November 25, 2015
No matter how swanky your website looks, if it's confusing to navigate it will only end up frustrating potential customers. Intuitive site navigation that leads the customer along a smooth path to purchase is the ultimate goal of any website.
Lodging and tour operator websites typically have a lot of information to cover, so it's particularly important for businesses in hospitality and tourism to organise content well.
Here are some tips for achieving intuitive site navigation that steers customers in the right direction:
1. Think like a customer.
When designing or reorganizing your site, put yourself in your ideal customer's shoes while keeping your end goal in mind. In other words, think like a customer who is looking to make a booking.
When a customer lands on a lodging or tour operator's website, they are seeking somewhere to stay or something to do. They want to be persuaded. What should you include on your homepage to draw them deeper into the site to learn more?
If you're a lodging operator, great images that showcase your property's best features, combined with a brief but compelling description of the stay experience, is all it takes to lure customers further into your site. If you were one of your customers, what would you want to know next? Probably information about rooms and rates, hotel amenities, location and the like. Make sure key content is never more than a single click away via a prominent main menu.
And make sure your online booking system is always at the ready, highly visible on every page of your website via the main menu, a "book now" button or online booking widget. A customer can make the decision to book at any time while browsing your site and you don't want making them hunt your online reservation system down.
2. Keep it simple.
According to a 2012 Google study, people prefer simple website designs. Current website designs continue to support those findings Google's own website is perhaps the simplest of all. The simplicity (or complexity) of a website is in large part determined by navigation. Keep navigation simple by limiting primary navigation links; having too many options demands more thought, making it harder for customers to come to a decision.
This doesn't necessarily mean you have to limit information any content that offers value to website visitors and leads them down the sales funnel should be included on your website. But the more content you want to cover, the smarter you have to be about organizing it.
By designating one topic per page, your site will be easier to navigate and understand. To keep primary navigation links to a minimum, topics can be broken up into main pages and subpages. For example, your main navigation bar could lead guests to your "Dining" page, from where they could access additional pages like your menu or live music schedule.
For lodging websites, main menu options typically include Home, Accommodations/Rooms, Reservations/Book Now, Amenities, Area Attractions and Contact/Location pages. While website content is unique to every business, and properties offering niche services like weddings and events, outdoor adventures or onsite dining will require pages dedicated to those services, for many properties, the aforementioned six menu options will suffice.
In a nutshell, keep your homepage as simple as possible with a clear call to action (like a prominent "Book Now" button) and an obvious main menu.
3. Use familiar menu styles.
The Google research mentioned above also found that people prefer sites with familiar design principles. The human brain prefers things that are easy to think about to those that are hard, and the more familiar you are with something, the easier it is.
Perhaps the most commonly utilized style of menu on websites across all industries today is the horizontal navigation bar across the top of the page. Through familiarity with the horizontal menu, users instinctively know where to look for more information and can use it without much thought.
The Wyatt's Hotel website features the familiar horizontal navigation bar across the top of the page.
To make it as easy as possible for your website visitors to find the information they are looking for, stick to obvious wording for menu options (or pages), like "Rooms," "Activities," "Dining" and "Special Offers." Creative names can be confusing and are not likely to translate well. Getting the order of your menu right is also important; users expect to find "Home" on the far left of a horizontal navigation bar and "Contact Us" on the far right.
We also recommend the main menu is always visible at the top of every page, even upon scrolling(sticky navigation bars).
Smooth website navigation is key to a great user experience, and a great user experience is key to conversions. Set your website on the road to success by designing site navigation with your customers in mind, and keeping navigation simple and familiar.