It’s not just the words on your website that tell a story. Visual design also plays a huge role in how your hotel is perceived. In fact, first impressions of a website are 94% design related. But is your website’s design communicating the right kind of message?
As well as being visually engaging, your website design needs to accurately reflect your brand image. It needs to tell a story that helps visitors decide whether your hotel is their kind of place. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how specific design elements influence perception and shape opinion from the second visitors land on your homepage. With that in mind, here are five major themes to consider when designing your hotel’s website.
1. Brand Colors
While preference for color might seem subject to personal opinion, research has shown specific colors can influence emotion and impact consumer buying decisions. The use of color says a lot about your brand image.
The use of big and bold colors has become a much-used design trend, especially among youth-driven chains and budget brands. Hilton’s all-new brand, Tru, is the perfect example of how this style is much in vogue right now. Eye-popping images and text create a young and fresh feel, reflecting the bright decor that furnishes Tru by Hilton’s properties.
Aspirational brands attempting to create an upscale feel generally adopt more muted colors. For instance, Aleph Hotel Rome, uses a black, white, and beige palette that is simple yet classy. But to exude a true sense of quality, colors associated with wealth and luxury (such as purple, silver and gold) can help a hotel convey an image of unabashed luxury—something epitomized by Taj Hotels, as seen in their sites for Taj Campton Place and Taj Boston.
Typography might not seem like the biggest consideration in web design, but it can still subtly influence customer perception. The results of a study published in The New York Times showed that typography can impact levels of trust, influencing whether a sentence is taken as true or false.
Above all, the typeface you choose needs to be easily readable. Anything overly ornate or quirky may frustrate customers if it feels like an effort to read. Also, it’s important to avoid choosing an unusual typeface just to be different. Instead, start by thinking how you want your hotel to be perceived. How do you want customers to feel about your brand?
Both Ace Hotel and Graduate Oxford use Courier New (which imitates the output of a mechanical typewriter) to convey an urban, hipster vibe. In contrast, New York’s famous Waldorf Astoria uses Nobel Light, a stylish font evoking the art deco age, to portray a feeling of classic luxury.
Of course some typefaces are more distinctive than others, and you may prefer opting for something quite neutral. Ultimately, the best advice is to pick a typeface that aligns with your brand values without wasting too much time deliberating between subtle variations. More broadly, be sure to choose carefully between serif and sans-serif typefaces. Serif typefaces have distinct individual letters that are easier to read in print, but less suited to the web due to lower resolution levels. In contrast, sans-serif typefaces are more simple and minimalist in design—harder to read in print but optimal for online content.
Just remember to check how your typeface looks on mobile devices. If your hotel gets a significant amount of mobile traffic, fonts such as Open Sans and Droid Sans are both good options as they offer excellent legibility and translate well to a smaller screen.
Quality photos are one of the most important elements of any website, but particularly a hotel website. As well as having an informational context, images have the power to inspire and spark instant feelings of wanderlust. In fact, a study of first impressions on tourism websites found that first impressions were most heavily influenced by inspiration-related elements such as photos of stunning landscapes or well-heeled travelers enjoying a luxurious vacation.
When it comes to style and choice of photos, there are a number of key things to bear in mind. First, It’s worth having a number of photos that feature guests and staff (especially in social areas), adding situational context while making your hotel look welcoming and atmospheric. It’s also vital to include a broad range of images that showcase rooms, amenities and any destination highlights. This helps customers get a full sense of your property, saving them the hassle of having to browse elsewhere to get a clearer picture. (Not to mention how important it is to have good photos to submit to sites such as your Google Business Listing.)
Although showing a broad range of images is important, being selective with photos can also help promote certain unique selling points. For instance, the Pocono Manor in Pennsylvania features on its homepage a selection of idyllic countryside photos showcasing the best elements of a Pocono vacation: watching the autumn leaves turn, hiking through waterfalls, horseback riding, and golfing. Meanwhile, Row NYC, an urban hotel in the heart of Times Square, has punctuated its hotel website with punchy, colorful photos evoking the glamour and bustle of New york City.
4. Usability and user experience
While it’s great to have a visually engaging site, it’s next to useless if it doesn’t end up leading to a boost in bookings. That’s why user experience is something that demands major consideration during the design process. Essentially, a customer needs to like what they see, but they also need to find it easy to find the content they need with minimum fuss. However, modern web design often involves style overtaking substance, harming overall conversion rates.
Hard-to-find navigation definitely ranks as one of the big offenders. Positioning navigation tools in unconventional places can disorientate and frustrate users, while not having a prominent call to action can also be equally damaging. A desire for minimalism in modern design has also led a lot of websites using overly small or low-contrast text.
This style over substance approach can hinder user experience—and the issue only becomes exacerbated for mobile users. In the end, having an aesthetically beautiful site should never involve making sacrifices to usability that risk having a potentially negative impact on bookings.
The amount of content on a website can also have a dramatic impact on brand perception. A website crammed with images and text can feel cheap and give off an unprofessional vibe. Amid the clutter, it also becomes very hard for any single message to stand out. Studies in neuroscience have also shown that clutter can restrict a person’s ability to focus. So in an attempt to say everything about your hotel, you run the risk of not saying anything at all.
To ensure a clear message shines through, simplicity is the best way to go. In recent years, modern web design has seen a minimalist approach that relies on using lots of white space. Not only does this stripped-back feel look more professional, it also lets the most important content take center stage. A clutter-free site piques interest through incremental stages, inviting visitors to explore and navigate in an altogether more natural and fluid way.
Visual design should tell a story
When potential customers visit your website, impressions are formed fast. That’s why the visual design of your site has to have an immediate and meaningful impact. While the words on your website slowly tell a story, your choice of typeface, colors, images and overall layout of content all communicate something instant.
Combined, these visual elements subtly influence the way people feel about your hotel, a feeling that translates to something tangible and significant. After all, the perception customers have towards your hotel influences whether they explore your site or decide to head off elsewhere. While following the latest trends is important, what really matters is making sure the design of your site tells a story of your brand, inspiring customers and driving conversions.