Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the blog of the hospitality digital marketing company, buuteeq, prior to its acquisition by Booking.com in June 2014. The opinions expressed here are specific to buuteeq, though many of the technology insights remain relevant to customers and admirers of our new business, BookingSuite, a unit of Booking.com. Visit suite.booking.com for our latest thought leadership in the hospitality digital marketing space.
A fascinating new survey from eDigitalResearch reviewed the usability of 51 UK websites and came up with some interesting results. The top rated UK hospitality website was Booking.com, which looks like this:
The worst ranked site was Ryanair.com, which looks like this:
What can we say about these two? Are they similar? Kinda. They both have all the same parts (search, reservations, reviews, ads, news, etc.) but they also look drastically different. One is pleasing; the other is confusing. Why? It all boils down to what we call Information Architecture (IA).
IA can be summed up as “What users expect to find and where they expect to find it”. Internet browsers browse the Internet in similar and specific ways. That is, many of them look in the same place to find the same information. If you design a website with good IA, then your users will find what they want when they look for it, and they will have a good browsing experience. A good browsing experience equals higher sales. If your site has poor IA it produces a poor browsing experience, resulting in poorer sales.
This is why Ryanair.com performed so poorly compared to Booking.com. It has conflicting colors that strain the eyes, and the site is a jumble of links and tabs, buttons and ads. This is poor IA.
How does this apply to hoteliers? True, both sites mentioned above are not individual hotel websites, but hotels were also studied in the analysis and performed dismally. As tnooz.com summed it up:
“Among other findings from the survey, hotels as a group was the poorest performing sector. Their websites often lacked such basics as FAQs and their email customer service performed subpar.”
Just like all other websites, hotel websites must have good IA in order to perform well for their guests. This is where buuteeq comes in. We have spent years of research to understand how IA works on the web and the best way to implement it in a hotel website. What we produce is digital marketing for the web, mobile phones and social sites that has eye-catching color branding and great IA, giving guests what they want, where they expect to find it. An hotelier could spend $10,000 on a rich flash site that has lots of moving images and sparkly effects, but if a guest can’t find the reservation button, what good is it? Form is nice but function is essential. buuteeq marries them.
eDigitalresearch.com offered some best practices for hotel industry websites. The ones that specifically pertain to hotel websites are:
“First impressions: ‘Homepage needs to convey clear offer and encourage further search.’ The homepages of the low-scoring websites were ‘overwhelming and confusing.’”
“Email customer services: The contact method has to be easy and responses should be “prompt and professional.” For low-scoring websites, contact information was difficult to find and there was a lack of response to emails.”
“Telephone customer services: Consumers shouldn’t have to wait forever on the phone, and agents should be able to answer specific questions. Long wait times and difficulty in finding phone numbers characterized low-scoring websites.”
“Booking process: Websites should arm consumers with the ability to change their options before completing the booking and the process shouldn’t require human intervention on the part of the company. Low-scoring websites had booking processes that weren’t intuitive and often couldn’t be completed online.”
Compare booking.com and ryanair.com to these examples of buuteeq-powered hotel websites.