hotel web design best practice – 10 mistakes to avoid

“Hotel web design is an ongoing battle of form versus functionality. Always keep in mind that your hotel competitor’s website is only a click away.”

Is your hotel web design high on annoyance and low on useability? There is a saying amongst copywriters that content is king but when it comes to Web design, functionality is queen and needs to take its right of place before form in hotel web development. Read more about these annoying hotel website design mistakes to find out whether your hotel website is functionally challenged.

Seek and ye shall not find?

One of the biggest complaints of hotel web design is poor navigation and that users simply cannot find the information they are looking for. Navigating websites is a learned behaviour and users do not want to have to reinvent the wheel when they are browsing a new website. Useability expert Jacob Nielson says “Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when things always behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen.”

Where’s Wally?

Websites play a major role in helping customers find information about the hotel but if a customer needs to call the hotel, one of the major annoyances is that contact information can be difficult to find. While a website should ideally serve as a one-stop shop for information and is designed to minimise the flow of calls through to the hotel, it is still important to retain this fundamental feature of hotel web design.

Unwanted noise

Hotel websites that have background music playing or videos that start on entry to a website is right up there on the most annoying hotel web design mistakes. Designed to create a certain ambience, music can often have the opposite effect with users either turning off the sound to navigate the website in peace or exiting the website in droves to visit a competitor’s website that is less invasive.

Font off

Badly designed websites can do one of two things; have a large font which shouts at their users or have a small font which is hard to read and strains the eyes. Consistency is the key in a good website layout. There are a number of fonts that are classed as standard for use in websites, Verdana being one of them. The colour of the font in contrast to the background colour should also be considered in terms of readability.

Where’s my sunnies?

First impressions count and colour is an important factor in hotel web development. Overly bright colour schemes may work for a childcare website but loses its appeal on a website for an exclusive spa resort that is meant be soothing and calming. The colour scheme on the website should reflect the corporate branding and be uniform and consistent across all communication tools.

I just lost a minute of my life, I’ll never get back

Research shows that the ‘Skip intro’ button is one of the commonly used functions on Flash websites. As impressive as a website that incorporates Flash may look, loading times may still be an issue. Google in its infinite wisdom decided to include site speed as a new signal in their search ranking algorithms, the reason being that research found that their users placed a lot of value in speed.

In your face advertising

Advertising may be a necessary evil for hotel websites to monetise a website but invasive advertising is a major turn off for Web surfers. Advertisements that frequently interrupt users pose serious useability flaws and intrusive Web advertising makes the website increasingly difficult to navigate and use, and its content increasingly difficult to read. A web designer needs to achieve a workable balance between the level of advertising on the site and useability of the website.

Seal the deal

An online booking engine should be seamlessly integrated with the website. If your website has an online booking engine that opens up in a new window or a third party website, your best bet is to try to replicate the main site design with the same look and feel with logos, images, fonts and so forth. By sending your potential customers to what may be an unknown and unfamiliar site may cause them to rethink their decision to book your hotel.

Bad form

People browsing hotel websites don’t necessarily make a direct hotel booking straight away. Many hotels use a sales model in which the website’s role is to get the initial customer contact via an online enquiry form. Hotel sales staff then follow up and close the sale whether it’s for a hotel stay, conference or wedding reception. A web designer needs to create a form as part of your hotel web design that strikes the right balance between getting enough information and asking for too much information leading to a high abandonment rate.

Where the bloody hell are ya?

One of the biggest mistakes a hotel web designer can make is creating a hotel web design without a Search-Engine friendly infrastructure. As we always say, there is no point in creating a beautiful website if no one can find it on Search Engines. Search Engine Optimisation should not be an afterthought but a crucial part of the hotel web design process. Research shows that people searching the Web do not look beyond the first few pages.

Making the first impression counts so don’t turn your hotel customers off with a badly designed hotel website. Contact us and find out how we can help you find that tricky balance between form and function and create a website with high useability that also looks appealing and engaging to hotel customers. Just remember, a really good hotel web design can mean the difference between a high bounce rate* or a high conversion rate that maximises hotel revenues.

* Users leaving a site after visiting the original page of entry.

About Keith Paulin

When not trying in vain to improve his golf handicap, Keith leads the team at iiWorks, a specialist company providing Digital Marketing Strategy Services for clients ranging from small business to national and international companies.
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