Hotels and accommodation providers understand that first impressions count. All the best businesses in this sector ensure that when a guest enters a lobby or room, they are greeted with a scene that makes them go 'wow.'
Understanding and appreciating the importance of this first impression is paramount to success in the industry. But what a number of these businesses don't appreciate is that actually, entering a hotel, hostel or other form of accommodation isn't their customers' first impression – it's their second. Most guests in 2016 will have already conducted extensive online research and it is a website that forms that all important first impression.
This is why ensuring a website is well-designed is so important; customers don't wait until they're at a hotel to form an opinion – they form it whilst browsing online. And if a website isn't up to scratch, then they probably won't be booking a room.
When it comes to designing a website, there are a number of important factors to take into account. Whether creating an entirely new site or redesigning an existing one, businesses need to consider aspects such as SEO, navigation, content, social media, mobile responsiveness, video, imagery and contact or booking options, among others.
Having a website that appears high in search engine rankings is dependent on if it is optimised properly. If a website appears high in SERPs, then that's already a great first impression for customers before they've even clicked on a link! Accommodation providers need to research what Google and other search engines deem important ranking factors and be sure to incorporate them in any website design.
Once a customer clicks on a site, they want to be able to find their way around it easily. Navigation needs to be simple and clear – if a customer is interested in local amenities, there should be an easily accessible tab; if they want to see images of the different rooms, there should be an album available to browse. Make key pages prominent and minimise the number of clicks needed to access information.
Social media / mobile responsiveness
Most people are active on social media, and the same is true of businesses. A website needs to include social media buttons (and similarly social media accounts need to include links to a website) in order to draw every online element of a business together. A website should also be made mobile responsive so that if a customer accesses it via a social feed on their smartphone, they receive the same service as a customer viewing the site on their desktop.
Content, video and imagery
Businesses also need to provide content that will grab visitors' attention and keep them browsing a site for longer. Interesting and insightful articles regarding destinations or travel tips are one option, but an introductory video is also a fantastic way of engaging customers from the off. Imagery is also key to the travel industry and should be shared and utilised to truly reflect a destination or service.
Contact / booking options
Finally, a website needs to include all relevant contact details and booking options for a business. If a customer likes what they see from the rest of the website, they'll want to book right away – so be sure to provide them with that exact offering.