Your hotel’s “shop window” to the world, your hotel website is the platform through which most new customers first become acquainted with your property.
Through your website, prospective guests should get an accurate view of your property that leads to an informed booking decision. For a hotel website to successfully lead customers along the path to purchase, site design must be focused on the user experience, which comprises usability as much as visual appeal. That’s why current web design trends align with simple, uncluttered designs that are easy to use as well as easy on the eyes.
But in addition to simple design, there are other essential attributes every hotel website must have to ensure a user-friendly experience that conveys the property’s story and ultimately converts lookers into bookers.
According to Google, more people now search the Web using their mobile devices than desktop computers, so it’s critical for any business to ensure their website is mobile friendly. The best way to do this is through responsive web design.
A responsive website design automatically detects the device the website is being viewed on and adjusts the layout, content, menus, etc. accordingly for the best user experience on that device. This means there’s no need to design and maintain a separate mobile site; with just one website, you have all devices (and operating systems) covered, from smartphones to tablets to desktops.
Did you know approximately 60 percent of travel bookings are made online? In addition to expanding reach through OTAs, capturing commission-free direct bookings on your property’s own website is critical to the success of your distribution strategy and the health of your bottom line.
Today’s travel consumers expect to be able to book accommodation online — and many prefer it over calling or emailing a hotel for availability. Without a (mobile-friendly) online booking engine on their website, properties risk losing customers to competitors that do offer the ability to book direct online, or pushing customers to book through OTAs, which take a significant cut from those bookings.
What’s more, a direct online booking engine is available 24/7, offering customers the convenience of making reservations whenever they want, even when your office is closed, which means you’ll never miss a booking. And if your online booking engine is integrated with your property management system (as it definitely should be), it will always show customers live rates and availability and will automatically send all reservations coming through your website to your PMS, greatly reducing your administrative workload.
Google research shows that Internet users prefer websites that are easy to use and understand over visually complex sites. From room descriptions and packages to services, amenities and location information, hotels and other lodgings have a lot of information to cover so it’s especially important for hotel websites to organize content well.
Website navigation must be intuitive, making it easy for visitors to find the information they need and leading customers along a smooth path to booking. This involves organizing content with customers in mind and making sure key information such as rooms and rates, amenities, contact details and online bookings are never more than a single click away. As well as strong CTAs (calls to action) — such as “book now,” “check availability” and “view rooms” buttons — it’s important to use a familiar menu style like the horizontal navigation bar across the top of the page (or “hamburger” menu for mobile) and to keep things simple by limiting primary menu options.
Nothing conveys the experience of your property (without actually being there) more effectively than photos and video. Images say a lot about a property and are critically important to consumers throughout the hotel-selection process. While badly-taken photos put people off, images that show a property’s rooms, exterior, facilities and location in their best light have real power to sell.
Current homepage design across industries favours big hero images — those eye-catching photos that fill the entire screen — and they work especially well for hotel websites trying to immerse visitors in the stay experience. Throughout a hotel website, quality images should be used to appropriately illustrate page content. Slideshow photo galleries are especially attractive to travel shoppers.
World Web Technologies Inc.’s blog post 4 Photo Tips for Your Hotel Website offers guidance on getting property pics right.
Well-written copy and big, beautiful images go hand in hand in telling your property’s story. Rather than simply stating the cold, hard facts, put yourself in your guests’ shoes and describe the stay experience (think sights, scents, sounds, tastes, touch) to appeal to your customers’ emotions. Use your property’s USPs (unique selling points) to shape your story and stand out from the competition.
Be careful, though, not to turn your website into a novel. Most website visitors scan through content and are put off by long paragraphs of text. Keep your property’s story short and sweet by sticking to the point of each page, putting the most important information first, using subheadings, and keeping paragraphs short.
It’s essential to make it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you however they prefer, be it by phone, email or even via social media. Don’t assume that everyone will complete your online contact form or wants to book online; make sure that your property’s full contact details (including a map that pinpoints your location) are readily available on a dedicated “Contact” page, and that your phone number is consistently displayed in the header of every page as well as throughout the online booking process. If you can fit the property’s email address and physical address in the header too, even better — otherwise provide full contact details in the footer of every page.
As travel consumers, most of us check guest reviews before choosing a place to stay. As lodging operators, providing reviews on your property’s website can help provide prospective guests with the social proof they require in order to make the decision to stay with you — without leaving your site (and getting distracted by other options).
Consider including a dedicated “Reviews & Testimonials” page on your website, kept fresh and updated with a selection of recent reviews, or highlight recent reviews on your homepage and throughout your site via widgets and plugins that rotate through a selection of reviews.
We’re increasingly spoiled for choice when it comes to online services these days — and decreasingly tolerant of badly designed and slow sites. Page loading time significantly affects the user experience to the point where every second counts. Aim to have your site’s pages load within about 3 seconds, especially on mobile.
Ways to ensure quick page load speeds include optimizing images for the Web, prioritizing loading of above-the-fold-content first, enabling compression, and using responsive design.
As the face of your property online, your website is an investment you want to get right. If it is visually appealing, genuinely conveys the stay experience, and provides a great user experience across devices, it’s bound to be a hit with prospective guests and search engines alike. Our talented Web designers specialize in building successful websites for the hospitality and travel industries — drop us a line to find out how we can help turn your property’s website into a powerful revenue-generating machine.