The most important part of your direct booking strategy, your hotel website is key to the success of your business, especially as extra-vigilant travelers emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions. As the face of your property online, your website is often the first point of contact with customers and has the highest potential to convert lookers to direct bookers.
But not just any old website will do the job. In fact, a poorly designed or outdated website reflects negatively on your business and can actually put potential customers off. If your website is neglected, customers might think other aspects of your property could be neglected as well.
Garish color schemes, cluttered layouts and text-heavy pages are telltale signs any website desperately needs a makeover. But not all signs are so visible. Web technology evolves quickly and a website built just two or three years ago can already be lagging in design and functionality.
While COVID-19 has slowed business right down for almost every hotelier around the world, you may be considering using this forced downtime to review your website in preparation for the travel comeback. If so, here are five big signs that indicate it’s time for a redesign.
It doesn’t reflect your business
If your website hasn’t been updated in a few years, it probably no longer reflects your business accurately. From renovations to new strategies to shifting customer expectations, businesses are always evolving to remain relevant. A lot can change in a few years—or even a few weeks as we are witnessing now.
Your prospective customers want to know what a stay at your property is like, not just what amenities they get for what rate. From guestrooms and facilities to services and location information to personality and brand values, your website should tell your property’s story in a way that gives customers an online version of the stay experience.
Visuals are so important when it comes to conveying an experience. Screen-spanning hero images, video and carefully chosen color palettes are the kind of hotel website design elements that effectively reinforce branding and immerse travel consumers in the experience of a hotel online.
Your property’s USP (unique selling proposition) is also important to your property’s story. What makes your property special should be woven throughout the narrative of your site (visually and textually), so that it’s immediately obvious to prospective guests why they should choose you over your competition.
A well-designed, current website reflects the care you invest in your property and customers.
It’s not user friendly
Much more than a pretty digital brochure, a modern hotel website should be an immersive and interactive conversion machine. No matter how beautiful your website looks upon first sight, if it isn’t easy to use, it isn’t driving bookings.
Look at your website through the eyes of a brand-new potential customer. (Better yet, enrol the help of some usability testers.) What would you like to know about the property? How easy is that information to find? Are you guided effortlessly along the path to booking? Try to be objective.
Here are some potential obstacles to watch out for:
- Broken media files, misaligned formatting and loading errors are often clues that coding is outdated. They can be rather off-putting in an otherwise seamless user experience. While some such errors are simple fixes for a web designer, the more they appear, the bigger the hint it’s time for a redesign.
- Page-load speed is extremely important to the user experience and can be another sign that your website is slowing down with old age. The longer a webpage takes to load, the more users will abandon it. Ideally, your website should load within three seconds to keep your bounce rate low.
- A website that is difficult to navigate will also deter customers. Intuitive navigation is key to engagement and conversions. Well-organized content, clear, consistent menus, well-placed CTAs (calls to action) and consistent page design are hallmarks of good navigation.
- Does your website comply with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines? Making sure your website is accessible and user friendly to all is necessary for serving your guests better and maximizing bookings. Improving ADA compliance for an old website can be a lot of work, but modern website developments are easily compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers and other accessibility requirements.
It’s not mobile friendly
While mobile friendliness is also key to user friendliness, we feel it deserves its own section. Over half of the world’s web traffic now comes from mobile devices, so a mobile-friendly website is crucial for any business wanting to reach today’s consumers—especially travel consumers.
Take a look at your property’s website on your mobile phone. Does it load quickly? Is it easy to read and navigate? How easy is it to make an online booking? If you’re met with distorted layouts, tiny text and hard-to-click links, your website is likely losing mobile customers faster than it loads. Without question, it’s time for a responsive design.
A responsive design will ensure your website looks great and works well on all devices, from desktop computers to smartphones. A website built with responsive design features coding that enables it to detect the device it is being viewed on and automatically adapt to the screen properties of that device to deliver the best user experience.
It’s hard to update
Keeping website content fresh is key to getting found on search engines and staying relevant to consumers. An important part of any SEO (search engine optimization) strategy, frequently updated content indicates to search engines that your site is current.
Lodging operators should be updating descriptions and images regularly as seasons and packages change, for example. As the COVID-19 situation rapidly unfolded, many hoteliers had to update their websites to reflect changes in policies, temporary closures, service restrictions, and so on—and many had to turn to their website designers for help with this.
Updating text and images on your website should be simple enough to complete yourself. If your website doesn’t include a user-friendly content management system (CMS) that allows you to log into the back-end of your site to easily edit content as needed, it’s time to get one that does.
With a proven CMS like WordPress, anyone can make simple updates to their website content without any knowledge of coding or web design. The ability to make quick, simple updates yourself instead of having to pay and wait for your web designer to do it gives you more control over your website and budget, making a redesign well worth it.
It’s not getting results
All businesses should be using an analytics tool like Google Analytics to track traffic and other website statistics that help guide digital strategy going forward. If the numbers show that site traffic and/or conversions are steadily low or trending downward, an urgent change is required.
How does your website compare to your local competition? Your website should look just as great as your competitors’, if not better, but it’s also important to keep an eye on how well your website ranks among your competitors on search engine results pages.
The whole purpose of your property’s website is to expand your customer base, so if your site is performing poorly, it’s high time for a redesign.
If your hotel website exhibits any of the above warning signs, the time for a redesign is now. Like any major renovation, the idea of a website redesign can be intimidating at first, but a professionally managed redesign is an exciting and enjoyable process—and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Contact us for a no-obligation chat about how we can help your property come out of this crisis with a winning website.