Last year Google announced that more people are now searching the Web via mobile devices than desktop computers. When it comes specifically to travel planning, 40 percent of visits to U.S. travel websites come from mobile.
The rise of mobile Internet use isn’t breaking news, but Google has recently discovered something interesting about mobile user behaviour. Because we often use mobile devices on-the- go, we are conducting more searches in shorter bursts to answer immediate needs. Google has coined these intent-driven mobile Web sessions “micro-moments.”
Google has also observed that Internet users tend to switch back and forth between devices throughout the day. We usually turn to our smartphones while on-the- go or watching TV, but many of us sit down at our computers when we have the time to really focus on planning our dream trip (or are daydreaming at work).
In this day and age, we all know that a mobile-friendly website is key to success for any business, especially for those in hospitality and tourism. But what exactly does a mobile-friendly website mean? These days, any successful travel website should be designed with mobile user behaviour top of mind.
Choose Responsive Design
A responsive website design detects the device it is being viewed on (whether it be a smartphone or a computer) and automatically adjusts content, layout and menus, etc. to fit the screen for optimal usability.
Because modern Internet users tend to switch between devices during the trip planning process, it makes sense for hotels and tour operators to implement a single responsive website that will effortlessly provide users with a seamless and consistent experience across all devices.
Keep it Simple
From mobile to desktop, simplicity is key to a positive website user experience. Users prefer websites that are visually uncluttered and easy to navigate and understand – and this is especially true for mobile users with limited time and screen space.
Mobile-friendly design practices that help to achieve a simple and intuitive site include: clear, easy-to-read font; topic-focused pages (one topic per page); images that support page content; and clear calls to action (CTAs) via buttons and icons (not linked text, which is harder to tap on) and familiar menu styles that clearly point the way to desired information.
Written content should be clear and concise and convey the personality of your business. Last month we offered some tips for writing website copy because we know this can be a daunting task!
One of the hardest parts of keeping things simple is paring down and organizing content. Keep mobile-user intent in mind when designing navigation, layout and content to help determine sequence (most important information should come first!). We talk more about prioritizing content in the next section.
Let Micro-Moments Guide You
Focusing on the task-oriented nature of mobile-user behavior helps prioritize and shape content for a more successful design across devices.
The micro-moments mentioned above align with the different stages of the travel planning journey: the dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing stages. It’s important to convey the experience your customers can expect at your property through descriptions, images and video (including local information) to engage customers in their dreaming and planning moments. Logistical information like availability, room or tour options, and rates is crucial in their planning moments. And it goes without saying that an easily accessible mobile-friendly booking engine is a must for those booking moments! (A bit more on that later.)
Your business’ address and phone number (in international format and with click-to-call functionality) should be displayed prominently on all pages of your website. Opt to place contact details in the header rather than hidden away in the footer, because looking for the address or directions is one of the top tasks performed by website viewers on the go.
Make sure your website provides the information your customers are looking for right when they need it – don’t make them hunt it down (the less taps the better!).
Take the Need for Speed Seriously
Mobile users won’t sit and wait for a slow site to load while they’re on the go, so it’s critical to make sure webpages load fast, preferably within three seconds.
Optimizing images for Web is key to site speed. This involves such practices as choosing the right file format for the type of image (photographs usually work best as JPEG files, simple logos and illustrations as GIF or PNG files, and vector images as SVG files), and compressing images as much as possible without sacrificing quality.
For speed and simplicity’s sake, don’t overload webpages with images either; with the exception of image galleries, one or two carefully selected images per page drive the point home much more effectively than multiple pictures vying for attention.
Google offers a guide for improving page-load speed, because every second really does count.
Choose a Mobile-Friendly Booking Engine
Mobile travel bookings continue to grow, with 27 percent of online travel bookings now coming from mobile.
Just like a mobile-friendly website, a mobile-friendly online booking engine must put the user experience first. The booking widget or “Book Now” button should be placed prominently on your website – preferably on every page – accessible to customers as soon as they make the decision to book.
The booking process should be a simple, intuitive one that can be completed by the customer in two or three steps or pages, with tap-friendly menus, text-entry fields and buttons. It should load fast and display trusted security signals (like a URL that begins with HTTPS, a valid security certificate, and a secure payment badge). And it should deliver an automatic booking confirmation message and email to assure the customer that their booking was successful.
Test, Test, Test!
Testing your website on your smartphone and asking friends and family to check it out on theirs is a good way to get a real feel of your site’s user friendliness. No matter how much time, money, sweat or tears have gone into building your website, analyse it with an objective eye. Imagine you are a traveler who has never heard of your business before or seen your website. Does it convey your business accurately? Does it load fast? Is it intuitive? Can you easily find what customers might be looking for at different stages of their travel-planning journey?
Google offers a helpful testing tool that analyzes a website’s desktop and mobile page speed and over-all mobile friendliness, and highlights specific fixes to improve site performance.
When it comes to online marketing and website design, mobile is no longer an afterthought; it is a key strategy for keeping up with the competition and growing your business. Designing for mobile first can help produce a more focused, intuitive and effective website across devices.
Need help making your website more mobile friendly? Drop us a line!