud against other sites and are no longer embarrassed for people to come to it for the information they are looking for.'

The Ventnor team are already looking ahead to phase 2 of the site, being able to add some scientific activity and augmented reality to possibly set up a GPS-based list of points within the garden, so that visitors would be able to access and use as they explore. Once plans are finalised Chris affirms that he will definitely be approaching Evergreen for the next stage of development. 'I can't recommend Evergreen highly enough. Whenever anyone mentions that they are thinking about a website, I would always recommend Evergreen and have already done so on several occasions.'

To sum up the Evergreen experience, Chris is succinct but sincere in his reply, 'Evergreen are just wonderful! What more can I say?'

It's wonderful to be able to pick up the phone and talk to a human being that understands my needs and can resolve any issues promptly.

Chris Kidd, Curator