Responsive reigns in hotel mobile Web design
20 MARCH 2015 5:59 AM
Hoteliers face two main choices for mobile website design: adaptive or responsive. Which is the best to use?
GLOBAL REPORT—Responsive website frameworks have become non-negotiable for hoteliers looking to optimize website navigation across platforms and increase online conversation, according to sources.
Less of a certainty is whether hoteliers choose responsive Web design or adaptive design in their pursuit of those aims.
Responsive design uses the CCS and HTML languages common to major platforms such as Google, Facebook and Apple to create Web pages and translate them to all devices—PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone—by automatically adjusting the size of all elements in the layout according to the screen resolution, meaning no more zooming and shrinking.
Adaptive sites have potentially faster page loads and reduced bandwidth but are less consistent across devices as they cherry pick what content will appear according to the capacity of the platforms and devices within fixed screen resolutions.
The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Some sources said more costly adaptive design can be used for big hotel websites with rich content and images that might be compromised on mobile sites and tablets. Responsive design, meanwhile, is good to modify an existing website to make it compatible and shareable across mobile devices.
But in practice, responsive appears the more widely-employed approach. The design framework was preferred over adaptive design by all of the sources interviewed in this article as a result of its greater ease and cost efficiency.
“Responsive design has emerged as one of the key responses to the challenge of creating one site that can seamlessly move between different devices,” according to Stephen Gates, VP and creative director of global brand design at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
In 2013, Gates completely re-designed the mobile websites for the company’s nine brands, launched in seven languages.
“The site dynamically responds to the user’s screen size, orientation and platform with a mix of flexible grids, layouts and images, and automatically changes the layout and design of the content as a user switches from laptop to iPad to iPhone,” Gates wrote in his blog.
A responsive mobile website design ensures a fluid, multiplatform presence for Accor, according to E-commerce Project Director Yassine Hachem. The website provides clients in 92 countries with a site that can be accessed anywhere in the world, regardless of the terminal used.
“Studies have shown that one email in two is read on a mobile and that mobile users delete emails which are not optimized for the screen,” Hachem said. With 15,000 email marketing campaigns across its 14 brands and in 15 languages per year, it was vital that Accor got it right, he said.
The process of creating a responsive site, according to Starwood’s Gates, is time-consuming and demanding, as the complex content of the full desktop experience needs to be simplified and compressed for mobile.
“The challenge was to bring all the functionality and branding to a mobile device and create a new template to be used across the brands yet still ensure the navigation experience was as differentiated and brand enhancing as their desktop counterparts,” Gates wrote.
The benefits of responsive
Such efforts definitely pay off, according to Alexandra Wallner from the management team of the 45-room, Hotel Altstadt in Vienna. Hoteliers only have to update one system to serve content across all device types.
“The setup is very time-consuming and complex technology-wise in the adaptation of page content, but once it’s in place it’s easy to maintain and any future mobile devices are automatically covered.
“We jumped on the responsive design bandwagon about 18 months ago on our webmaster’s advice,” she said. “Because the display and layout adapt to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on, there’s no space wasted, so one website can be optimized for all devices. It ensures all our content including booking forms, guest surveys and widgets is available to all prospective clients whatever their location, device screen size and operating system of the mobile device.”
By ensuring a positive navigation experience, Wallner believes responsive design is the surest way to convert visits into bookings in days when people increasingly switch between devices.
“It’s vital to provide consumers with the most effective navigation for each device—mostly desktop at work, tablets at home and mobile on the go—for fast, efficient easy viewing. We all know how annoying it can be if you have to scroll through a website that is not responsive on your mobile,” she said.
Looking to the increasingly mobile future, she said the need for websites to be fully responsive is escalating.
“According to Booking.com, 50% of people are already using mobiles for their hotel reservations. Here at the Altstadt we still see more desktop reservations but with a constant increase of mobile bookings especially for last-minute reservations.
“So responsive is critical if you don’t want to lose customers,” she said.