Your website is the best tool you have to increase direct bookings. And you don’t have to be a huge chain hotel or an OTA to build a great site. Just keep these 14 UX design trends in mind while creating (or revamping) your site experience, and you’ll be in the running for best hotel website in no time!
These 14 user-experience ideas will make for the best hotel website:
1. Include a clearly visible booking window.
Make it as easy as possible for a prospect to book a room once they visit your website. The booking window or button should be clearly visible no matter which page a site visitor is on. Now, it should not be a nuisance. A window that keeps popping up while someone is trying to read about a room’s amenities is annoying. Keep your sales funnel in mind while designing your site by making the conversion process as smooth as possible.
Experts say that the best hotel website booking windows are scroll-based pop-ups that are triggered once the site visitor has reached at least 25% of the initial page. The visitor has already proved that they’re engaged by spending the 1-3 minutes on your website before scrolling. Which means they’re more interested (and more likely to book) than someone who quickly clicked on and off the site.
You can also add an exit pop-up with a special offer (like a booking discount or promotional upgrade) to grab their attention one last time before they go.
2. Add 3D room and venue tools.
High quality photos are an absolute must but so are other tools like interactive floor plans for event planners and 360 VR videos of rooms for guests. It helps site visitors visualize themselves in the space and, if it comes down to your hotel or a rival one, they’ll feel like they can trust you more because they’ve already seen everything they needed to on your website.
This type of content can be used for your social media profiles and review site or third party profiles too! For example, if you add a 360 tour to your Google My Business profile, the search engine will (supposedly) give you a boost of up to 85% in search rankings.
3. Make it easy for customers to compare.
Sites like Expedia are successful because they make it as easy as possible for travelers to compare different rooms, amenities, and prices. Do the same on your website. Include sections that show visuals, prices, features (i.e. bed size, smoking/non-smoking) for different rooms along with pricing. This way, it becomes a choice between something at your hotel and something else at your hotel as opposed to a choice between your hotel and another hotel.
If you’re not sure what information to include on your chart, the most common line items include: a clear photo, the name of the suite or room, the price, an individual room rating (which you can acquire through guest surveys if you haven’t already), and a 2-4 sentence description.
Also, you should add a “Book Now” CTA button for each package or room somewhere in each column, either directly underneath the name or at the bottom of the list. Or both! Here are some extra tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of your CTA button.
4. Optimize your payment form.
First of all, use your own payment gateway, when possible, as long as its secure. Redirecting your guests to another site is interruptive to your hotel’s site design. You also risk undermining the credibility of your hotel. Redirections tend to make people nervous. After setting up your own gateway, limit the amount of information you collect via the payment form. Gather the bare minimum you need to reserve the room and receive payment. Don’t frustrate guests with a ridiculously detailed form. And, ensure that guests receive a prompt email confirmation, so they are confident the booking went through.
In 2019, eCommerce sites are finding that single page checkout screens are your best bet for reducing site abandonment at this stage of the funnel. Keep your design simple, limit your word count to the bare minimum, and don’t ask more form questions than you absolutely have to.
5. Include large, high-resolution photographs and avoid cluttered text.
Visitors should be able to instantly imagine what it’s like to stay at your hotel. Guests want to see every nook and cranny of your hotel. Include photos of the entire room, the bathroom, the lobby, shared areas, the courtyard, and more. If they might use it, show it.
Additionally, avoid overwhelming site visitors with a cluttered page whether it’s due to text or images. If your hotel site’s UX design is stressful, it leaves a poor impression of how a person would feel at your hotel in person. That said, images slow down load times. Online users are impatient. If a page loads slowly, they’ll click away from it. Since you can’t ditch high-res images, prioritize optimizing your site so that it loads quickly.
In addition to compressing images (here are some great free tools), you can boost page speed simply by changing a couple settings. First, enable browser caching (here are the instructions to follow if you have a WordPress site). You should see almost immediate improvements.
Next, delete any website plug-ins you no longer use – they’re eating up valuable bandwidth space. Not sure how to tell if it’s still useful or if it’s just too slow? If you see it on this list, go ahead and update it with the suggested replacement.
