Working at WIHP I come across lot’s of hotel websites both good and bad, there are some points that I find commonly misunderstood by hoteliers and some web designers which make for ineffective hotel websites that don’t sell as much as they could. I started writing this as an article about hotel website design, but as it turns out I’m going to make a list of DO’s and DON’Ts or rather Don’ts and Do’s as I am listing it here. While some of this may go against established viewpoints, I am not writing it as a series of opinions, this is based on over 12 years of trial and error in the highly competitive market that is Paris.
To start with let’s get one thing straight. A Hotel website is there for one purpose and one purpose only – to sell inventory directly for the hotel at highest possible profit to the hotel. What a website isn’t is a medium to flatter a hotelier’s ego, it isn’t there to impress people with fancy animations, it isn’t there to be liked by Google, it isn’t there for any other purpose than to generate maximum bookings at the highest possible profit to the hotel.
Now that we got that straight let’s go over some do’s and don’ts of common points I have noticed together with other professionals at WIHP.
Don’t create a website for Google, Google isn’t going to sleep in your hotel!
It’s a classic we keep running into, some hotelier has been “advised” by a “professional” that the website needs lots of keyword heavy text and lots of information on the home page in order to be well indexed in Google. So they make a horrible website that guests try to avoid. Get this straight – someone who is booking a room in a hotel isn’t interested in a description of the hotel’s history and or something like: “This is really a boutique hotel because it was renovated with a specific boutique hotel design and therefore is getting some of the best reviews as one of the top boutique hotels in the city”. That is making a website for Google rather than for your guests. Sure your SEO guys will complain, but they’ll just need to get better at their jobs.
Don’t focus on animations, it’s distracting.
We all want a sexy website, with fancy animations that look great. We want to show the world that we have the latest technology in the world and we’re up to date, skip it – it’s a distraction! Your guest knows what he wants – even if he is seeing an average of 12 websites before he choses his hotel it isn’t because he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. On the contrary, he just isn’t finding it and your animations are making things worse.
Don’t present the entire city, you’re trying to sell your hotel.
I can’t count how many times I’ve landed on a hotel website only to be searching for the “Rooms” menu option so I could get to see the rooms and find out what the hotel was really like. Some people seem to think the hotel needs to present every single corner of the hotel and then every single corner of the city. Sure it’s great to show your bar but why in the world are you telling him about your Concierge, Shopping, Things to do, Events, Shows etc on your main menu? You aren’t the local tourist information you’re trying to sell him a room. Waste his time and he’ll go somewhere else, like an OTA for example (they understood this long ago).
Don’t go cheap on your booking engine, it’ll cost you the sale.
Unfortunately too many hotels think the Booking Engine is something they can relegate to the cheapest on the market. What would you think of your reservation office telling the potential guests “Hm let’s see I think I can accept your reservation but you’ll have to hold while I check with the manager and my supervisor, after that I’ll run a credit check and you can call back in about 15 minutes” you’d fire the lot of them. That’s what a bad booking engine is doing to you. Pay a little more, get something that’s efficient.
Now that we’ve looked at those points, the contrast will probably seem obvious but let’s go over them.
Create a website for users. As I mentioned in my earlier post about USPs you need to present 3 factors in 3 seconds: Location, Comfort and Value. How do you do that? Visuals, large ones, show don’t tell. People want to see the room, see the location, see the rates and that is what will close your guests to come. Use great and large photos, as I mentioned in my post about hotel photography – guests want to see your room, your hotel and what you have to show, if a photo tells a thousand words, then you don’t need to write a lot. If your site is pertinent, Google will show it, so focus on the people. They’re the ones that will sleep in your hotel.
Make your website fast and to the point. As I mentioned just above you have 3 seconds to make the sale. The potential guest knows what he wants, show him your hotel, if you fit his criteria you’ve got the sale. So make your website fast, add some animations if you want but only if it helps the three second rule, the WOW effect of your website should be your hotel not the animations.
Navigation must be simple. Menus need to be simple and easy to navigate. There are essential points of the hotel that need to be shown, such as the rooms, the location and how to book. Sure you can add more but add intelligently because your guest needs to know how to book or where to check your location without being rocket scientists. Remember you’ve got lot’s of competition and they may sell faster than you.
Invest in a good booking engine. The booking engine comes at the most crucial moment of the sale. Now is the time the guest needs to pull out the credit card, all the reasons in the world why he shouldn’t pay are going to creep up. You can either help yourself make the sale with a fast and smooth booking engine or help him find reasons not to pay by having a complicated booking process. Test the booking engine before you sign a contract. How smooth is the booking process, get your parents to try it can they figure it out? Try some people to see if they find it annoying, smooth, easy or if they just leave.
As a hotelier, you have one objective to keep in mind – is it effective? demand from your web-designer that he produce a site which converts and is measurable in increased revenues. Simple analytics can provide you with the information. While we have developed a sophisticated hotel analytics system at WIHP, you can already start measuring by installing e-commerce with Google Analytics. Track your conversions, how many visits create how many bookings etc. compare with your friends that have similar hotels, are you better, worse etc.
This list isn’t everything but I hope it gives enough to make hoteliers think and maybe review their design.
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