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Hotel Website Design Best Practices

July 16, 2015

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A website is an open invitation to visit your establishment, to explore its features and attractions, view the accommodation, restaurants, facilities, and even to get to know the staff. It should give the visitor a taste of what to expect when he or she eventually checks in as a guest.

Hotel operators and managers should therefore insist that their websites accurately and positively reflect their image and reputation. They should be prepared to invest comparatively as much time, effort, and resources in their websites as they would in their brick and mortar establishments, ensuring that the website developers, content writers, designers, and programmers build a site that everybody can be proud of…and one that will attract guests from far and wide.

Here are some important criteria for building an effective website for your hotel:

  • Management: Appoint a project manager to oversee the development, write the brief, appoint and guide the creative team, handle quality control, and sign off the various development stages.
  • The brief: The project manager should write a very clear and detailed outline for the development team. It must include clear objectives, messages, and positioning statements – “strategic” elements, agreed upon by senior management for the development team to use creatively.
  • Technical elements: Technical and creative elements are closely linked. Only consider hiring content developers and designers who show total proficiency in the technical aspects of website development, design, programming, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
  • Look and feel: Any existing brand criteria must be included in the brief to maintain the integrity of the hotel’s visual identity and image. Have a look at what some other establishments are doing in this area here, https://www.sitepoint.com/20-hotel-website-designs/
  • Positioning: What is your hotel’s position in the market? Is it a family or tourist hotel catering to lower budget guests; a hostel for backpackers or adventure tourists, or is it an exclusive, 5-star establishment offering unprecedented luxury facilities with a price tag to match? Define the positioning clearly and precisely.
  • Messaging: What does your hotel want to convey to the world? What is its main point of differentiation from other hotels of similar standards? Is it situated in the middle of a rainforest of extraordinary beauty, or is it in the prime location in a city, with all the facilities and features that guests in that target market expect. Is it the oldest establishment in the region, or the newest, with the latest hi-tech facilities and services? Does it offer special tourist services that cannot be obtained anywhere else? Is it mainly a conference venue or an exciting holiday destination? These messages must answer the needs of your potential guests.
  • Targeting: The project manager must know his target market: Is it the individual guest, or tour operators? High-wealth individuals or corporate guests?
  • Content: The main objective of your website is to attract potential guests. Your content must feature high-quality photography, graphics, and writing to get them to read what you’re putting out there. Here are some guidelines:
    • Home Page – must be inviting, interesting and exciting. Follow the golden “A I D A” rule – Attention, Interest, Desire, A
      • Grab readers’ Attention by using bold messages or a video (it doesn’t need to be a Hollywood production); the page must be inviting and exciting
      • Motivate their Interest; keep the content light, bright, and informative
      • Stimulate their Desire to stay at your hotel – entice them, offer them features and benefits that they will drool over
      • Finally, make them take Action. Make sure you have– “Call us today”, “Click here for more information”; “Special rates if you click here now!”, and other CTA’s like those. Get them to pick up the phone, send an email, ask for more information…then it’s over to your sales team to close the deal.
    • All relevant contact details must be prominently displayed in your header, footer and sidebar, so they are constantly visible. You should include details such as street address, telephone numbers, booking links, email address, fax numbers, Facebook and Twitter pages, and other relevant details ensuring you are extremely easy to contact and locate on a map.
    • Your site must be easy to navigate and user friendly. Above all, ensure that people can get the information they need without having to click dozens of times. More than three clicks will inevitably lead to the “click to death” syndrome – site visitors get frustrated and leave to find another, more user-friendly and easier to navigate hotel website.
    • Other pages: Longer content is not necessarily more effective. Keep your site down to four or five short and concise pages that are well-illustrated with photographs and attractive graphics. Aim for one-screen pages, thereby reducing the need for viewers to scroll.
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are all important social networks for B2C businesses such as hotels. You should also consider adding a blog to your website.
  • Follow up and management: A website needs continual care and updating. This could be part of the brief but could also possibly be handled by a competent in-house person. Furthermore, the project manager must be able to monitor and follow up on guest enquiries. A database, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or Channel Manager system must be considered to handle this side of the business.

Remember that a website is an extremely powerful marketing tool. It should be totally integrated with your overall marketing program in every aspect. But it is not a “silver bullet”: it needs good management, a lot of follow-ups, creative thinking, and clear direction to be successful.

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