I recently attended the Eye For Travel Conference: Online Marketing Strategies for Travel 2014: The Americas and Caribbean. A particular session that stood out to me was, ‘Deliver Intelligent Web Design and an Optimized User Experience’. Everyone wants a hotel website that looks amazing, converts customers, and is loved by search engines. The reality is that creating that environment is a complicated juggling act that can easily get thrown out of whack. By focusing on some key fundamentals, you can help make sure that your site is appealing to everyone AND everything that is searching for it.
Some of the key elements to consider when looking at your hotels website design:
- Build for speed
- Focus on content
- Search engine optimization starts with site structure and architecture
- Put your best content at the top
- Be Socially informed: Google+/Bing/Facebook/
- Simplify/Minimize steps to conversion
- Focus on accessibility
- Be responsive: know that people may search for a destination while sitting at work on their desktop, then pick up their tablet on the train ride home, and finally check rates on their phone
- A/B Test when possible to let the consumer help you decide the right path
At the end of the day the focus is on conversion and whether or not your site can convey what you are trying to say without the flashy bells and whistles. Content is still king and is the key to converting.
One of the panelists, Mansi Vagt of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, mentioned that there were several key drivers in deciding to take on their recent website redesign project. Like most technology projects, getting “caught up” with current technology was a goal. The real trick was to get caught up AND create an environment where they could adjust in the future without re-inventing the proverbial wheel. Once you take away the technology aspect, there is the ever present competitive aspect – and seems that it was time for Raffles to make the update to maintain competitiveness. Finally some other major drivers to the decision seemed to be listening to the customers as well as some core business changes. In the end, it was decided to redesign the website which in such a large organization is no small feat.
Thru the entire process they had many challenges, but more importantly once all was said and done had some outstanding takeaways:
- Get yourself AS EDUCATED as possible
- Look inward, use yourself as a measuring stick for success before getting caught up in what the competition is doing
- Let go of being a perfectionist. Accept the fact that not EVERYTHING will be perfect
- DON’T delay the project to be perfect
- Keep the customers happy
I love learning new vernacular at tradeshows and conferences. Mansi shared the term HIPPO during her talk and got quite a few laughs, but had to explain what it was. For those that don’t know, a HIPPO is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion – and that person’s opinion is always critical in managing projects of any size, for example: recreating a website for a company like Raffles.
In the end, it is critical to look at your website as a revenue producing mechanism that requires all of the tools in your tool box – and maybe even a few from the local rental center – to get done properly. When creating a website start with the infrastructure, design it for speed and design it for what your customers (people and search engines) want. Lastly, as Mansi says, “it’s a no brainer to go responsive.” Most CMS’ allow for the ease of updating of all screen types in one place, and can be adapted to developments in the future.
David King, Director of Business Development