Your website is your calling card. It (hopefully) gets a great deal of traffic, so you need to ensure the design and functionality are representing your business well. And that’s a question that you should asking be regularly. What worked a few years ago likely isn’t impressing prospective guests now. Trends change and websites can become outdated quickly.
In today’s competitive travel market, a lodging or tour operator’s website plays a core role in attracting, converting and retaining customers. It’s important for any website to make an immediately good impression on increasingly critical digital consumers. Otherwise, customers will simply abandon sites that look outdated, are slow to load and confusing to navigate within just a few seconds.
To attract more customers, increase conversions and help build customer loyalty, make sure your lodging or tour operator website is avoiding the following major web design mistakes.
Not Making Your Website Mobile Friendly
Not making your website mobile friendly is one of the biggest web design and usability mistakes any business in the travel industry can make today. Approximately half of travel consumers use their mobile devices to research destinations, accommodations and activities before and during travel. If you don’t want to miss out on this significant chunk of potential customers, it’s imperative for your hotel or activity website to provide a user-friendly mobile experience. Read our recent post, Mobile-Friendly Web Design Tips for Hospitality and Tourism, to learn how.
Not Displaying the Right Kind of Images
When it comes to consumer travel decisions, research shows that images play a critical role – particularly in the accommodation selection process. One of the tell-tale signs of an outdated site is small, low-quality images, which do nothing to motivate customers. Nowadays, travel consumers are inspired by big, beautiful images that invite them to imagine themselves within the scene. High-quality photography that reflects the unique experience and personality of your business is so important for striking an emotional chord with potential customers.
For lodgings, both interior and exterior shots of the property should be included. Guestroom images are especially important and should be included for every room type. Other facilities like meeting spaces, dining areas, exercise rooms, the pool area, gardens, etc. should be showcased as well. Include shots of guests enjoying your property so that prospective customers can see themselves doing the same. Check out our photo tips for your hotel website for more guidance.
Activity or tour operator website photos should depict the experience of the tour/activity, including customers enjoying the activities, views, landscapes or wildlife that feature on tour, and facilities and transportation vehicles.
Use hero images, in-content photos (photos used to illustrate written page content), and image slideshow galleries, and choose images that support the purpose or topic of the page. But do beware of using too many images, which can slow down the page-load time of your site.
The right kind of images give customers a clear idea of what to expect from your business and can help reassure them that booking with you is the right decision.
Complicated or No Online Bookings
Not giving your customers the option to book direct online is another major no-no for both lodging and tour operator websites. Most travel bookings today are made online, so providing a secure, easy-to-use booking engine on your website is a must.
Make sure your online booking process is as quick and uncomplicated as possible, only asking for the information you need. Just like your website, user-experience should be at the core of your booking engine’s design, so choose wisely. Don’t make your customers hunt your online booking engine down either; it should be easily accessible from any page of your website.
Because 27 percent of online travel bookings are made on mobile devices, it pays to make sure your online booking engine is mobile-friendly too.
If website visitors have to hunt your booking engine down, that’s an example of a weak call to action. Visitors are quick to leave websites that are difficult or confusing to navigate – they need some direction and this is where calls-to- action (CTAs) can help.
In addition to well-organized content, design simplicity and clear menus, relevant, well-placed CTAs support user-friendly site navigation and help steer customers toward booking. As mentioned above, your online booking engine should be easily accessible from anywhere on your website via a CTA like a “book now” or “search availability” button or a booking widget.
Other effective CTA buttons include “view rooms,” “discover our specials,” and “contact us,” guiding the customer through every step of their travel-planning journey. While customers can get to this information through the main menu, relevant CTAs placed appropriately within page content help guide them there quicker, before they get distracted.
Strong CTAs use simple, clear, compelling phrasing, are specific, and are strategically placed to take visitors to the next step.
Hidden Contact Details
While the world has gone online, many of your customers will still prefer to enquire or book by telephone or even in person. Presuming everyone wants to book online or will use your contact form and therefore leaving your business’ full contact details off your website or hiding them at the bottom of a single page is a big mistake.
Your website needs to make it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you whichever way they prefer. Don’t force them to click through to the contact page to find your phone number; make sure it is consistently displayed in the header of every page (the less clicks the better, especially when your site is being used on mobile devices). If you can also fit your physical address and email address in the header without visually overcrowding it, great! Otherwise, include complete contact details in the footer of every page.
Make sure your dedicated contact page features a map (Google Maps are easily embedded, user- friendly and widely familiar) that clearly pinpoints the location of your property and perhaps even nearby attractions. Your contact page should also offer written directions, as well as complete contact information.
Sending Customers Away from Your Website
At first it may seem like a good idea to link off to your reviews on TripAdvisor or to your YouTube channel, but once visitors click through to those sites there’s a good chance they won’t come back. Sites like TripAdvisor and YouTube are great for exposure, but they are also great at distracting users and enticing them to explore their options. Once customers are on your website you don’t want to send them away!
Instead, provide reviews and videos right on your website. You can handpick reviews to add to your website or embed a TripAdvisor feed so that visitors can read your TripAdvisor reviews without leaving your site. YouTube videos can also be embedded directly on your website (more on that below), and so can social media feeds.
Badly Embedded Videos
There are a few different ways great videos can let your website down. Auto-playing videos and music are generally a big annoyance for website visitors – especially if they are browsing at work. And broken videos that just won’t play at all are a big disappointment too. Videos that are haphazardly placed on a page detract from the visual design and usability of a site, and videos that automatically play suggested videos when your video finishes (a standard YouTube embed feature) could end up showing your local competitor! Needless to say, you wouldn’t want that.
It’s easy to embed a YouTube video into your website; YouTube offers a simple step-by-step guide. Just be sure to deselect the “show suggested videos when the video finishes” option before copying the video embed code from YouTube.
Ignoring SEO and Analytics
Your website is an investment and just like any other investment the returns need to be tracked, otherwise you may well be throwing money away. Following good SEO (search engine optimization) practices and keeping an eye on website analytics helps you make the most out of your website.
There is no magic equation for achieving high search engine rankings, it largely depends on creating genuine, relevant content that your customers are looking for. Other key SEO practices include making sure your site is easily accessible (crawl-able) to search engines, using a mobile-friendly responsive design, and updating content regularly (blogging is a great way to do this).
Tracking your website analytics is one of the best ways to measure your website’s success and to identify areas that could be improved. The most widely used analytics tool is Google Analytics, which provides all the statistics you need to review your website’s performance, including traffic, traffic sources, bounce rates, page views and conversion rates.
Be sure to test your website yourself too, as if you are one of your customers. View it on different screens/devices and on different browsers to check that pages are loading quickly and properly, and forms, plug-ins, widgets and videos are all working correctly.
Even the most beautiful, innovative websites can be guilty of the oversights mentioned above. Make sure your website avoids these mistakes to maximize conversions. We can help!