Ever come across a beautiful website you couldn’t wait to explore only to discover you couldn’t actually find your way around it at all? Maybe the navigation design was too avant-garde, pages took too long to load all that stunning imagery, or it didn’t answer the questions you had… Unfortunately, a gorgeous but unintuitive website isn’t an unusual scenario. And it’s a ruthless conversion killer.
Since the pandemic, travel consumers spend more time researching their trips, looking for the best value and experience. A recent Expedia study found that travelers view an average of 141 webpages of travel content (up to 277 pages for US travelers!) across various website categories (OTAs, search engines, social media, metasearch channels, airline websites, hotel websites, etc.) in the 45 days prior to booking. Phew! With all that information to process, they won’t stick around for a website that isn’t easy to use.
It’s imperative that your hotel website not only looks great but offers an intuitive and frictionless user experience. Here are seven hotel website usability tips to make it easier for travel bookers to choose you.
1. Use responsive design
Having a mobile-friendly website goes without saying these days, but we’re stating the obvious right up front because, without one, all other points are moot.
More than half of online traffic to travel sites comes from mobile, and almost half of online travel sales are made on mobile (source: SaleCycle)—that’s a lot of potential traffic and bookings to miss out on without a mobile-friendly website.
A responsive website design automatically adjusts layout and other elements to the screen or browser size it is being viewed on to provide the optimal user experience across all devices. This approach helps ensure the design looks great, content is easy to read, and interactive elements such as menus and forms work well, whether on desktop or mobile.
Pro-tip: Choose a mobile-first design to create a simpler, speedier, easy-to-use website that stays focused on what’s important.
2. Make online bookings as easy as possible
Your booking engine should be accessible at the click (or tap) of a button from every page of your website, not just from the home page or “Reservations” page. The decision to book can occur at any point on your site, but every additional click to do so creates friction, eroding that desire to make a reservation. Don’t make prospective guests hunt your booking engine down; make it as easy and quick as possible to secure their stay no matter what page they’re on.
Including a “Book now” button in the header or main navigation menu is an intuitive and unobtrusive way to provide direct access to your booking engine on every page. Calls to action (CTAs) can also be included within page content, for example, on your home page (this is the perfect place for a prominent booking widget) and “Accommodations/Rooms” page where you can add unit-specific booking links.
Like your website, your booking engine also needs to be responsive so that it’s easy for customers to use on mobile devices. Go for a simple booking process that only requires guests to enter the minimum amount of information required to secure a booking. WebRezPro’s online booking engine allows returning guests to use their existing profile. This way, the system prefills their contact details according to the information stored in their profile to speed up the booking process.
Finally, your booking engine should display a booking confirmation page to the customer immediately after a reservation is submitted. If your property does not automatically confirm reservations, let guests know that the booking request was sent and that you will contact them shortly to verify the reservation. Either way, instant confirmation is important to reassure customers their booking or request went through successfully.
3. Use sticky navigation
Hotel homepages typically require downward scrolling (there’s a lot of information to cover!), but you can save visitors from having to scroll all the way back to the top by using sticky navigation or partially persistent menus.
Sticky navigation menus are those that stick to the top of the screen when users scroll down, while partially persistent menus disappear upon downward scrolling and reappear as soon as the user starts to scroll up again. Both options allow visitors to access the main menu to navigate from wherever they are on the page, streamlining the user experience.
As well, place relevant call to action (CTA) buttons within page content to guide visitors through your website in a way that flows naturally. For example, include a “View all rooms” button alongside featured accommodations on your homepage that takes users to your “Rooms” page.
For more navigation design tips, read our recent article, Steer Customers in the Right Direction: 3 Top Tips for Website Navigation.
4. Make your website accessible to all
Make sure your website is inclusive and easy to use for all, including customers with sight, hearing, dexterity, and cognitive impairments. International web accessibility standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) serve as a guide for creating accessible websites across industries. Their Accessibility Principles provide a solid introduction to accessibility requirements, such as:
- Providing text alternatives (ALT text) for non-text elements like images, icons, buttons, and audio and video files.
