Creating a new hotel website or redesigning your site? Avoid some common mistakes when designing your navigation structure…
Irrespective of the industry or organization, a good hotel website design enables users to effortlessly find information. Like turning on a light switch, site navigation shouldn’t be a conscious action. For instance, the same as when you flick a light switch and expect the lights to come on, users expect to see certain information when they click the “About” tab.
Navigating websites is a learned behavior, and after countless experiences, users have developed first-hand navigation experience that helps them find content. This reinforced or learned behavior helps them successfully navigate through new sites.
If you are about to commence on your hotel web design or redesign here are some handy guidelines:
Intuitive navigation examples:
- All pages contain basic site navigation.
- Navigation states (on/off) and page titles are consistent and indicate the current page.
- Hypertext link naming is consistent and exclusive to associated pages.
- All navigation goes somewhere specific and is obvious to the user.
- Category naming is directly related to content type.
- Global site categories or main sections are mutually exclusive and grouped intuitively.
- Similar types of navigation elements are grouped together and treated consistently from a visual perspective, indicating link priority and grouping methodology.
- An HTML site map is included for navigation and SEO purposes.
Common navigation mistakes:
- Confusing navigation naming and grouping with inconsistent visual treatments.
- Global navigation that contains too many or too few categories.
- Poor page indication and confusing or non-existent bread-crumbing.
- Inconsistent visual treatment of similar navigation devices like inconsistent colors for hypertext links.
- Navigation items that disappear or move around, and dead-end pages that force users to use the back button.
- Pages without a clear call-to-action.
- Active links to the current page.
- Not linking directly to the item named.
- Priority content that is buried or hard to find.
- Navigation that gives users an inconsistent or poor user experience.
Solutions to navigation can range from simple to complex. Finding a balance that works for your website is usually the key in making your important site navigation decisions. Here is a summary list of things to keep in mind when trying to find this balance. Following these guidelines will help provide a convenient, stress-free user experience that conveys your site’s message and meets your business goals.
- Use a global navigation system on all pages. As a rule, each page should provide a link to the main sections of the website, the homepage, a site map, search, and basic contact information. These links should anchor any well-designed site.
- Be consistent. Treat all your navigation the same on every page; the navigation type, treatment, naming, and grouping should all be consistent.
- Be obvious and expected. Naming of sections and pages should be clear and obvious. The type of content in each section should be expected. Give users an indication of where the next link will take them so they won’t waste time clicking to information they didn’t expect.
- Funnel your navigation. Start with overviews or introductions of main sections. As users navigate deeper into the site, the content and navigation should get more detailed and specific.
- No dead ends. Every page should lead somewhere. Don’t drop users into dead-end pages. Keep visitors engaged by moving them forward in your site. Provide the shortest possible routes to information.
- Segment users. Try to group your users into distinct personas. Once you have identified the different types of users visiting your site, you can better address their unique needs and expectations. Design items, naming, and callout content and links can be targeted individually and served more effectively to different types of visitors.
- Use analytics to measure navigation effectiveness. Monitor user activity and popular site paths by adding an analytics package to your site. Google Analytics is free, so you have no excuses. Refine naming and grouping according to what’s working and what’s not.
- Test and refine. Use A/B and multivariate testing on your navigation elements to see how you can improve engagement and conversion. You can experiment with individual design elements, content grouping, and section/page naming to determine what works best.
- Keep it simple. Try to emulate existing navigation practices rather than create new ones. Be as simple as possible so that your users will have a clean, positive experience.
Hotel websites must have a beautiful design and be visually compelling but it is also important to create a navigation structure where there is a seamless and effortless process for customers to make an online enquiry and/or book hotel rooms. A website also needs to have a high Search Engine visibility and generate plenty of traffic that is ready to buy and converts those visits into the maximum potential RevPOV (Revenue Per Online Visit).
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 14, 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.