What’s it going to take to light up the “No Vacancy” sign on a consistent basis? Hotels face an ever-rising tide of competition.

For one, the sharing economy is a highly tech-savvy trend attempting to lure travelers purely through online innovation. Hotels need to fight back. But how?

Your website is a great place to start—it’s where you first show you are truly hospitable to the traveler’s needs. A website is a perfect place to distinguish yourself.

When it comes down to it, your website is a place to drive conversions. This means functionality, performance, and user experience are big factors for hotel site design.

The online booking numbers are too high to ignore. According to Statistic Brain, travelers make 57% of reservations online.

Of the 148.3 million bookings each year, brand websites are the source for 65% of them. In terms of performance, according to Zerolag, 79% of users will not come back if they don’t like the way an ecommerce site performs.

Users want to be able to find rooms and vacancy information easily, and they want to get through the booking process as quickly as possible.

Your website’s design is like a hallway. Visitors will walk down the hallway if they like being there, but they won’t go through the correct door if it’s not easy for them to do so.

Responsive Design  

Being responsive is akin to recognizing the specific visitor and making accommodations for them.

A website with responsive design adjusts automatically to a device’s screen size. To get your website to do this, you build the site on a grid-based layout with frameworks such Foundation and Bootstrap.

Design elements such as font size should first be highly legible on a small mobile device. With design elements, it’s easier to scale up in screen size than down.

You can create your own sets of font icons, like the Facebook and Twitter symbols, with Fontello or the Icomoon Online App.

Images are an extremely important element. The grid layout ensures they maintain their dimensions and remain where they should on the screen when a potential customer looks at your site from any device.

Because of the formatting, responsive design enables sites to load faster across all devices, including smartphones. This is essential because people make 65% of same day bookings from smartphones.

Visual clarity and quality

With the visual content on your website, you want to engage the viewer but make sure they’re not overwhelmed or distracted. Images must reflect on who you are and what you do.

For instance, on Glacier Park’s website, the first thing you see is a sprawling photo:


Included with this image is an offer. Immediately the user knows what type of environment they’ll be in. There’s not a lot of text or iconography, or any other images to distract.

The image fades into another picturesque scene. Any graphics and text here don’t take away from the main image—they tell the user this a lodging business, and leave room for the image’s appeal.

On the other side of the spectrum, Starwood’s site has a cluttered homepage with visual content that’s not particularly unique or arresting:


The visual doesn’t make the brand stand out, and the page feels cold.

There’s a ton of text here and a crowded feel; it’s as if the designer tried to squeeze as much as they could into a single panel in the middle of the page.

This is a website without responsive design—on responsive sites, the content covers the entire page instead of leaving blank space on the sides.

Clear call to action and easy navigation

The user needs to be able to easily locate where to click so they can start booking a room.

Make sure your call to action—whether it’s book now, find rooms and rates, etc—is clearly visible above the fold on each page of your site (the fold is where the page cuts off and users have to scroll down to see the rest of the page).

Users also need to be able to easily get around your site. The Grove Hotel’s site has a simple and elegant menu setup:


In order to book a room, the user can simply click “book now” or enter the date on which they’ll arrive.

Options for getting around the site are clearly displayed at the top of the page, and navigation doesn’t get in the way of appearance.

When I click on the “More” option, I get additional page options that would have cluttered the page with too much text if they weren’t in a dropdown bar.

Leoneck Hotel in Zurich’s site provides a fairly humorous example of what not to do:


There’s no call to action, and the navigation menu is off in the right hand corner where no one will look until they’ve already noticed just how strange the visual content is.

It has to tell me to “Please follow the arrows”, but when my navigation options are already so limited, why do I need any additional instruction?

Make sure your navigation menu and call to action are located in the same noticeable place on every page of your website.

Make sure social media buttons are on the sidebar or footer of each page, too.

Informative, helpful content  

Users want content that’s keyed in to your hotel’s location. Whether it’s blog posts to guide them to local attractions, or interactive maps, the more useful your content is, the better.

When thinking about design, or redesign, you can leave plenty of room on pages for helpful information.

Here is an example:


This information on how to get to a remotely located lodge is below the fold. If the images, text, and calls to action above the fold hook the user, they will need this specialized info, including GPS coordinates, to get to the lodge.

The website makes sure the relevant information is readily available, instead of making the traveler call or find directions buried deep on the website.

Within your content, link to other helpful pages on your site. Use keywords you feel are important to your hotel.

This will help people find you with search engines. Since hotels have an integral tie to the local environment, you may want to consider long-tail keywords.

These are “more targeted search phrases with 3 or more words.” For example, if you’re in Orlando, you could consider “things to do in Orlando, Florida” or “biggest attractions in Orlando”. Then, you can tailor content accordingly.

Minimize distractions

Visitors will appreciate it if you put your content—your great photos, your interesting and relevant information—up front and center.

Provide a search field in the navigation menu, especially if there are a lot of sections and a ton of content on the website.

Here are some gigantic distractions to avoid:

  • Any sort of introductory, welcoming, foyer-type page—visitors want immediate access to your site—and a room
  • Auto-play content, such as video and audio—auto-play is annoying to visitors who are interested in viewing information; auto-play also makes for slower load times
  • Ads and pop-ups—too many ads, or a pop-up solicitation in the middle of the screen, distract from primary intent of your site: to convert visitors into guests by showing your hotel’s value

The more streamlined your website’s design is, the more quickly you’ll funnel visitors to booking.

Provide translation

Finally, make sure your website is translatable. People visiting from foreign destinations will appreciate this a great deal.

One way to do this is to head over to the Google Translate page and “Add your website now”. Google will walk you through the rest of the steps.    

Your brand

Think about who you are and what your hotel is all about. When your website clearly reflects who are, you’re heading in the right direction.

When you use strategic ways of communicating your brand identity to your audience through your website, you’ll succeed in converting your visitors into guests.


Author bio: Daniel Matthews is a Content Creator and musician from Boise, Idaho. He likes to write in the broad field of topics relating to business, including startups, entrepreneurs, social media, and marketing. He’s written for Social Media Today, YFS Magazine, and Triple Pundit. You can find him on Twitter.