This is just a sample of all the things you can do. But the suggestions above are easy enough that even the least tech savvy person could implement them. Afterwards, you may find that your hotel website is loading faster than ever, even without anything extra!
6. Use hero images.
A hero image is a photo that’s prominently displayed on the first page of your site. Some sites use a static image while others use a slider. This photo (or photos) should be the most impressive shots of your hotel. Incorporate text to give the photos some context so the visitor can immediately imagine themselves in your space.
Also, add a CTA button to your hero image. Hotels who use this website strategy typically put a room search bar with a date and occupancy number selection, followed by a prompt to start the search.
And, like with most website design elements, it’s good to do a little A/B testing. So compare and contrast the results you get by using the same CTA but two different images over a set amount of time before you make your final selection. This handy checklist will walk you through the process if you’ve never done it before.
7. Include unique but precise typography.
Consider adding a unique touch to your hotel’s website with a one-of-a-kind font. Remember biases around fonts. For instance, people view Comic Sans as unprofessional, so even if you have a personal affinity for it, it’s best to avoid that font.
Furthermore, look for fonts that don’t sacrifice clarity for coolness. Use one that’s easy to read. The same goes for the color of the font in relation to the background. It goes without saying that you should not have pale yellow text on a white background.
When choosing the right font, it’s important to consider how each option affects our emotions as well as sales conversions (see these great retail website font and color examples). Yes, it has to look beautiful, but it’s also a very powerful tool for communication and persuasion, so choose wisely.
8. Emphasize any price match or promotional deals with full screen popups.
People who search for hotels online often wonder which is the cheapest hotel booking site because they’re looking for the best possible price. Which means that hotels with competitive pricing should make it known. Whether you have a seasonal group booking package or a flash sale for 10% off suites, you can quickly and effectively communicate this unique selling point to the site visitor via a full screen popup.
Because it takes over the entire window, users will definitely pay attention and read the text. Even if they quickly click out of it, they’ll have that information in mind as they browse the rest of the website. If you’d like to continue to promote the original full screen message, you can easily do so by adding a smaller, more concise version of the pop up to your sidebar. Then, give it a little extra flair by setting it to scroll when the visitor scrolls. So it’s intrusive the first time they see it but passive the rest of the time they are on the site.
When you design your popup, try adding a time limit to the offer with a countdown clock. Thirty minutes is long enough for them to gather more information but short enough that they’ll be forced to make a decision soon. Also, you can use your pop up to display some fast facts that will help them make a booking decision on the spot, even if they never make it to the main website. For example, a short list of where your hotel is located, 1-2 unique selling points, and a few highlighted amenities should do the trick.
Or, if a full screen popup at the beginning of a browser session isn’t your jam, you can always add it as an exit intent popup. Exit intent popups are triggered by a user attempting to switch tabs or close the page entirely. Experts say it’s a great tactic that has helped sales pages for a variety of industries increase conversations up to 25% without any additional effort.
9. Embed TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews onto your website.
Let your customers do the talking with referrals your site visitors can trust. In fact, research suggests that displaying unbiased reviews on your hotel website could increase sales conversions by as much as a whopping 270%. As an added bonus, there’s evidence that suggests embedding TripAdvisor reviews to your site might boost your rankings there as well.
And it’s super easy to add. Just use the TripAdvisor or Yelp widgets. There is one caveat – if your score on either of these platforms is less than 4 stars, skip this step. Instead, try pulling the best customer quotes from the reviews and adding them to your website before and after room selection options to instil confidence in the website visitor.
10. Optimize for mobile.
Your website functionality should rival the best hotel mobile app when users visit it on their phones or tablets. Which means that you’ll need to make sure your images look great across a variety of screen sizes (here’s a fantastic guide on the subject). You’ll also need to double check that fonts are sized correctly and appear in the intended areas because things tend to shift when translated to a smaller platform.
And you may find that your main menu (both across the header and in the drop down menu, if you have one) is too long. Luckily all you have to do is remove the items that aren’t high priority. A good rule of thumb is to keep menu items that fulfill your website’s main purpose; in this case, booking rooms. So for that goal, your best bet is to keep your booking page, search engine, and contact page linked to the mobile version of the menu and leave the rest for the desktop version.
