Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
What is it about lodgings websites? Be they for B&Bs, Motels or Hotels, a huge percentage of the websites run by these folks in the hospitality industry are really missing the mark when it comes to presenting their business in a welcoming, professional way.
As you know, we make it a policy at Solas Web Design not to point fingers and humiliate website owners, so don’t expect links to ugly websites in this article. Rather, I’m going to speak in general terms here, and if you are the owner of a Bed and Breakfast, a motel or hotel, I hope this post will be truly useful to you as it comes from someone who is both an industry insider and outsider!
Our Web Design firm’s experience with the Hospitality Industry
This is the simple part. My husband and I like nothing more than to pick a pretty spot in the neighboring regions where we can get in some good birdwatching, hiking and picnicking, and turn our drive into an overnight stay so that we have the pleasures of a two-day outing to explore the environs at our leisure. So, we’ve taken lodgings at a number of hotels, motels and B&Bs in our corner of the world.
We’ve learned the difference between a nice place an an awful one; between a clean room and an icky one; between friendly proprietors and weirdos! These are the hands-on experiences one can only have once one has actually chosen a place to stay for the night. But before that, we use the Internet to browse our choices for lodgings in the area we’re planning to visit.
This is what has lead us to the realization that the majority of businesses in the hospitality industry, are still not getting it that the presentation of their lodings on-line is going to have everything to do with whether a web user decides to book a reservation or not. This is such a shame, as the web is an absolute boon to those hospitality businesses that do get it!
Our experience in this area has recently been enriched by the opportunity to redesign a website for a very nice litle motel on Cape Cod, Massachusetts – The Big Fisherman. This motel has been run for many years by a father-daughter team and the charm of what they offer is a family-friendly environment, lots of privacy and clean, comfortable lodgings. It is, in point of fact, the kind of place my husband and I would choose to stay. Our goal with the website was to bring across that clean, bright, beachfront feeling, with a strong emphasis on the simplicity and lack of clutter a visitor to Cape Cod can expect to find in staying at an easy-going place like The Big Fisherman Motel. If you hop over to the website we created, you will see that we have gone for a very minimal, slightly nautical approach with lots of great text information and light…and no clutter!
We think this website says – Expect clean rooms, a soft bed, peace and quite and friendly but unobtrusive hospitality here.
But what if we had made this website a dull maroon color, with neon blue text, flashing images and no navigation menu? Take a moment to envision that in your mind. What a different feeling this would create in any person visiting this website…and what a different, strong impression it would give them of the experience the are likely to have at this motel.
6 Big Mistakes Hospitality Websites Make
I want to preface this by saying that 2 main paths lead to awful websites. The first is the homemade site. Not a nice homemade website that may be a little funky, but is still very useful and somewhat professional-looking. But, rather, a homemade website that goes from being a single page with a few words on it to becoming like a refrigerator door, clutterered with magnets, papers, stickers and what have you. The second path is the ‘professional’ website designed by the EXPENSIVE web design company that sells the owner on the coolness of an all-Flash website. These are as bad, if not worse than the do-it-yourself sites. Let’s explore the 6 big mistakes we see being made by Hospitality sites across the U.S.
1) Lack of consistency in the visual design
Oh, look, one page has a background of seashells, the next is lime green, the next has cats, the next has trees, the next is purple. Blech! This is an error committed mostly by the homemade hospitality website. The owner wrongly assumes that visitors will be entertained by all of the cool backgrounds they’ve found – a different one for each page of the website. Instead, the visitor ends up not being sure if they are still on the same website when they go to a new page. They are lost in a maze of weird graphics, inconsistent fonts and rainbow colors.
2) Lack of Navigation
3) The Flash Site
This is the one that really gets us. If you’ve ever looked for a place to stay, chances are, you’ve encountered one of these beauties where you get to sit on the homepage for 3 minutes waiting for a graphic of a seahorse to load, prior to being shown anything on the website that is of importance to you. Oh, you never saw the seahorse? That’s right..you clicked off the website and went elsewhere once you were informed to ‘please wait while we load our graphics’. Yes, you clicked off…and so does everyone else! Worst of all, the owner of this website probably paid thousands and thousands of $$$ to have this animated monster build for them and the result is a site that annoys potential guests and is completely blank to search engines. Yes..Flash graphics read as blanks to the folks at Google, so these types of sites have just missed out on their chance to rank well for lodgings in their area. Bad move, very bad.
The purpose of a hospitality industry website is to present pertinent information about lodgings, costs, policies and location. It isn’t to entertain people. And frankly, even if the point was to entertain people, Flash graphics are a bore. I’d be more entertained by photo of a polar bear in a snowstorm on the homepage than I would by a slow-loading, completely pointless animation. People want information fast on the web, and search engines want static images and static text. You can create an inviting, professional website with judicious use of both elements.
