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Hotel website re-design, what to do and what to avoid

Jan

2012

If this trend hasn’t started yet, it is going to be one of the big ones of 2012 and that’s the re-design of hotel websites. Most hotel websites have been designed more than 2 years ago and many are still Flash based, few of them are mobile friendly and a large percentage of them are based on smaller screen sizes.

How to know what you should be doing for your next website, what are the hotel marketing elements that must be taken into account in the design and which ones should be avoided?

The design, architecture and development of a hotel’s website is paramount in it’s success for obvious reasons. Not the least of which is direct revenue. Every hotel knows that their direct revenue is their largest measure of financial health. If they can make the website generate 60% or more of their revenues it means all the difference for the hotel.

We’ve compiled a list of the key elements and tools that hotel website designers should be taking into account when re-designing a hotel website.

Navigation

The navigation on the site needs to be self-explanatory and easy to understand. In a prior article about The First Moment of Truth in hotel marketing we  showed how guests navigate on hotel websites and covered some of the key factors on navigation. The navigation needs to answer the questions your lookers are thinking of, the main three questions are: a. What does it look like? (the rooms please, get to the point quick), b. Where is it? and c. How much does it cost.

To get the exact list of questions that guests answer find out from the front-desk what calls they get from guests trying to book on the site. Actually get the front-desk staff to note all these questions and tabulate them to see which ones need to be present on the site (and easily accessible).

Navigation menu on a hotel website (fusion hotel prague)

Navigation menu on a hotel website (fusion hotel prague)

What to avoid:

Menus that drop down on multiple levels which in turn bloat the site and make for a complex navigation. Anything that will slow down the booking should be avoided.

Hotel Website menu on Gallery Hotel Singapore

Hotel Website menu on Gallery Hotel Singapore

Speed of loading.

The load time of your site needs to be lightening fast. Per our studies a hotel website has between 3 to 7 seconds to sell the hotel. Now we’re not talking about loading the page, but selling the hotel. There’s a huge difference. That means the user will click away from your page if you aren’t able to present all the key elements within that time frame. Again per a study we conducted a user will make a short-list of 10 hotels they are interested in (based on searches on OTAs, TripAdvisor, Trivago, Kayak etc).

Thus the site that has the best impact has the best chance of capturing the sale.

Use online tools such as loads.in to verify the load speed of your site.

What to avoid:

Slow loading of images, as one of the most important elements on the hotel’s website is the images, the slow loading of images will make your site a bad user experience.

A load time shouldn't be more than 2-3 seconds. Use tools such as loads.in to measure your site's load time.

A load time shouldn't be more than 2-3 seconds. Use tools such as loads.in to measure your site's load time.

Emotional impact.

“People don’t ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.” – Robert Keith Leavitt

Your site needs to create an instant emotional impact and that is best done with great photography (providing you have a great product to sell). What will sell your rooms more than anything else is great photography well presented. We’ve seen a lot of hotels present large photos on their site and they are right, but designers need to think about the large screen sizes that are used today. The majority of computers browsing for hotels have screen resolutions of 1280×800 and above. So ensure your site shows large images well (and fast).

While including large amounts of text on every page may seem like a great strategy for search engine optimization, it isn’t going to do much for the emotional impact.

When designing the site, remember that the biggest priority is the user and not the search engine. The user is the one who will be sleeping in the hotel, search engines rarely do.


What to avoid:

Too much text, pixelated images, images that can’t be expanded.

Emotional impact is key in hotel websites. Pictures are the most efficient way to do that.

Emotional impact is key in hotel websites. Pictures are the most efficient way to do that.

Social Integration.

Social media has become the default method of sharing experiences. Integrating social media sharing options on your site is a must for any new hotel website. The question remains how to do it right. Designers need to make sure it is integrated at the right moment on the booking process and without distracting from the booking itself. Additionally you need to ensure you have a proper designer/developer to integrate the sharing options as they can slow down you site’s load time quite dramatically.


What to avoid:

Too many sharing buttons, ugly sharing buttons.

Great use of Social Intergration on Hotel Websites by Four Seasons

Great use of Social Intergration on Hotel Websites by Four Seasons

Creativity.

“Things which are different in order simply to be different are seldom better, but that which is made to be better is almost always different.” – Dieter Rams

If you hire a superbly creative agency to make your site you’ll be delighted by the innovative approach they will take to the hotels website design. While that can work great on a branding website that’s designed to intrigue it may not be right for a hotel website which has a mission to accomplish in a very limited time.

While you want the site to be creative and differentiate itself from your competitors, keep those differences in terms of improvements and not just differences. Remember that your website needs to reassure the user that your hotel is a safe place for him to stay, having bizarre videos, odd photos etc wont do any of that.


What to avoid:

Creativity that doesn’t improve sales. Bizarre photography, useless staged photos that omit to show the place.

Creative webdesign must focus on results, not just on

Creative webdesign must focus on results, not just on "being creative"

Mobile website and responsive webdesign.

In 2011 mobile traffic to hotel websites increased by 345%, it accounted for 6% of the overall traffic. The year before it only had 2% of the “market share” and that is only the beginning. There is no question that every hotel needs a mobile website. Even if the number of bookings from mobile devices is rather low users are visiting the hotel’s site and “shopping” on their mobile devices and then book using desktops.

There are two options to mobile websites that you can choose, a responsive website or an adapted website. Both can do the job and what is most important as a hotelier is to have a mobile website that still delivers an emotional impact no matter the device.

What to avoid:

Too many animations, many mobile devices still can’t render the animation galleries smoothly therefore putting too many animations will slow down the use of the site and it wont deliver a good user experience.

Mobile website created for The Five hotel, keeps the emotional impact of decor high.

Mobile website created for The Five hotel, keeps the emotional impact of decor high.

While there are many more details that go into making a successful hotel website these are some key ones to pay attention to when getting your site redesigned. How these elements are integrated into the design, details on how smooth the site is, how good the user-experience is and more play a very important role. All the above can be done well in one easy to use package or thrown together into something less than perfect. The cost of the website will depend on the quality of the implementation.

When choosing a designer for your hotel website it can make all the difference if you choose a designer that has experience in creating websites for hotels, because they will have experience with menu structures and booking process and can help determine what is important and what is not.


Good design makes a product useful

A product is bought to be used.
It has to satisfy certain criteria,
not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic.
Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product
whilst disregarding anything
that could possibly detract from it.

- Dieter Rams

5 Comments

  1. Wihp Team

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  2. Wihp Team

    Hotel website re-design, what to do and what to avoid | The Travel Writer’s Lounge
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  3. Wihp Team

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  4. Laugh Shop Calgary

    Great article. 100% pertinent to what we’re going through right now! Tnx.

  5. Kevin

    Very helpful, thank you.

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Martin Soler

VP Marketing and Sales

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