Welcome to My Beautiful, Engaging, Conflagration of a Website

Your website is your main marketing and communications tools – though you wouldn’t deduce that from many of the hotel sites operating today. In this post, QUO Digital Director Brian Anderson offers his take on the state of user-experience (UX) design in hospitality, along with his vision of how hotels can make the most of their online opportunities.  

If you are in the marketing industry, you’ve probably heard of Marketoonist – Tom Fishburne’s brilliant and incisive cartoons on the joys and frustrations of our industry. Well, I spotted this one recently, and it rang a few bells. Have a look below. 

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A website should only have a few clearly defined, well-documented goals. This helps you, your team and your suppliers recognise your obligations, so everyone can concentrate on steering the design, content and on-page interactions toward fulfilling those goals. It brings focus to your marketing efforts and otherwise suppresses the sort of conflagration depicted above. 

Without well-reasoned, long-term objectives that directly relate to your business goals, your website can become a full-featured hazard to understanding and communication, overfull with every bell and whistle known to developers. This leads to high bounce rates and a perceived desperation to engage at all costs.

Your website may be beautiful and engaging – a showcase of stunning imagery, compelling copy and vibrant video. But without goals, and a plan on how to drive and measure actions and conversions toward them, its business value will always be limited. 

Some examples?

  • You have MICE page, but there is no contact form.
  • You want to drive subscriptions, but there’s no call to action, and the ‘subscribe’ field is tucked away in the footer.
  • F&B is a major revenue channel with high margins, but the main menu makes no mention of restaurants, bars or events.
  • You hope to drive direct bookings, but the booking mask is barely visible.
  • You hope to engage visitors, but an invasive booking mask is driving up the bounce rate.

Most hospitality websites suffer from this issue to some degree. Goals are vaguely articulated. Focus is fleeting. The website feels like just another brochure – a static presentation of information.

The reality is that your website is now your main marketing and communication tool. Don’t your flyers, leaflets and brochures reference your website? What about your business cards? Do your supporters and advocates share your URL? Far from an auxiliary messaging platform, your website has become the main focus for your brand, your business and – most importantly – your guests.

It’s an interactive medium, a vessel for cause and effect. That means we can orchestrate causes and benefit from their effects. Any productive discussion about your website will be borne out of this basic mindset.

  • What is the purpose of the site?
  • Who is it for?
  • What do we want them to do?
  • How can we benefit from their actions?

It’s important that we look beyond those ever-present direct bookings for even more impactful ways we can leverage the brand engagement made possible through the website.

Tom Fishburne’s cartoon shows what happens when our online strategy lacks structure and discipline. We end up trying everything – online chat, exit modals, floating booking masks, best-rate guarantee popups, social-sharing CTAs, subscription modals, onsite cross-marketing messages and on and on. We’re essentially competing with ourselves for our site visitors’ attention. And that attention is finite.

What if we changed the way we considered each website visit and framed it in terms of the hotel guest journey instead?

  • Branded welcome: personalised to each visitor as it would be to a guest
  • Property overview: a simple introduction to help guests get coordinated
  • Considerate concierge: easy access to answers and information
  • Front desk: advice and guidance only a click away

This simple metaphor doubles as a powerful means of rationalising your web strategy. There’s no need for a site to throw everything at visitors all at once just to see what sticks. Instead, each element is in its place, and there’s a place for everything – at the right time.

A well-thought-out strategy – founded on clear goals and aided by a skilled UX designer – creates a simple and effective web experience that engages users instead of confusing or driving them away.