4) Ignoring that colors create moods
Having now stayed in several lodgings that were incredibly musty, mustiness is one of the things I now fear most about a potential hotel, motel or B&B. Mold and dust make me seriously sick, and I have been completely floored by the total lack of attention to cleanliness paid by some lodgings owners. My second day of my outing is really wrecked if I’ve spent the night awake, holding my nose and groaning to my husband. So, when we look at a prospective lodging on the web, I scan hard to see if the place to stay looks bright and clean.
As a web designer, I know that color goes a long way toward conveying this. There are 3 colors that immediately convey mustiness to me…maroon, navy and dirt brown. Ugh. Unfortunately, people in the hospitality business often mistakenly think these colors are elegant, and so weight down their website design with them that the presentation feels as heavy as a lead weight and looks about as inviting as a Medieval dungeon. I don’t want to feel dragged down and dismal in the lodging I choose. I want to feel cozy and comfortable. It doesn’t matter whether you facility offers oriental rugs, claw foot tubs and four poster beds, or rag rugs and white wicker furniture – don’t make your guests think you are running a dark, dreary place.
Cream is an incredibly elegant color and the right shade of it translates well to the web. Yellow makes a cheery note. Pale blues feel nautical and fresh. Peach can be warm and welcoming without making the jump to blood red which feels scary. Earthy tea greens are calming and light use of lavenders give a quaint impression. You can find a color palette that communicates class, taste and charm without bogging the website down. And remember…white space is very, very important in any design.
5) But WHERE are you???
It seems obvious, but lodgings websites really do need to provide maps, directions, phone numbers and addresses for their guests. Don’t forget this. I have even seen websites that boast of keeping their location details private until you make a reservation. Come on…what’s actually good about that? It makes me feel like I’d be going to stay at some scary house in the woods and no one would know where I am…uh-oh. This is not a tactic that strikes me as welcoming, and sorry, but if I don’t know where the motel/hotel is located, how can I decide if it’s in the neighborhood I wish to reside during the length of my vacation? If I’m going someplace to visit a state park, I’d like to find a place that’s close by to sleep, but if you won’t tell me where you are, I can’t consider staying with you. Make your phone number, at least, available on each page, and include the full address of your lodgings in the footer of all pages of your website, at the very least. With Google’s local search becoming vital to businesses in the hospitality arena, making a plain text statement about exaclty where you are can result in Google bringing you up at the top of relevant searches in both the main SERPs and in their maps section.
6) Lack of care for my comfort, as a guest
What if I’m handicapped? Have you explained whether you have handicapped access? What if I’m a vegetarian and your run a B&B…do you have anything besides eggs for breakfast? Can I bring my dog? Can I smoke? Do you clean your rooms with heavy perfumes and chemicals that will make me go into an auto-immune coma, or have you become sensitive enough to this to begin using natural cleaning products? Do you have kitchens in your rooms? Do they have pots and pans in them? These are just some of the questions that can be answered both on individual room pages or a great FAQ page. Go the extra mile to really inform potential guests about what they can expect from you.
If you currently have an on-line presence for your lodgings, it may be that you recognize some mistakes in this short list above that your website is making. If your present web designer is a flake and can only be reached once in a blue moon, hire someone else. The Internet has made your website the real first welcome your guests receive. I can’t overstate the importance of this.
If you are webmastering your own website, but the demands of your business simply don’t make it realisitic for you to devote the time to keeping your site current, professional and inviting, hire someone. It isn’t at all odd that a motel owner would have a schedule that is just too full of caring for guests to leave time to be a webmaster on top of that. Delegate this responsibility to a pro whose job it is to take care of websites.
If you run a hospitality business, but have yet to develop a website for your hotel, motel or bed-and-breakfast, there’s no time like the present. Right now, there is still opportunity for you to make the most of the tremendous potentials the Internet offers to businesses like yours. The web has become the medium of choice through which people now look for lodings. Put your business where it can be seen, and do this right the first time by hiring a pro who will develop a website that represents your style, your brand, and your unique lodgings in a way you can feel proud of.
My husband and I have come across dozens of hospitality sites that we would just love to get our hands on for a redesign! Just as we’ve done with The Big Fisherman, our aim will always be to look at any website we would build in this industry from 3 unique perspectives – the owner’s, the guest’s, and the search engines’. By covering these three bases, you can present yourself in a way that will have visitors booking stays with you with eagerness and lively anticipation of enjoying themselves in your establishment.
Want help today to get your sterling quality hospitality website on the map? Send Solas Web Design a note for a quote on the design or redesign of your hospitality site.