Top 12 Hotel website Features you can’t skip
When it comes to hotel website designs, the variations can be astounding. From wild flash animations to slow-loading videos and overly convoluted templates – some of them look nice but do they actually promote more direct bookings? The answer is: probably not! It’s important that you don’t let aesthetics outweigh usability when designing your website. Make sure your design allows guests a simple yet attractive experience so that they can easily find what they need and quickly make their reservations.
Table of contents
- A well-designed hotel website is critical to your success
- How will you go about building your hotel website?
- Let’s go through each one of these one by one
- What other hotel website features are nice to have?
- Final Thoughts
A well-designed hotel website is critical to your success
To drive direct bookings, it is imperative to have a website that offers equal parts aesthetics and efficiency. OTA commission fees range from 15-30%, so an independent site allows you to keep more of the profits for yourself! Fortunately, this isn’t difficult to achieve – with just a few strategic steps you can launch your own functional yet beautiful booking platform.
Unfortunately, “Build it and they will come,” only worked in Field of dreams. Building your hotel website will not guarantee people discover it; and even if they do visit, there is still no certainty that they’ll book a room with you directly.
But, how do you entice them to visit your website and stick around long enough to make a direct booking? It doesn’t always mean that more flashy designs will attract the attention of potential customers. The hotel websites I’ve included below demonstrate that sometimes less is actually more! So let’s take a look at some examples and see what great design looks like.
How will you go about building your hotel website?
From the beginning, you need to decide if you want to tackle it yourself or hire someone.
Most of the time, hiring someone is ideal but if you’re looking to save money, you can definitely give the DIY route a try. Many people opt for creating their own hotel website due to budget constraints; however, there could be other motives as well. Whatever your reason is, make sure you’ve got the time and patience to do it right if you opt out of professional help.
Although we don’t intend to discourage hoteliers from developing a valuable new skill, getting down into the details can be time-consuming and intimidating.
Although website builders today are powerful and simple, they have their shortcomings. As we delve into the most significant necessities for a successful hotel website, you will realize that taking the DIY approach may not be in your best interest when it comes to time efficiency and resources. Sure, using platforms such as Squarespace or Wix lets one create an attractive site on their own; however there is much more required to build a truly effective presence online.
Even the most tech-savvy hotelier can spend countless hours, if not days, tinkering with HTML and attempting to get all of the features they need. But why put yourself through that headache? Instead, hire a professional who will save you time and energy!
Not sure what features to request? Unsure of which details your developer should include from the beginning? Well, don’t stress, we’ll help you and will help distinguish between must-haves and “nice to have’s.”
Here’s our ‘must-have’ list
- Responsive design
- Excellent photography
- Prioritize Speed
- Direct booking engine
- Lead capture
- Social Pages
- Content (both useful AND relevant)
- SEO (technical and on-going)
- Blog (not a must-have but we recommend)
- Live chat (very nice to have)
Let’s go through each one of these one by one
Essential features for any hotel website — these are a must-have!
1. Responsive Design
It is no longer acceptable for hotels to have websites that are not optimized for mobile. In fact, research indicates that the majority of customers rely on numerous devices when researching, planning and booking their vacations. Making sure your hotel website has a user-friendly interface across all devices will ensure you don’t miss out on any potential business opportunities!
But what does it mean to have “responsive” design?
Responsive design is a revolutionary approach to web design that enables your website to automatically adjust and fit any device or screen size, delivering an optimal viewing experience for every user.
Are you reading this article on your phone?
If you take a look around Phrasing, you’ll discover that the navigation is concise and tucked away behind an easy-to-use menu bar at the bottom. Additionally, no more pinching or zooming in on small text – thanks to its size being adapted for any device!
Or are you on desktop?
To experience the awesomeness of responsive design, just hover your cursor over the left edge of your screen. You’ll be greeted with an arrow symbol (←→) on it—just click and drag that browser to the right side. As soon as you do so, voila! The page content will automatically adjust to suit the new browser size. Pretty sweet, huh? This is what we call ‘responsive design’ in web-development terms; a crucial aspect of user experience that must feature prominently on any hotel website today.
2. Don’t Slack on Photography
When it comes to designing a hotel website, high-quality images are non-negotiable. Customers want to know what they’re getting for their money – and the best way is by giving them an up-close look at your facility via photography. While investing in professional quality photos might be expensive upfront, the return on investment will ultimately make it worth every penny spent! Don’t forget that you can use these visuals across more than just your website; so when making decisions about budgeting, remember how important great imagery is for marketing purposes as well.
