Redesign Doesn't Have To Be a Bad Word
Recently, we got green lit to go ahead and begin redesigning one of our older, less reliable sites. A hotel site. We are really putting our heart and soul into this redesign. That's not to say we don't for all of our clients and partners, but this site deserves particular attention because it encapsulates everything we've learned over the years from hotel websites. It got us thinking.
We have crafted and developed dozens of websites and online campaigns for local hotels and accommodations. They've become something we love doing, and we have collected vast amounts of data and information about them. So on that note, we want to share with you, dear hoteliers, what some of the most important aspects to take into consideration when building your hotel website as we begin 2013 What do you need to consider most about designing a modern, accessible website for your hotel?
Optimize for Site Speed
We've gone into details before about why page speed is important, however, the difference between other sites and hotel websites is the amount of research a user will do, comparing it to other similar site. To elaborate: your average hotel site visitor searching for accommodation will not only visit your site, they will look at similar lodgings in the area. A faster web experience will enrich their visit, perhaps guiding them to your booking engine quicker. Also, your site visitor may be visiting from a mobile device on a 3G network, where bandwidth is important. A 5mb download for them can be a real problem.
Drop the Flash, It's Not Helping
We still see many Flash hotel websites. Really. Although it's not as bad as other industries (looking at you, restaurant websites), we still see many sites heavily - and sometimes entirely - relying on Flash. Don't. By using Flash, you are creating a broken experience for many of your visitors. Many people don't have Flash installed. iOS mobile users can't even render it. That's a considerable amount of your traffic that is being denied access to your content. Flash offers some rich qualities you cannot quite achieve completely with HTML/CSS/JS, but there is no reason why your hotel website, where visitors primarily come to gather information, should have to use these rare features. Perhaps the only exception that comes to mind is a virtual tour, if you have one.
Write Compelling and Accurate Content
We've noticed with our hotel clients almost all visitors are looking for specific information. Are you pet-friendly? How much is your two-bedroom suite? Do you have a hot tub? Don't split up and hide your content under massive artsy blurry pictures of streetlights. Place your content exactly where your site visitor would expect it to be. Websites with a lot of information can be a maze to navigate. You want to make their journey as easy and quick as possible. Create easy-to-use navigation, provide a search function, and add descriptions to photographs. Make navigating your site logical, and it will greatly improve the experience.
SEO: Start Small
Even though search engine optimization (SEO) is something that should be implemented to some extent into all websites, it's worth mentioning specifically here. I'm not talking about invoking the all powerful lords of search engines; by implementing small changes in your hotel site, you can allow search engines to better rank your pages, and serve your site to those who are actually looking for it. Add accurate keywords into your site content that would help another real human. Keep your site content structured naturally and logically. Include page headlines (h1 and h2 tags), accurate descriptions, and quality content.
Mobile Optimization Is a Must
If you take home one point from this article, be it this: consider your mobile users. Mobile traffic is increasing dramatically and shows no signs of stopping; it's time you reflect and act on this, if you haven't already. Regardless of whether you have a responsive or dedicated website, you have to at least consider users visiting from their mobile devices. Your website needs to be optimized for mobile visitors. I try and hammer this across to whoever I can. We have no idea what kind of device and browser someone is going to use to access your site. Nor tomorrow, when someone could be viewing your site on a refrigerator door monitor or wall-sized televisions. iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Kindle… you cannot predict what someone will be using. It's important to take this one step at a time, and provide a pleasant experience for those on all devices.
As we march forward into 2013, the emphasis of our websites become more and more about the content in them, and not about the supplementary fluff surrounding it - no matter how pretty it may be. We then need to focus on getting this content to targeted people, regardless of how they choose to access it. Focus on developing clean, quality content and present it in a beautiful, universally-accessible manner, and watch as your hotel revenue and bookings increase.