Hotel websites: Tips for a multi-device and info-hungry world (full of impatient consumers)

NB: This is a viewpoint by Pedro Colaco, president and CEO of GuestCentric.

Whether they are responsible for managing check-ins, meals, entertainment activities or check-outs, hoteliers are always on the run and have no time to spare.

Thus, when it comes to website design, while many hoteliers know their websites are outdated and due for redesign, most try to postpone that project to the last possible moment.

While most hotel managers are aware of the importance of a strong digital presence, many of them have felt frustrated at least once while attempting this goal. This feeling is the result of traditional web design and agency processes, which call for significant time and attention from hoteliers.

When designing a website using traditional web design agencies, hoteliers spend too much time discussing and reviewing.

Hoteliers waste time in endless meetings that are supposed to measure progress and ensure that the final result is what hoteliers expect and like, often ignoring the fact that most hoteliers have little knowledge of consumer behavior on the web.

However, hotel managers should not lose hope. As an hotelier, you should understand the most important factors in good web design, making it easier to take a wise decision when selecting your web design provider.

By doing so it is possible to find webs designers that are able to provide a great website in a just a couple of weeks and you will be pleasantly amazed by a website that achieves its mission of delivering the right ethnicity according to the type of accommodation.

Tip #1: Rely on hotel experts

When it comes to hotel website design, it starts with knowing hotels, but above all understanding how hotel website visitors behave.
Web design agencies in general are not experts in hotel website design and this can present itself as a downfall.

Promoting on the web the latest mobile phone, soda or shoes is not the same as facilitating shopping for accommodation.

Leveraging hotel website experts, hotel website design best practices and detailed consumer behavior knowledge will allow these experts to lead the process, make decisions that maximize consumer impact, and how much the website sells.

Doing so makes it possible to say goodbye to lengthy design projects which constantly demand hotelier’s time and resources.

Tip #2: Focus on a few items that relay your hotel’s experience

This step consists in ensuring that what your guests experience at your property can be previewed on the web. Ensure that the look-and-feel of your hotel is translated into its web design.

Look for elements that reflect the property, e.g. colors, style (e.g. design, country, vintage, beach, corporate) as well as interior design details. Other key elements in communicating your hotel’s experience are your hotel’s logo and its pictures.

The hotel logo is the #1 or #2 element that consumers see on your website. Hence, you should ensure that your hotel’s logo is aligned with the property style and is a value-add to your website.

Pictures are aside from price the most important factor when selecting a hotel. Rely on pictures heavily to communicate. In fact, they are crucial as hoteliers may not be able to distance themselves from personal tastes.

Hence, pictures are a great way to communicate the experience an “outsider” has of the property, besides being a powerful tool to capture user’s attention.

So, decide which elements you want to promote and highlight, concentrate on transmitting these and ignore the rest. This way consumers will know exactly what to expect at your property.

Tip #3: User experience is key, forget sub-navigation

Consumers are extremely busy these days thus websites are given five to ten seconds to grab someone’s attention and transmit a message. If consumers have to spend too much time reading they are prone to abandon and search elsewhere.

Hence, forget complex navigation structures, keep it simple.

A study we conducted over 300 hotel websites worldwide shows that three pages are critical for consumers: the home page, the rooms page and the booking engine/rates page.

In addition, consumers may look for special offers, the photo gallery, and the location of the property.

Assure usability of these six pages with simple navigation and straightforward layouts that communicate the most important message. Avoid clutter and unnecessary information, exclude excessive text and invest in big, bold images.

Tip #4: Simplify page design, always be closing

Websites are sales machines. They are open 7×24 and should always be generating sales. Designers can no longer deliver vanity projects, pushing for websites that are “good looking”.

In order to thrive against the competition, your website need to always be closing. We believe the main focus for every website is to gain more business by driving users to book and having a user-friendly online reservations system pays-off.

This means that your website should have a “Book Now” button visible on every page, preferably at the same spot. This simplifies design and ensures consumers know where to go when they are ready to book.