When requesting your budget for photos, point out that it covers not just the imagery itself but also third-party listings and GDS (Global Distribution System). Whether you’re launching a new hotel or recently completed renovation efforts, never underestimate the value of taking another peek at your photographs.
Here’s your short list of must-have photos:
- Front Exterior – Choose your best angle and be sure to test different lighting conditions during the day, at dusk or sunset, and after dark.
- Hotel Lobby – with and without staff and guests
- Rooms – Make sure to get every room style you offer, and capture all important amenities, and don’t leave the bathroom out!
- Meeting Rooms – get a few photos of then set up for different styles of conferences.
- Weddings & Events – If weddings and social events are a chief component of your business, compelling imagery is essential. Styled shots usually make the greatest impression here. To capture these visuals, you could consider investing in models for an individual photo shoot or reach out to previous clients who can provide images taken from their wedding at your venue – plus it’s cost effective too!
- Dining – To really capture your restaurant’s essence, strive to get some wide-angle hero shots of all the F&B outlets as well as beautiful images of your standard menu items. Additionally, you may want to take a captivating image for in-room dining that will make people interested!
- Spa -If you are the proud owner of a spa, take some amazing pictures and snap several detailed images of your massage area, beauty treatments or sauna for extra impact. Capturing these hero shots will set you apart from other competition and make it easy for customers to see what makes your spa unique!
- Pool – If you have access to amenities like a pool or beach, capturing aerial shots of them with a drone will make for some truly incredible images!
When it comes to hotel photography, the more variety the better. Guests want to be able to envision themselves staying in your hotel! To ensure that this happens, make sure you have allocated enough money for professional photographs of your venue. You should obtain some “hero” shots of all areas within and around your property at a minimum level but strive to acquire additional lifestyle images as well as detail shots if possible.
HOTEL WEBSITE DESIGN EXAMPLE: Arizona Grand Resort & Spa
The Classic Hotel Group has absolutely nailed their hotel website design, including this example from Arizona Grand Resort in Scottsdale.
Awesome job by their photographer for capturing their “hero” shot at sunset and really highlighting the resort as a whole.
Did you know that beautiful images can wreak havoc on your website’s loading speed? This is especially true for the modern user whose attention span has decreased significantly. Don’t make them wait – aim to have your hotel webpages load in under 3 seconds! And remember, Google grades you on mobile-first indexing so you have to have a quick mobile load or the rest of it won’t matter.
To ensure a smooth and speedy process, aim to limit the number of plugins and page redirects. If your hotel portal is based on WordPress (many are!), chances are that your developer has already added several “plugins” in the backend. Plugins can be advantageous for sites — think Yoast for SEO or Akismet against spam – but it’s best not to go overboard with too many!
Page redirection is an effective way to adjust the URL of a page, but it’s essential that this action be done sparingly. Too many redirects can cause problems and should be avoided.
Video and images are usually the primary culprits for a slow loading website, particularly in hotels. If you have to include video on your site but can’t reduce its file size, host it elsewhere like YouTube or Vimeo. This will help speed up load times for visitors so that they don’t become frustrated and leave before seeing all of your amazing offerings!
To ensure the images you upload are of optimal size, follow these tips:
For the best quality, save photos as JPG files and graphics/logos as PNG with a dpi resolution of either 72 or 92 for web use. Printouts may need to be around 300dpi so make sure you pin down which type of file format is used in printing. Any large images should not exceed 1 MB while full-screen background pictures need to have 2000 pixels width at least.
Even though it’s not the most exciting of topics, page load speed is undeniably important. We’re an instant gratification society; when a website takes too long to load, customers are discouraged from booking directly with you. That being said, poor loading times have implications for your SEO as well – Google will goo in their search results rankings accordingly.
There are a few free ways to check your site’s speed
4. Direct Booking Engine
Remember: A hotel website should be designed to attract direct bookings! To make this happen, it’s essential that the site features a secure and PCI-compliant booking engine that is connected with your property management system (PMS). By integrating these two systems together, you can ensure an effortless user experience for guests who are actively seeking comfortable accommodation.
As your website visitors navigate through it, that “Book Now” button should remain visible at all times – preferably locked into position either on the top or bottom of their screens.
Don’t be fooled by the notion that there is a particular “magical” color you must use for your call-to-action buttons; as long as it stands out and complements the colors of your brand, any hue will do. Additionally, when picking an online booking system for your website make sure to go with one which looks cohesive within its design. Seek out a hotel reservation engine featuring a sleek, snappy layout!
