Living in a popular seaside town/city by the sea, I was curious to have a look at the websites of some of the small to medium hotels, B&B’s and guest houses of Brighton and Hove to see what they were like. It’s a mixed bunch, some that were never good, some that are dating badly, many that are moderate and a few that are quite contemporary and stylish (typically belonging to boutique hotels).
An attractive well-designed website with compelling content is essential for hotels these days. More and more customers expect to be able to book their hotel accommodation online and it’s a must that your website meets the expectations of your customers. The majority of guests will judge your hotel on their first impressions of your website, discovered through search engines. This is great if your hotel has a good website but not so great if your website is outdated or poorly designed.
This article focuses on hotels in Brighton, on the south coast of England, a popular, historic and bustling seaside town with plenty of attractions, good nightlife, and a wide range of restaurants. The South Downs National Park, an area of whale-backed hills, is on its doorstep. People come to the town for weekend breaks or a few nights away, conferences, stag and hen do’s, business, and it’s a big winner with the pink pound. There are a lot of hotels in the town, ranging from the basic to the boutique. Whilst many of the latter have put considerable effort to develop attractive elegant websites, many hotels
have outdated or poorly designed sites and seem to overlook the importance of their website. Of course, not every hotel will want a boutique look – the website must attract your target customers – but it’s important that every hotel has a good look and feel that will entice bookings.
The Marina House Hotel and George IV Guesthouse (update: website appears to be no more) offer two of the better designed websites, but in general, the quality of sites is low.
What makes a successful hotel website?
The content of your site should be a balance between attractive imagery and concise descriptive content. This applies throughout your site, but most importantly, make sure your homepage lives up to this. Information about the hotel should be succinct and relevant, and should highlight what makes your hotel special. Start by describing its location, the convenience of the location and what nearby attractions there are. Bear in mind that most people will not want to read too much but will want to know the essentials with options to delve deeper.
Good use of Photos
A picture paints a thousand words and first impressions count. Hotels are at an advantage over many businesses because there is much more photographic potential in showing off a hotel and its location than there is in a firm of lawyers or accountants. There’s lots of potential – front page slideshows, galleries and background image or graphics – can all be used to good effect, with options for photos of hotel facades, rooms, grounds, facilities and the local area. Photos should be professional and optimised for the web to load quickly.
Look and Feel
Your website’s look and feel should fit in with the image and style of your hotel. Colour schemes, graphics, font and font sizes matter. A boutique hotel may be looking for a very stylish look, modern and polished whereas a more regular hotel, make go for a simpler classic look.
Ease of use
Navigation should be clear and simple. Getting around the website should be intuitive so visitors can find the information they need easily, check location, contact details, availability and make smooth bookings. Pages and photos should load quickly.
Simple and effective booking engine
A good booking engine which integrates well, in terms of functionality and look, into your website is essential. Irritated customers often do not stick around if the booking process proves to be anything other than straightforward. In terms of look, can it be customised to match the look and feel of your site? There are many options out there to help achieve this such as Eviivo, The Booking Button and Guestlink. In my next post, I look in greater detail at booking systems and software.
The site works across devices
Does the website look good and function well on an ipad, a mobile and a Kindle as well as a desktop PC or laptop? A website that does is known as a responsive website. This is becoming more and more important as people access the internet on an ever-changing variety of devices but still expect good functionality and a good look. Many sites look too small on today’s wide PC or laptop screens but do not work well on smaller screens either.
Promoting the hotel through Twitter and Facebook and integrating social media into your site can be an effective way to promote and attract reservations, but only if you devote proper time to it. A minimum is to have a Facebook Like button! A reviews facility either via Trip Advisor, another channel or on your own site is increasingly expected by customers, whilst a blog will enable you to provide regular updates on what’s happening at your hotel or in the area.
A Room with a View, Blanch Hotel and Sea Breeze are sites designed using WordPress, a platform that enables website owners to update and edit content across their site themselves, which is really useful if you want to keep your content fresh without having to liaise with a web designer. WordPress websites can also feature a blog facility so you can post all your latest news easily.
Overall, you’ll need to find the right balance between written content, images, style and functionality that suits your hotel and its customers. In a competitive market place, having a well-designed and easy to use website can really boost bookings and help you stand out from the crowd.