In addition, you should promote deals on pages, offer options to contact the hotel, and allows your guests to purchase gift certificates. Every page should help consumers get closer to booking a stay at your hotel.

Tip #5: Responsive design gets the web everywhere

Recognizing that the access to websites is now made through a variety of tools such as smartphones and tablet computers is also necessary when it comes to website development. Users expect to access the network from wherever they are.

Ensuring your website works on mobile devices could complicate the web design process as it would be yet another website to design and review.

This is no longer the case. Responsive design cuts the process short as it ensures that your website adapts automatically to mobile devices. For this reason, ensure that your vendor is an expert in responsive design.

Tip #6: Software-as-a-Service and the ability to change

Traditionally, the ultimate approval of designers work comes when the final result is presented and agreed to.

However, this is a restrictive view of websites and one of the reasons why so many hoteliers daunt website redesign projects. In a fast-moving market, hotels need the ability to change websites without being charged an arm-and-leg for every change.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a new model that enables hoteliers to take their destiny into their own hands and change their website without having to rely on design agencies.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, hotel website design should not be as complex as rocket science.

Hotel websites should help hoteliers achieve their objectives, namely in generating revenue. You can follow the tips above, simplify the process and have a new website up-and-running in a few weeks.

Searching providers with an edge and that are concerned with these tips may save you from going crazy. With an exquisite knowledge of hotel websites and user’s preferences, obtaining a straightforward design process that adapts to the new digital world is now possible.

Creating and maintaining a high-quality website in a short amount of time and with less fuss has become a real option.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Pedro Colaco, president and CEO of GuestCentric.

NB2: Information overload image via Shutterstock.

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Viewpoints

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.

 

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  1. David Raizman, Esq.

    As a lawyer, I’m in no position to comment on the author’s marketing and design advice, but I can’t help but point out when visiting this subject that any website design in 2013 MUST consider making itself accessible to its disabled web visitors, most typically the blind and visually-impaired. But other disabled guests also must be considered when designing a hotel website. The latest ADA regulations (effective March 2011) impose specific requirements on hoteliers providing information about a hotel’s accessibility and on making sure that reservations capabilities available to the general public (like online reservations) can also be used to book rooms with accessible features. http://www.ogletreedeakins.com/attorneys/david-raizman

     
  2. James D'Addio

    I’m coming from a visual and design viewpoint and support all that has been mentioned but would like to emphasis what Robert has mentioned about cookie cutter design and I see it everywhere. The key is to match the design efforts of graphics and photography and copy to the properties needs and goals for identity. The problem with many even large chains is that they are not sure where to go with goals part they base their decisions on sales expectations and some new trends like lifestyle activity or healthy living and that should be one factor but you need to merge concepts with marketing. It’s creative work with people that can take chances and production that will impact your visual content. http://www.jamesdaddio.com hospitality photographer..

     
  3. Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA

    Bravo: Big waste if time & very little results 🙁 !

     
  4. RobertKCole

    All are excellent points – Perhaps the most important is understanding the guest’s needs – How they want.to interact with the hotel.

    I had the pleasure of judging the Platinum & Best of Show Awards for the HSMAI Adrian Awards in 2012 and was shocked by the number of submissions by major hotel website design groups that were no better than cookie cutter implementations. sadly, a lot of hotels spending a lot of money for minimal creative effort.

    A good template can be fine, but the key is how the site speaks to, and converts the site visitor into a guest.

    I also have to reinforce the benefits of Responsive Design. Have hearing a lot of misinformation regarding it being much more expensive, buggy, not working, etc. at a major conferences recently – which is flat-out crazy.

    I tend to think those rumors are being spread by groups who do not understand the approach and/or have technical capabilities to produce a quality responsive site.

    Taking a look at all the great responsive WordPress themes hitting the market would pretty much indicate that cost and functionality are not really major obstacles.

    Again, great points – the hoteliers should take your suggestions to heart.

     
 
 

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