Your goal should be to keep your visitors engaged ON your site, not simply clicking the “Book Now” button and arriving at a different page. Your revenue management team will thank you for this!
HOTEL WEBSITE DESIGN EXAMPLE: Swan and Dolphin
The Swan and Dolphin may be on Disney property but it isn’t a Disney hotel so they know they need to work hard to keep their guests on their site.
Notice how their “Book Now” button is always visible at the top of the page with a contrasting color. Although it would be ideal if their booking engine was integrated rather than opening in a new window, it’s not the end of the world.
5. Lead Capture
Your hotel website’s primary mission is to drive direct bookings, but conversions don’t just stop there. There are other revenue streams and goals that you need to take into consideration too – from gathering inquiries about meetings and events to restaurant reservations.
Be sure your hotel website is easy to navigate for meeting planners and potential wedding bookers. Let them quickly submit a Request For Proposal (RFP) with ease by clearly displaying where they can do so on the homepage. Doing this will not only drive more prospects directly into your inbox, it will also increase site visits and help you build an email list of leads which allows you direct communication possibilities with customers in the future!
And Just to be blunt, “Subscribe to our newsletter” ain’t gonna cut it!
Move on from those old-school methods that gives people hives and makes them run from your site. Let’s be honest, who panics when they see “subscribe to my newsetter” when it isn’t an educational or information website!? (We know we do!) Create something that your customers will find useful and/or valuable, then ask them for their email address as a trade-off. There are myriad approaches when it comes to creating an enticing hotel lead magnet; it all depends on who you’re trying to appeal to.
7. Consistent Branding
When travelers utilize OTA’s for booking, they experience a sense of security and assurance. Booking.com and Expedia have earned this trust from their customers by providing an effortless reservation process. To remain competitive in the industry, hotels must establish a reliable brand identity that can be trusted by potential clients when browsing online – as visual elements (your branding) are often what will convince them to use your services instead of those provided through third-party websites.
Establishing your brand identity extends to even the URL of your website. Would you feel comfortable entering your credit card details on a site like thisisagreathotel75.freewebsite.com? Absolutely not! It’s important for businesses to ensure their online presence is both professional and secure in order to build trust with customers.
Hotel branding is not just an opportunity to stand out from the competition, but it also helps you understand what your customer personas are drawn to. For example, if you have a luxury-focused hotel targeting global executives with premium amenities at competitive prices, then sleek and minimalistic branding coupled with sophisticated copywriting is likely necessary for optimal success. This will create an elevated tone of voice that resonates best with this demographic.
If you are looking to appeal to a younger, more daring demographic of travelers, consider adding vibrant pops of color, fun design features and conversational copy into your marketing materials.
You will aim to attract the right customer for your hotel and consistent branding is key to doing that.
8. Social Proof
One of the most effective ways hotels can create a sense of trust among their guests is through social proof. Social proof, simply put, involves people copying the actions of others to influence what behavior they take in any given situation. In other words – people are more likely to trust something when it’s been recommended by someone else! With such powerful benefits and easy implementation, adding social proof elements on hotel websites will help foster feelings of reliability and assurance among potential customers.
According to TrustYou, 96% of customers consider reviews a crucial factor when searching for accommodations. This is why it’s key to feature genuine testimonies from past hotel visitors on your website. The most successful hotels choose third-party sources like TripAdvisor and Google to display real customer feedback that can be trusted by viewers.
And let’s not forget the importance of social media in 2023.
Whether you have an individual staff member dedicated to all things social or take advantage of tools like MediaConnect360, Hootsuite or Buffer – you can’t avoid social media for your hotels in 2023.
9. Useful, Relevant Content
For your hotel website to truly be competitive, two criteria must be met: relevance and usefulness. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need a landing page for each amenity you offer. Remember that OTA’s only have one page dedicated to your business, yet it still generates impressive conversion rates! What OTAs do well is selecting what they consider “useful and relevant” content about hotels—their listing consists of a general overview, room types with specs, reservation policies. Plus point form list of amenities. These simple elements are all that’s needed for optimal results!
The opportunity you have with a hotel website is to tell your story better.
So yes, stick to the most important stuff — but do make it compelling!
Your content must answer any and all questions your guests may have. If they cannot find what they’re looking for, you risk them searching elsewhere- or worse – becoming frustrated and leaving altogether. Make sure that the answers to their queries are easily accessible so they don’t go back to the search engines to find what they’re looking for.
