6 tenets of good hotel website design
14 JANUARY 2015 3:32 PM
Travelers, as with most online consumers, judge books by their covers. Here are six ways to get guests to pick your proverbial book off the shelf.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Booking engine, information platform, marketing tool. A hotel’s website serves many purposes, least among them as a front door to the online-shopping world.
That’s why, digital experts said, it’s crucially important hoteliers design pages that provide the same enticing sense of welcome as does the property itself.
“(Guests) look before they book. … It’s really the new reality of the way people navigate and make their consumer decisions. They have a lot of options, a lot of information and a lot of competition putting out competition messages,” said Josh Johnson, digital media producer and contributing editor for the travel and lifestyle brand Matador Network, during a webinar titled “What every smart hotelier must know about Web marketing.”
“For better or worse, we judge books by their covers. We are visual creatures,” he added.
Good website design—the kind that encourages would-be guests to dig deeper and actually book—comprises many things. Here are six:
1. Big, bountiful imagery
Descriptive text can only do so much. Today’s website design is all about imagery that showcases the hotel and the destination, panelists said.
Size often matters in that pursuit, Johnson said. Many of the savviest properties are featuring captivating photos that stretch the width of the page, such as the Hotel Rottnest.
“We don’t want some little tiny photo. I don’t want to squint. I want something that takes up the page and evokes a sense of place,” he said.
Caption: The Hotel Rottnest leads with images that stretch the width of the page. (Photo: Hotel Rottnest)
2. Invest in compelling video
If a picture tells a thousand words, a video can tell even more, Johnson said.
Several hotel websites have started to incorporate videos directly into the layout of their homepages, such as resort brand Travaasa. The company includes videos incorporated into a rotating carousel atop the page that users must click to begin playing.
Auto playing videos is OK, Johnson said, but audio should always be opt-in.
Another video-related bit of advice: Invest the money upfront. It’s better to have no video than video that appears amateurish, he said.
Caption: Travaasa features high-quality videos on its website in addition to pictures. (Photo: Travaasa)
3. Put the guest in the picture
Travel might be an aspirational pursuit, but guests still should be able to relate to the people and pictures they see on a website.
The tenet is a crucial driver of design for the High Peaks Resort, whose customer base shifts with the seasons, said Lori Fitzgerald, the property’s director of marketing and brand management, during the webinar.
During the winter months, for instance, the guest profile skews toward 20- and 30-somethings on ski holidays. As such, the hotel’s marketing team displays images of 20- and 30-somethings on the slopes or relaxing around a fire. The strategy (and photos) changes in the summer, when families begin to flock to the resort, she said.
“It’s about emotional engagement. It’s also about seeing yourself in the picture,” Fitzgerald said.
Caption: High Peaks Resort changes images on its website to convey the shifting traveler profile of each season. (Photo: High Peaks Resort)
4. Convey an experience, not just a stay
“Experience” was the key word in Joie de Vivre’s 2014 website redesign, said Scott Williams, chief creative officer at parent company Commune Hotels & Resorts, in a separate interview.
While guests can search by property from www.jdvhotels.com, so, too, can they shop by interests (e.g., culture, family friendly, food and drink) and traveler profile (e.g., a couple, individual, or work team).
“This is clearly about making guests feel warm and personal and reflecting the personality of the place,” Williams said. “There’s all kinds of research that indicates we’ve got to tap into this driving sense of community and exploration that’s going on in the Web.”
Caption: Joie de Vivre allows guests to search by interest, location and traveler profile in addition to searches by property. (Photo: Joie de Vivre)
5. Simple often trumps complex
Simplicity often conveys a sense of elegance, Johnson said. Better yet, a simple website design often makes it easier for guests to find the information they’re looking for—and fast.
The home page for the Faena Hotel Buenos Aires, for example, features a simple 2x2 tile design where users can explore hotel accommodations, the properties’ private residences, on-property art installations and location-based experiences in the hotels’ surrounding communities.
Caption: The Faena Hotel Buenos Aires’s simple element mirrors the elegant stylings of this high-end brand. (Photo: Faena Hotel Buenos Aires)
6. Convey big information with a big scroll
While a simple, elegant website design might befit a high-end, luxury brand, more economical properties should opt instead for giving travelers as much pertinent information that will fit on one page, Johnson said.
That typically translates into a big scroll, such as the case with the CitizenM brand. Each of the chain’s property-specific home pages includes: description text, vivid imagery, maps, promotions, TripAdvisor reviews, list of amenities, contact info, social media postings, frequently asked questions, information on the surrounding neighborhood, and more.
“You’re seeing these big homepage scroll downs. It’s really hot. It’s really trendy,” he said.
While some might view the resulting layout as one big data dump, Johnson said it’s a design befitting the mobile traveler. Instead of making users click to different pages to find the information they want, everything is available within one (long) scroll of a single page.
“If you’re currently developing a modern website … I don’t believe there’s an excuse for your website not to be mobile-compatible and tablet-compatible across the board,” Johnson said.
Caption: The website for the CitizenM Schiphol Airport Hotel (partially pictured here) makes a lot of key information accessible on a single home page. (Photo: CitizenM)