Build a beautiful, user-friendly website
Luckily, these days there’s no excuse for not having a beautiful website. However, there’s no point having a beautiful website if it doesn’t work on phones and mobile devices, it doesn’t load quickly or is full of technical issues and bugs. According to Google, the average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to new analysis. Yet 53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Digital expert Josh Rowe adds: “Have a good, simple site that works on mobile. Squarespace templates are responsive and work perfectly on mobile, tablets or desktops. Make it easy to find your phone number on the site and then make the phone number tappable from a smartphone. The amount of times I see a phone number that’s actually an image, and I’m expected to remember it to make the call – it’s really frustrating. It’s that type of thing that becomes a frustration point. There’s no excuse these days for not having a good, functioning site – it’s almost free to have a good site. There’s a large amount of really bad, worse than second rate sites. Even someone with almost none-to- average skills could go on Squarespace and build a pretty good site, pretty quickly just with the basic information they need.”
Until recently, a small-to-medium accommodation business would have had to invest thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, into building a beautiful, simple and easy-to-use website. However now, with tools such as squarespace.com, wix.com and wordpress.com you can quite literally have a desktop, mobile and tablet optimised website built within days (if not hours). And all without any web design or coding experience.
Google’s senior product director Rohit Dhawan adds: “Flash built websites don’t convert well. They tend to break easily during the customer journey and some of the gadgets get in the way of a guest trying to make a reservation. Instead, work out the key things you want your user to get out of your website. They’ll want to look at great pictures, read reviews, the description about your destination and be able to book. The more upfront and centre you have this as a call-to- action, the better.”
Most good web-building software will offer templates that have already considered the accommodation industry such as calendar booking features and ecommerce functionality (ability to accept international credit cards).
Step 1: Make a plan
Clearly, the main objective for your website is to acquire bookings. Therefore, everything else should be secondary and booking accommodation should be the easiest and simplest thing your guests can do on your site. In doing so, your value proposition should be the first thing they read. You need to tell potential guests why they should book with you and not your competition.
Keep the messaging, design, layout, and call-to-action as simple and clear as possible.
Secondary information on the site should only be there to aid your guest with information and create a desire to book their accommodation. Other than a ‘contact us’ page, if it does none of the above it should not be on your website. Too often, websites bombard you with irrelevant content and cluttered design, which makes me immediately look elsewhere.
Here’s a useful checklist in no particular order, to help plan your website:
BOOKING Number one priority, so make it easy to find.
CONTACT The second most important functionality to provide is to make it very clear and easy to get in contact with you. Provide as many channels as you can manage (i.e. phone, email, and social). Consider live chat with a messenger functionality for immediate responses.
ABOUT Keep this honest and interesting. You could include the history of the place, talk about the owners, the location, what makes it special and unique. You may wish to mention and introduce key staff here.
ACCOMMODATION Showcase all the different types of guest rooms with the best photography possible. Include beds, bathroom, seating areas, furnishings and outdoor areas.
EVENTS Include any upcoming events you are hosting – i.e. exhibitions, parties.
CORPORATE EVENTS Especially if your focus is business guests, include information about any conferences and relevant events.
MEETINGS Showcase your boardroom, meeting rooms and business-focused facilities and features.
OFFERS List all the types of offers and packages you have. These can exist on your home page too.
DINING & ENTERTAINMENT Include all necessary information, menus and beautiful photography of the venues, food and drinks. It might be a good idea to mention the chef also.
EXPERIENCES What do you offer that sets you apart from your competition? Include activities, services, games, entertainment, spa treatments, tours, recipes from the restaurant, and any other attractions.
GIFT CARDS You may wish to offer gift cards and vouchers for purchase to be redeemed as accommodation, dining and experiences.
GALLERY Remember to achieve the best possible photography for your gallery.
AWARDS & PRESS Be proud of all your hard work. Here’s your chance to show off a little with any accolades and achievements you’ve been awarded.
LOCATION Show a clear map and provide simple directions on how to find you from the airport, train and bus stations, whether by taxi or driving.
LOCAL INFORMATION Share important and relevant information about your location. This may include key attractions, customs, weather reports, culture, currency converters and events.
Step 2: Buy your domain name (if you haven’t already)
If you’re using a web design software tool (such as Squarespace or Wix) it’s simple and fast to purchase your domain through them. Alternatively there are any number of domain name and hosting companies (101 Domains, GoDaddy, and many others).
Buying the domain name that’s the best for your business can actually be quite difficult and daunting, especially when you start searching and find that most of the ‘good ones’ are no longer available. Usually, a .com URL is recommended. However, this is becoming less important as time goes on and all global extensions are becoming more recognised and commonly used.
Consider putting your location or biggest feature in the domain name. This will lower the chance of someone else having the name and also increase your Google ranking if someone was to search for your area or feature. Also, make sure you are the registered owner of the site (not your web or marketing agency for example).
Step 3: Choose a website builder app or web designer (if you haven’t already)
As for which one is best, I’ll let you decide that by testing them online (most offer a 14-day free trial). For simplicity and flexibility we prefer Squarespace for it’s beautifully designed templates, easy to use functionality and plugins that link to my accounting software or ecommerce functionality. But other web builders may be more more appropraite for your business.
If you'd like to build or update your site get in touch with No Vacancy Creative.