Do you believe in love at first sight? You should. While I’m not here to talk romance, today’s topic could be considered a love story of sorts. You see, it’s about how to get travellers to fall in love with your hotel the first time they lay eyes on its website. It’s about user experience—UX for short.
Now that booking online is far and away the most common means for making hotel reservations, wise hoteliers need to focus on their websites. They have to focus on building a website that visitors will instantly fall for. If it’s not love at first sight, then it’s increased bounce rate: aka, a pitfall for your overall e-commerce strategy.
What’s bounce rate?
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of potential guests who leave your website after visiting only one page. When the percentage goes above 40 percent, you know there’s something wrong with your site, and you need to figure out what that is and fix it fast.
Think about it like this: a tourist enters your main lobby, looks around, and then leaves without talking to anyone or getting more information about your services. Wouldn’t you look for the problem they encountered and the reason they left? Of course you would. So you should do the same for the online equivalent: a visitor lands on your homepage and leaves without looking for more information about your hotel.
Before we look at why visitors bounce, let’s look at bounce behaviour.
- The visitor clicks on the back or the exit (x) button
- The visitor types another address on top of your hotel’s URL
- The visitor leaves without clicking on the menu bar
- The visitor performs no action on the landing page
- In general, the visitor shows no interest in looking for more info about the hotel
How can you avoid the above unwanted actions?
You need to have a captivating UX (user experience) website. It’s how you reduce your bounce rate and improve your conversion rate. Driving traffic to your website won’t help unless the visitors want to stick around and learn more. If you don’t have a nicely-crafted website, it’s not only that you’re losing your visitors after a short time; it’s that you’re letting them move on to their next hotel option. And considering how competitive this business is, you definitely want to avoid that.
But what does a “captivating UX website” mean?
A captivating website is a website that offers the best user experience. Your guest is your number-one priority. You work hard to offer the best experience on your premises; do the same with your website. The traveller’s journey starts on your website, so if you want to increase your chances for direct bookings, you have to follow the basic UX design rules.
UX design is the technical design of your website, not to be confused with UI (user interface) design, which is more about usability. However, UI is part of UX, and UX incorporates pretty much everything that determines how captivating a website is. It’s affected by engineering, marketing, and design, and it in turn affects functionality, interaction, usability, and engagement. All in all, user experience is everything when it comes to your website success.
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UX tips for hoteliers who want more direct bookings
Don’t fascinate. Serve.
You’re not building a hotel website to fascinate the visitor with avant-garde visuals and strange features. You don’t own an art gallery or a science lab. You own a beautiful hotel and you want to offer a memorable experience both onsite and online. Therefore, when working with engineers, designers, and marketers to build a successful site, you should always keep in mind the ultimate goal of your website: to serve the visitor in the most efficient way. It’s neither to show off your designer’s capabilities, nor to prove that you have the most progressive marketers. The customer’s needs come first, always.
Make it accessible on every device
The world has moved on from mobile-friendly websites. Don’t waste your money on developing desktop and mobile versions of your hotel website. Instead, your website needs to be responsive. The majority of travellers use mobile devices and you should serve their need to browse on smaller screens. There’s no point in having a unique font or complex layout if they’re not readable or viewable on a smartphone. Build your website with responsive web design (RWD) and leave out the fancy stuff not fit for smaller screens.
Make it child’s play
The traveller doesn’t visit your website to play hide-and-seek or to hunt for treasure. To reduce your bounce rate, have clear calls to action and a comprehensive menu. Your goal is to lead the visitor to an action, whether it’s to explore your hotel website or to proceed to a booking. If the visitor needs to spend a lifetime to find the next step or if it takes them hours to figure out what you mean with the catchy slogan that only locals can understand, then you’ve lost the reservation.
You’re a single business
Your branding efforts are absolutely important for your hotel’s success. Keep a concise and coherent image no matter what. In other words, every single page on your website should have the same design and offer the same experience. If you want to test different designs, do so while testing your website. But when the website goes live and is serving real potential guests on its pages, don’t confuse them. Maintain your hotel’s image on all pages with consistent visuals, text, and design.
Don’t bombard the visitor
Never jam-pack information onto your web pages. Leave empty spaces, don’t add huge blocks of content, use visuals wisely, and break text into smaller parts. Your website visitors aren’t looking for the latest news or a novel, but for specific information about your services and rates. So make sure you don’t bombard them with data. If you have a lot to say and share, split it into different pages or make the content expandable. Otherwise you’ll tire your visitor and your content won’t be viewable on mobile devices—too much scrolling is never a good thing.
Time is money
Reduce your loading times. If your website doesn’t load quickly, visitors will lose interest. They want to be able to navigate and use your website as smoothly and speedily as possible. The good news is that you can fix this unwanted outcome with a simple technical solution.
Forms shouldn’t resemble exams
The forms on your website should be as simple and to the point as possible. Don’t force your visitors to fill in countless fields with irrelevant information in order to proceed to an action. You don’t need to know your potential guests’ interests, and you don’t need any personal information not strictly necessary for the booking. In short, make the booking and all other processes as fast and straightforward as possible.
Distractions are never welcome
How many times have you visited a website and exited in seconds because of the irritating music that started playing? How many times have you been annoyed by a pop-up that’s interfering with what you’re trying to do, and mad about having to spend precious time finding the “No thanks” button? Many times, I bet. So why would you do that to your website visitors? Don’t distract your potential guest, and don’t annoy them. If you push too much, your bounce rate increases.
Professionalism and relevance are musts
Both your visuals and your text have to be professional and relevant. The photos you use to seduce potential guests should be high quality and truthful. The descriptions and the overall information about what you offer should be eloquent and accurate. Don’t deceive website visitors and don’t have irrelevant information. Everything has to be honest, concise, descriptive, expertly crafted, and nicely laid out.
Put yourself the travellers’ shoes
Pretend you’re a potential guest and visit your website. Would you understand in seconds what the unique selling point is? Would you want to explore other pages? Are the visuals attractive but not annoying? Is the text readable and succinct? Are the rates clearly defined? Would you proceed to a booking—and not have to spend hours completing it? Give your website a thorough testing to make sure it has the best UX possible.
Your ultimate point of reference should always be your guest’s (current or potential) experience. You need to align your goal of securing more bookings with your website visitors’ goal of learning about your offerings (and hopefully making a booking) quickly and easily. Employ the most modern and up-to-date technologies to create the simplest and most enjoyable user experience. Your website should be built as if by the world’s most brilliant and experienced techies, but should be accessible to even the least experienced Internet users on the planet. The above tips will take you in this direction, but be sure to constantly test and optimise your web presence in order to lower your bounce rates and, consequently, maximise your conversions.
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