User Centered Hotel Website Design

The idea of user-centered design isn’t new. Donald Norman introduced the concept in 1988 with his book The Psychology of Everyday Things (later republished as The Design of Everyday Things now with a Revised and Expanded 2013 edition). In the last 28 years, the revolutionary ideas of the book have changed everything from games to phone systems to website design.

Currently, a variety of terms are bandied about: Human factors (HF), user centered design (UCD), and user experience design (UXD, UED, or XD). Amid the alphabet soup and jargon-laden discourses is a very simple, powerful idea: Have your customer’s needs, wants, and behaviors influence your design. Donald Norman challenges designers to take on responsibility for understanding and adapting to how customers use their products “Human Error? No, Bad Design.” It’s as simple as that.

Many other researchers and writers support user centered design as it applies to web usability (or hotel web design). Steve Krug wrote Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability), with a 2014 edition that adds insights to mobile.

Many hotel websites go part of the way there, but don’t give as full an experience as they should.

Hotel Location

Any prospective customer who hasn’t stayed at your hotel wants to know where it’s located. Is it close to the museum? Can I walk back to the hotel after the concert? It’s an important part of planning. The business traveler needs to know how far it is to her meeting or conference. USA Today reported that of all features, the hotel location matters the most to business travelers. The vacationing family wants to know what’s within walking distance. Promoting a hotel’s location featured as the #1 consideration in our 6 Winning Strategies for Improving Hotel Conversion Rates article.

Hotel Location – Adequate

Most hotel website designers understand this critical customer need, but current sites show that many haven’t followed it through to the logical conclusion of customer convenience. The Mark Spencer Hotel in Portland, Oregon features their address at both the top and bottom of their page. Good, but not great.


Hotel Location – Superior

The traveler who wants to understand where the hotel is located has to go to a mapping website and copy-and-paste or retype the information. A savvy hotel web design provides what the visitor needs without ever making them leave the site or struggle. For instance, the InterContinental Sydney also has the address, but adds a map with nearby attractions.


Room Descriptions

When booking a hotel, let your website visitor know what to expect. What do the different rates mean? What is the room like?

Room Descriptions – Hidden

Some hotel websites, like the Roosevelt Hotel may have this information, but put it in a location that isn’t intuitive. Planning my vacation, I want to know that the rooms are like. The site tabs are “Book a Room,” “Offers,” and “Explore.” Where to look for the room descriptions? The most intuitive option is “Book a Room” since it mentions rooms. Unfortunately, the different rooms and descriptions can’t be accessed from the “Book a Room” tab.


Room Descriptions – Intuitive

In contrast, the Crown Plaza Adelaide has a more robust structure of “Accommodation,” “Dining,” “Meetings & Events,” “Weddings,” “Special Offers,” “Facilities,” Adelaide,” “News & Views,” and “Book Now.” Hovering over “Accommodation” provides a simple drop-down menu of the different room types. Clicking on any of them produces both a textual description with full detail on size, furnishings, and options and a visual of what the hotel room looks like. The sidebar navigation also changes so that I can shift among different types of rooms to find the one that fits my needs, for instance, flicking between the Superior Room and the Deluxe Balcony Room, continuing to keep the top set of tabs consistent so that a user never gets “lost” in the site.


User Centered Hotel Website Design

Too often, website design is purely developer-driven. Marketing often contributes insights into general trends. Management ensure brand-integrity. All of that is good, but while the developer, marketing guru, and brand manager leverage their expertise, nothing compares to putting the site in front of customers, seeing how they actually use it, and making improvements based on their expressed needs and actual behaviors. It’s central to our success at hotelmarketingWorks.

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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