Apple’s Steve Jobs famously once said: “Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”
Website design can feel like a complex thing – especially when you think you’re not creative enough to really take a design project on.
And when your hotel’s website has lost its way, starting again can feel like a daunting task. So here are 5 essential starting points for hotel website design that every hotelier should begin with:
- ASSESS THE QUALITY OF YOUR IMAGES
You only have to look to Instagram’s user statistics to realise how powerful images have become. An average of 70 million photos are shared every day on the social media platform, and more than 30 billion images have been uploaded to date. Beautiful imagery is more than just a passing trend, and hoteliers are well-placed to make the most of their aspirational surroundings.
Take a look at these stunning examples of hotel photography – and notice how they explore even the most unusual areas of their properties. And if you’re thinking that you don’t have any professional photography skills, check out these great images that were taken using just a smartphone.
Assessing the quality of your existing images is key to making the necessary improvements in order to appeal to potential guests.
- AUDIT THE DEPTH OF AVAILABLE INFORMATION
Your prospective guests visit your website for nothing other than to gain information.
Information about your rooms, rates, facilities and amenities, room availability, contact details, your location and proximity to attractions, and things to do, to name just a few. Most of this information is viewed as standard, but your hotel can stand out from the competition by going that extra mile and supplying a comprehensive guide to what’s on offer locally.
Having detailed information about the local attractions can help keep a prospective guest on your website for much longer. If you’re stuck for inspiration on how to present local attractions, there are some great examples to be found on websites designed by SiteMinder’s intelligent website creator Canvas, and you can view them here.
- EMBRACE MOBILE-FRIENDLY RESPONSIVE DESIGN
Responsive design is a simple concept and it’s one that you should be enthusiastically embracing. It’s an approach to website design that aims to create a viewing and interaction experience that reacts to the chosen device of a user.
It ensures the experience is smooth and that elements of the page can be seen and used properly. If a user is required to zoom in to click a link on your mobile website, then it hasn’t been designed in a responsive way. Putting your users’ needs first, just as you do the moment they arrive at your hotel, is crucial for the best web experience.
But how do you design websites that react in this way without knowing the technical stuff? Using a website creator, such as Canvas, can help fill the gap in the required design and coding skills. All of the Canvas templates are fully-responsive, which means your hotel can be found and explored on mobile, the fastest-growing consumer research channel. A mobile responsive website that delivers an awesome small-screen experience can secure those last-minute bookings from guests on-the-go.
- ENABLE DIRECT BOOKINGS
You can have all the great elements of a beautiful web experience but without a place for your prospective guests to book, it’s essentially incomplete.
Being able to accept direct bookings using an internet booking engine, such as SiteMinder’s TheBookingButton, is vital to ensure your website can turn lookers into bookers.
Checking that your website can easily integrate a direct booking engine is your first step in the process.
Making sure that your booking engine blends into your branding and website theme is even more important, because it reassures a user that your website is safe.
A ‘Trust in the Internet’ survey in 2014 found that 77% of people do not feel completely safe when they buy something online, so building trust through a professional-looking website is key to winning over your prospective guests.
- IMPROVE SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the Holy Grail of great website design. You might have a beautiful online presence, but how do people find you? Of course we’d all love internet users to wake up in the morning and come direct to your website, bypassing search engines.
But there are 3.5 billion Google searches every day – that’s 40,000 every second – so attracting guests through search engines should be a key part of your online marketing strategy.
That said, it’s another aspect of web design that needs technical knowledge, as SEO is very specialised. The team behind the Canvas websites say your design should follow the best SEO practices. For example, the Canvas templates feature clean HTML and CSS, with well-structured pages that have unique page titles and descriptions – just some of the requirements for good SEO. And mobile-friendliness comes into play here too. Google, in early 2015, changed the way it orders search results giving more priority and importance to mobile-friendly websites. You can learn more on this topic from SiteMinder by reading ‘How your mobile website can get friendly with Google’.