8 Common Mistakes Hotel Website Designers Still Make in 2013

Designing or redesigning a hotel’s website is a rather straightforward process. There is plenty of research about what travelers are looking for on hotel websites, but somehow bad hotel websites still get to see the light of day.

And while some may argue that you can’t be up-to-date with all modern trends in website design, some of these mistakes are easy to spot and avoid.

Don’t have time to read the whole article? Jump to the end of the article for a quick to-do list.


1. Website is not Mobile-Friendly

A Bad Mobile Website is the #1 Deterrent to Booking Travel on a Phone

Remember how in the late ’90s people started talking about how the Internet is the next big thing? Well, mobile is not the next big thing, because it is already happening, so you better board this train as soon as possible. Mobile web evolves extremely quickly, don’t get left out on the sidelines.

According to recent research, 51% of business travelers use mobile devices to get travel information, more than double the rate of two years ago.


2. Splash Pages

What is a splash page?

Splash screen (or splash page) is a front page of a web-site that doesn’t provide the actual content, but offers visitors some kind of intuition or background information for what the site is about.

On hotel websites, splash pages usually contain the logo of the hotel and the option to open the website in a language of choice. This extra step doesn’t add value to most visitors of a hotel’s website, but rather steals some precious seconds of the visitor’s attention. Consider the fact that a good part of visitors will leave a website in the first 3-5 seconds from opening the first page.
Instead of having a useless splash page that steals visitors and search engine ranking potential, consider developing a beautiful, efficient homepage (landing page).

To read more about splash pages, consider this great article on SmashingMagazine: Splash Pages: Do We Really Need Them?

3. Navigation or Photo Gallery Using Flash

Even though it is rare nowadays to see a website designed completely in Flash, there are still too many websites using Flash for certain parts, such as navigation or a photo gallery.

As a hotel owner it is in your best interest to make it easier for visitors to save(download) the photos of your hotel. Yes, you heard me right: you have to make it as easy as possible. Why you ask?
Consider the tens, hundreds and thousands of OTA’s and business directories thinking about adding your hotel to their directory. For this they need your contact information, room rates and as many high-resolution photos as possible.

If your photos are displayed via a Flash script/slideshow/plugin, then visitors will not be able to easily download and use your photos on their website. Your loss for missing out on potential partners and free leads (and links).

4. Background Music or Video

This is probably the thing I hate the most on websites: music or video that starts playing automatically when the website is open. While you may think that this exudes style and demonstrates your great taste in music, for visitors this is incredibly annoying and will lead to a lost visitor.

The average traveler will research up to 10 hotels before making a reservation, so he will probably have at least 5 open websites at the same time. The website that has background music will most likely get closed first. Is this what you want?

5. No Hotel Photos on Homepage

There is a saying that sums up this point:

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Instead of making visitors read a page about how great your hotel is, save their time and instead add a couple of large photos with your hotel’s best selling points. Try to avoid generic, stock photos and invest in professional, high-quality photography.

6. No Contact Information

This is probably the most obvious mistake on this list. There is no point in having a website if a potential client can’t quickly find your e-mail, telephone or address. You will miss out on many direct bookings because of this, as some of your clients will end up booking via third-party OTA websites, resulting in decrease of revenue.

7. No Map with Directions

Having a map with directions to your hotel is mandatory. Take a few minutes and embed a Google Maps map with your hotel marked on it directly on your website. Last-minute travelers will appreciate this the most.

8. Over Optimization for Search Engines

The race for first place in search engine result pages can blindside many hotel website owners. Don’t lose track of the most important aspect in search engine optimization: your website has to be easy and intuitive to visitors. If you start stuffing targeted keywords into every sentence, your copy will become a joke. It is frustrating and offensive to visitors to make them read copy written specifically for search engines. In the long run you can get a penalty for over optimization, as well as alienate your potential customers.

Summary / Key Points

  • Don’t use Splash Pages unless you really, really have to;
  • Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly;
  • Don’t use Flash for navigation or photos, or better yet don’t use it at all;
  • If you have video or background music on your website that plays automatically on visit – get rid of them asap;
  • Less text, more visuals: make sure that you have a couple of good photos on your homepage;
  • Contact information should go on top of the page and in the footer, make it easy to find;
  • Add a map with directions, or at least embed a map with your hotel marked on it;
  • Don’t go crazy when doing on-page SEO: think visitors first – search engines second.

Sources and References

5 Replies to “8 Common Mistakes Hotel Website Designers Still Make in 2013”

  1. DJAurand

    If you’re recomending against using Flash at all, what technology do you recomend that can display 360° Virtual Tours?

  2. John

    “Consider the tens, hundreds and thousands of OTA’s and business directories thinking about adding your hotel to their directory. For this they need your contact information, room rates and as many high-resolution photos as possible.”
    As a hotelier I do not want OTAs to freely take my images and name; they must contact me first as many (if not most) use your hotel images & name as key search words to attract booking enquiries to their site but then inform the potential client that your “hotel is full” and re direct the business to the select hotels they have contracts with.

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