In a world where it seems every hotel has a website, maintaining some sort of online presence would appear to be a given. After all, not to do so means automatically excluding the possibility of attracting custom from those who will primarily search online for places to stay. However, there is more to this than just having a website. There are many sites created by businesses of all kinds that simply do not cut it. They fail to offer sufficient information, lack important services (like online booking), contain major defects such as bad spelling and poor photos – or no photos at all.
Other common failings include large chunks of text that have not been broken up into paragraphs and the use of garish colours. All these are clangers to be avoided, but another key issue is navigation. It must be easy to find information on the site, not just because it is there, but because it is immediately obvious where to look for it. A simple rule of thumb should be this: if any visitor has to look at the sitemap to see where something is, then the website has not been designed well enough. One of the simplest ways to do this is to have a sidebar containing a descending menu of information about the hotel. These details will be everything a potential guest would want to know; the address with a map location, the rooms on offer (with pictures), the catering facilities, other important aspects of the hotel (such as a bar, garden, gym or spa), the prices and, to be really helpful, email and telephone contact details. The front page should not be too crowded, and this can be achieved by having sub-navigation. For example, if one button says ‘rooms and rates’, clicking on it can then open up a menu with the different kinds of room available. Browsers can then click on each of these – or whichever takes their fancy – to find out more information and look at pictures.
Simplicity is the key
Some sites have too many buttons and icons to click on, many of which duplicate others. Also, it must be immediately obvious what each button or icon represents.
Avoid jargon and technical terminology
The key is to think: what would I want a hotel website to be like if I was looking for somewhere to stay? By applying the answer, and looking at existing hotel sites to see instances where it is done well (or badly), the answer should soon become clear.