Optimizing your hotel booking website design for mobile shouldn’t take too much time – most website builders like Wix and WordPress use responsive templates anyways. But if you’re starting from scratch, you can double check your work using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly test tool.
11. Simplify your drop down menu options.
Limiting options helps nudge users towards the next stage of the funnel: booking. As we already discussed, your mobile version of the site needs to have streamlined menus. But so does your desktop version. Although you have much more screen space to work with, not every element on your page needs to be listed.
Consider the point of each particular menu. Is it truly just for site navigation or do you want it to be another sales tool? If the second option sounds good to you, make sure to keep your list short (users should never have to scroll to view the whole thing) and limit the page options to just the ones that help users make their buying decision (room galleries, specials, and room availability searches should top that list; categories like special events and local history might distract them from booking and can live on the footer menu instead, unless these items are a major selling point for your unique customer base).
Here are some more great ways to optimize your website navigation while you’re at it.
12. Add a clickable email and phone number to your header.
This one is simple yet highly effective – 48.91% of global web traffic originates from mobile devices, so chances are pretty high that your site visitors will be searching on their phones anyways. Which means when they have a question, a special request, or a complex group booking inquiry, they can simply click the number or email to instantly be connected. The alternative (leaving your contact details on a sub page or in the footer) takes more time to locate. Which is why keeping it up top and center provides a better, frictionless site experience for the user.
And the good news is, you don’t need to add any fancy designs to make this effective. Some hotels might opt to turn a phone number or email into a CTA button (a great option for those who get more bookings through these routes anyways). But if you’d like to make these communication options available yet not highlighted, all you have to do is hyperlink the text and you’re good to go!
13. Add local SEO to meta descriptions.
Making your website findable is a key factor in UX design. After all, visitors can’t have a good user experience on your booking platform if they can’t even locate it! Make sure the keywords you add are geographic in nature. For example, add both the city and the state or combine it with another keyword (like dog friendly hotels in New York).
Which brings up another great consideration for SEO in your meta descriptions: search intent. Why do customers look for your hotel in the first place? You can pull reports from your CRM to find details like the percentage of business versus pleasure travelers as well as what amenities they used during their stay to help determine which local SEO keywords you would like to rank for. By the way, here’s a helpful guide to creating a meta description that hits the what, why, and how of every page on your site.
This tip doesn’t make a difference to your actual website design per say, but it does help create a first impression when it pops up in search results. And the words these searchers read might just help convince them to visit the site. So choose wisely!
14. Follow the F or Z layout pattern.
These two patterns represent the most common track a site visitor’s eyes will follow when they view and take in information on your hotel website. Both the F pattern and the Z pattern establish a visual hierarchy (aka the order in which guests interact with site elements). Visual hierarchy has other major components too (like color, alignment, and white space), but these layouts have the biggest impact on user experience because they guide the entire journey from entering to exiting the site.
For the F pattern, visitors read the first chunk of horizontal text (about 1/4th) before skimming down the rest of the page. In this case, your header plus your hero image, title, and call to action button located at the top of your homepage would represent nearly 75% of their site experience.
For the Z pattern, visitors read the top left to the top right. Then they go from the top right to bottom left then over to bottom right, just like the letter Z. On your website, this might include your header, the largest text or image in the center of the page, and the bottom of their current page view. So if your hotel website requires visitors to scroll, you’ll need to page attention to where certain elements get cut off on different screen sizes. And make sure you don’t save the best for last – if users never get past their initial Z pattern viewing of the site, chances are slim that they’ll stay and keep exploring. If you do choose this layout, make sure you put your main selling point in the center of the visible range and a CTA button or primary offer at the bottom right corner to prompt next steps.
Both patterns are effective, so choose what works best for your current design ideas or preferences.
Now You’re Ready to Drive More Bookings with User-Friendly Hotel Website UX!
Hoteliers understand physical hotel user-experience intuitively — that’s how they get guests to come back! But in order to get guests to arrive in the first place these days, you need to think about how they experience your hotel before they even arrive at it. This means thinking about your hotel’s digital user-friendliness to fuel hotel bookings. A clean, easy-to-use website equals a steady stream of customers. The opposite means driving them away.
Want to make sure you’re creating effective marketing for your hotel. Check out the free guide we put together below!