Guests often want to know, how many beds, is there a hairdryer, a refrigerator, a microwave. How far are you from the airport, do you offer shuttle service. If it’s a question your front desks often gets asked, make sure that answer is on your FAQ page.
10. Analytics and goal tracking
There are a few basic technical things every hotel website needs to have on the back-end.
Analytics is a step hoteliers can’t afford to skip. They will provide powerful insights to how your website is performing and how your guests are interacting on your website. Your web designer will definitely know what to do but if you’re going the DIY route, here are a few quick tutorials to adding your own analytics.
Google Analytics is an outstanding free tool to measure and monitor the performance of your hotel website. By signing up for a Google Account, you’ll gain access to powerful insights in minutes–all it takes is copy/pasting a few lines of code into your site’s Header.
Adding a Facebook pixel follows similar steps.
By incorporating a Facebook Pixel on your hotel website, you are opening up an entire world of possibilities for powerful ad campaigns. You can now target customers based on their activities taken directly from your site – such as viewing particular pages, submitting RFPs or dropping out of the booking process. Take advantage and start creating highly effective advertisements today!
If you have the necessary requirements (which you should!), ensure that your visitors are aware of and give their consent to cookie usage. You know, those annoying pop-ups or bars that appear on almost every website? Well, unfortunately, they’re here to stay! No matter how much we all wish there were delicious treats instead – but alas, not that kind of cookie.
Don’t Forget About SEO
Whether you crafted your website with Squarespace or have a totally custom design, some components of SEO are necessary to include. Search engine optimization is mainly dependent on the content posted; take #9 and #10 from this list as an example. Even though most SEO efforts occur “behind the scenes”, there’s still work that must be done!
Make sure your content management system (CMS) has the following critical fields
- Page URL or “Slug” (the part that comes after your domain. For example, awesomehotel.com/specific-page-url)
- Page Title (The name of the page featuring the main keyword of the page)
- Meta Description (Google will use the on the SERPs)
Quick tip – if your website is built on WordPress, one of the most popular SEO plug-ins is Yoast.
Although Yoast isn’t a one-stop SEO solution, it provides the essential fields and prompts users to check off all optimization steps. It’s like having an inbuilt SEO checklist right within your website’s back end!
What other hotel website features are nice to have?
11. A blog
For hotels, blogging can be an extremely effective method of content innovation. The majority of global chain brands have stringent requirements when it comes to whether their hotel will possess a blog due to the need for high standards across numerous properties. However, if you are part of an independent business or developing a small-scale website by yourself, we would highly suggest incorporating a blog! Not all hotels may meet the criteria needed but having one could potentially strengthen your presence and visibility on the web.
Blogging is very, very good for SEO.
Blogging provides a platform for hotels to compose compelling, longer-form content that travelers are seeking in their online booking experience. Additionally, it can help elevate your website’s domain authority—an important ranking factor when competing for the most coveted hotel keywords. We highly encourage hotels to use blogging as an instrumental resource for detailing the unique features of their destination.
Looking for something to do near your place? Want to know where the best places to eat and drink are, or how you can travel with kids during a pandemic? Well, blogging is an excellent way of helping guests discover all these great things–not only that but it can also be used for business-to-business purposes. Guide potential meetings planners on what’s current by creating content about latest trends in hospitality!
One of the best benefits to blogging is answering those “People also ask” questions and gaining a coveted spot in the Special Content Result Blocks!
12. Live Chat
Having clearly listed contact details on your website is a great trust-builder, but you may want to also think about incorporating another feature: live chat. Messenger is the simplest way to do this and can help create an even more positive user experience.
AI-powered chat box is also an option to keep in mind.
After a brief setup, chatbots can provide quick and efficient customer service by responding to common inquiries, executing simple tasks such as fulfilling housekeeping requests or handling customer complaints, and even offering suggestions of local attractions.
One thing to keep in mind: Be aware of how these chat boxes may effect your website’s speed. (See #3 above.)
Live chat is an excellent addition to have, but it’s not a necessity. Before you decide on adding live chat to your site, test the page speed both with and without the feature. If there is any difference in loading time or lack of use for this service, take it off and no one will be worse off because of it!
These first ten features are your “must-have” elements for a successful hotel website. Of course, including a blog and live chat may be beneficial in some cases, but they don’t always have to be included. Going up against OTA’s can be daunting but will a well built website and a strong focus on technical SEO and relevant content, your hotel website absolutely has a chance at taking up some real estate on the SERPs.