I was recently brought on as Creative Director for a local Hotel here in my area, assisting in an entire brand overhaul of the company as well as location aesthetics, media creation, etc.
Being an industry I typically do not work in, I did a lot of brainstorming and research to insure the new brand was the best that it could be. Below are some important factors I’m applying while building the hotel’s new web identity.
Everyone knows you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we’re just not that forgiving when it comes to websites. If you want your property’s website to make a great first impression, here are a handful of the hottest design trends to consider for your website’s makeover.
With modern travelers seeking moments they can Instagram and tweet about, hotel Web content is shifting away from pages of descriptive text about property features and amenities, to conveying an experience, not just an overnight stay. The story your customers want to know is what a stay at your property is really like, from the morning coffee on the sun-drenched patio to stargazing from the hot tub after a day exploring local sights and activities (which are also part of the tale). On your website, the best way to immerse customers in the story of your property is through a range of media — photos, video, text, blog posts, and social media and review feeds, that blend together to form a cohesive narrative and recreate the experience of staying at your property. The Peninsula Hotels provides an inspiring example.
Using a variety of media on your website is not only a great way to immerse your customers in the story of your property, but it is also a great SEO technique; Google likes multimedia sites because users do. Just be careful that images and videos are not so large that they slow down your site. Long load times are detrimental to site ranking, not to mention the average user won’t wait more than three seconds (or six seconds on mobile) for pages or images to load.
Whatever your story is, keep it real. Don’t mislead your customers into thinking you’re something you’re not — that’s a sure fire way to disappoint guests and they’ll definitely tweet about that.
Along with the storytelling trend comes bountiful imagery. High-quality, relevantimages and video establish authenticity and help to strengthen your brand. One of the latest eye-catching trends is to use photos that go across the full width of the page, like those on the websites of the Bearfoot Inn and Maligne Rafting Adventures. Big, beautiful images immediately engage our emotions and evoke a sense of place. Inspire your customers to imagine themselves at your property by putting guests in the picture… If your property attracts vacationing families over summer, you could use images of kids splashing happily in the pool, and to appeal to your snowboarding clientele over winter, use pictures of them on the nearby slopes, or après-ski by the fire in your cozy lobby.
We’re also starting to see images as page backgrounds — a space that, until now, was largely underutilized. We really like how the Pender Harbour Resort does this.
Even responsive, HTML video can be embedded into page backgrounds now. Or videos can simply be embedded from YouTube, or included in a rotating carousel along with stunning photos. Recent research by Software Advice, a company that evaluates hotel management systems, revealed that 51 percent of leisure travelers and 69 percent of business travelers watch online travel videos. The research also shows exactly what travelers like to see in hotel videos, so we recommend having a read.
Long scrolling is a Web design trend that’s become popular across many different industries. The idea is that most content is displayed on a single page, accessed by scrolling up or down the page, as opposed to clicking through to subpages via multiple drop-down menus. Born of mobile Web browsing, in which scrolling is faster and more intuitive than clicking, long scrolling is an elegant technique and especially effective for storytelling. The citizenM New York Times Square website is a cool example.
However, it can be overdone. Too much information on a single page can make it difficult for search engines to index the site, negatively impacting SEO. To get around this, scrolling with pagination allows the user to enjoy a single-page experience, while multiple component pages serve the search bots. It gets very technical, but Google offers some helpful suggestions for making long scrolling pages search friendly. We think the Buffalo Ridge Resort takes a nice, balanced approach.
Responsive Web Design for Mobile First
We’ve always been advocates of responsive Web design, and we believe the trend toward it will continue to grow stronger. Google is a big fan too; they’ve been ranking responsive sites higher in mobile search results for a while now, and, late last year, the search engine giant rolled out its “mobile-friendly” label to help users identify mobile-friendly sites on mobile search engine results pages.
So while responsive design is more of a norm now, we think the new trend within responsive design is designing for mobile first. Up until now, responsive websites have typically been designed for desktop first, with the design adapting for smaller screens. Going forward, we’ll see responsive site design focused on mobile first, adapting to desktop screens. We’re seeing it on sites like Rawnet, with long scrolling, slide-out menus and an app-like feel on a desktop screen.
Finally, we can’t think about website design (and maintenance) without thinking about SEO. Search engine optimization is a fundamental component of Web design; after all, what’s the point in having a beautiful website if no-one can find it? Our recent post about SEO mistakes to avoid offers some helpful guidelines.