- Providing captions and audio descriptions for video content.
- Ensuring content is navigable by keyboard, including menus, pop-ups, and forms.
- Ensuring content is compatible with assistive technologies like text-to-speech readers.
Accessibility widgets like accessiBe can also be installed on your website, allowing users to make display adaptations, including contrast, font size, and spacing or to choose an accessibility profile (e.g., a seizure safe profile or vision impaired profile) that adapts content appropriately. Accessibility requirements are baked into the WordPress websites we create for hotels here at World Web Technologies.
5. Add an FAQ page or chatbot
Providing quick reference to common questions, an FAQ page is a helpful addition to your website for travelers in the research stage. It also helps front desk staff by reducing the number of phone and email enquiries and boosts your SEO too!
FAQs typically cover the details that don’t make it (or at least not prominently) into your main content. Common questions include: Are pets allowed? What are your check-in and check-out times? Can I check in earlier/check out later? What’s your cancellation policy? But take note of the questions your customers ask. Your FAQ page may even include information about your surrounding area, not just your hotel. Written in Q&A format and a conversational tone, your FAQ page is another opportunity to let your property’s personality shine through.
Link to your FAQ page from the main menu so it’s accessible from anywhere on your site. Alternatively, consider installing a chatbot pre-programmed to answer your customers’ questions 24/7. Chatbots are quickly advancing to take on increasingly complex enquiries, utilizing content from your website and other information fed to them. They can also connect customers with staff for those questions only a human can answer.
When guests can’t find answers to their questions quickly, it creates friction. An FAQ page or chatbot delivers these answers immediately, clearing the path to booking.
6. Optimize for speed
We humans are not very patient these days, and 40 percent of us won’t wait for a site to load if it takes more than three seconds. Slow sites don’t rank well on search engines either, so speed is very, very important.
Large image and video files are usually the main culprit of a slow-loading website. Compress and optimize those big, beautiful photos and videos for the web to decrease their file size without losing too much quality. Optimization tools are often included within free and paid photo and video editing software. There are also plugins available with WordPress that automatically optimize images as they are uploaded to your website.
File formats are important too. MP4 video files and JPEG image files are widely supported by all browsers and preserve quality well when compressed.
Run your website through Google’s PageSpeed Insights test to assess your Core Web Vitals on both mobile and desktop and identify areas for improvement.
7. Secure your website
Make sure your website—including your booking engine—is safe to use. Today’s online shoppers know to look for security signals before trusting websites with sensitive information like their email address and credit card details.
Secure sites display https (not just http) or a padlock icon at the start of the URL, indicating the website has a valid SSL (“Secure Sockets Layer”) certificate. That means the connection between the website and the user’s web browser is a secure, encrypted one.
Providing a secure online experience not only benefits your customers by keeping their data safe, it’s good for your business too, protecting your credibility and inspiring confidence to book.
BONUS TIP: Audit your website regularly
Is your website performing brilliantly? Excellent! Now you have to keep it up. Like a car or a house, your website will start to break without regular maintenance. Outdated content, broken links, security vulnerabilities, and bugs will creep in.
Review your website’s design and user experience regularly and make changes when needed to keep it current and relevant. Use our handy Hotel Website Audit Checklist to make sure you have all your bases covered.
It’s also a good idea to conduct occasional usability tests with people who are unfamiliar with your property’s website. This is especially helpful to review how easy it is for your customers to find specific information and complete specific tasks, like booking your latest promotional package or a family reservation with Fido the dog in tow.
If it isn’t easy to use, a beautiful website is just nice to look at, which isn’t very helpful to travelers seeking a place to stay. Make sure user experience is prioritized alongside visual design to achieve a website that drives bookings. If your property’s website needs streamlining, we can help! Contact our experienced design team for a free, no-obligation quote.