There’s a saying, “first impressions are lasting impressions”—and that doesn’t just apply to guest check-in. How people feel when they visit your hotel’s website is crucial. Think about it: This is their chance to learn who you are and what your brand is all about before you can win them over with a welcoming lobby and impeccable customer service. Their experience on your website gives guests a preview of how they’ll be treated at your property. There are some important (but relatively simple) steps you can take to improve the user experience on your hotel’s website.
Give guests a reason to book with you
So let’s take a moment to be honest. With third-party providers like Expedia, Orbitz and Hotels.com, it’s much easier to find everything a guest’s heart desires all in one place. Especially because those booking channels have the resources to constantly improve their usability.
So how can an independent hotel compete? You have to give people a good reason to use your site. Consider conducting market research to learn how to best cater to your target audience and base your design on this newfound knowledge.
What are people looking for (in general)?
- A quick and painless booking process
- Truthful and professional photos
- A trust factor
- Customer ratings and reviews
Having these key elements on your site will boost your overall online presence with great design and functionality.
Many leading hotel brands are taking the extra step of going head-to-head with the online booking channels in their advertising campaigns. (A prime example is Hilton’s Stop Clicking Around campaign.)
Get straight to the point
People are interested in a quick, uninterrupted path to online booking. There are other pages on your site to talk up your convenient location and home-away-from-home atmosphere.
It sounds simple, but you have to ensure that your booking form is simplicity at its best. Small gestures, like pre-populating a field with the current date, are appreciated by site users. Also, make sure the form only asks for necessary information. Fields fishing for details unnecessary to reserving a room make guests question your intentions. People are already wary of websites using their email addresses and personal information for anything but an online purchase. So include elements like security icons and brief text informing users that you won’t share any of their information with outside vendors.
Being up front with your rates is another way to earn trust. You don’t want to force guests to fake book or click around endlessly just to find pricing. John Kearney, author of the blog Hotelient, explains how people want to get through their booking and see the final price in as few clicks as possible.
That was easy…and fast!
People expect to see a few beautiful photos and important links at the top of your homepage. No one wants to have to scroll to the bottom of the page to check availability. With as much as 47% of travelers booking rooms at the last minute, your site has to be able to instantly guide the “skimmers” and provide clear navigation across all devices.
The “wow” factor
Yes people are in a rush, but that doesn’t mean you can’t impress them along the way. Consider where certain elements are placed on the page and their importance to the guest. Website visitors spend less than one minute viewing a site before they move on, so you have very little time to capture their attention and get them booking.
Your homepage feature image should have a presence. It should be large and set the tone for your brand. Is your hotel fun, boutique, modern or historic? If the visitor encounters a boring, disengaging photo, you may lose that guest. Another fast fix? People love to see progress bars during their checkout—it lets them know that completing the booking won’t take all day.
Don’t be so sell-fish
If you have advertising on your site, it shouldn’t be a constant flow of in-your-face popups and interruptions. This is especially true if you have third-party widgets. That just gives visitors a reason to leave your site and go to theirs. Remember, these users are on your site to learn about your property (and hopefully book a room)—you don’t need to re-sell them or make it easy for them leave.
It all comes down to this…
Improving the user experience will make visiting your website more enjoyable for them and, ultimately, more profitable for you. It should be mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, trust-building and present a logical hierarchy of information. You also need to make it sing with engaging photos that allow travelers to imagine themselves in the heart of the action. That experience will be one they won’t soon forget.
Want to take your hotel website to the next level? Dana can help. Reach out to Lynn Kaniper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609.466.9187 ext. 117 today.