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Common UX mistakes you might be making on your hotel website

Is your website losing bookings by making some common user experience mistakes? Plenty of seemingly modern hotel websites have subtle flaws that might not be obvious at first glance, but consistently end up hurting conversion rates.

Clunky navigation, a poorly optimized call-to-action button, and slow loading times can all have a negative impact on booking revenue. In the following post, we’ll point out 7 common UX mistakes that your hotel website might be making.

1. Hamburger menus on desktop websites

Hamburger menus, “hidden” menus represented by three dashes in the corner of a website, have become popular recently for their generally clean and aesthetically pleasing look over traditional navigation. This has been especially great for mobile sites, where screen space is limited.

But how about on desktop sites? Although hamburger menus may look slick on such sites, it can actually end up being bad for business. One study found that using a normal navigation bar resulted in users finding a Contact page 42% faster than with a hamburger menu! Quite a few other usability studies have found similar results.

Hamburger menu example on desktop
Hamburger menus are great for mobile sites, but not necessarily for desktop sites.

When it comes to e-commerce, speed and convenience are of the essence—you don’t want your users having to guess where to click next. With plenty of screen room, your desktop site should be optimized to ensure users can find things easily. A horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page should suffice.

2. Not putting the 3 most popular pages first on your navigation

Speaking of good navigation, it’s important that hotels list their most popular pages first. On most hotel websites, data shows that the first three pages that people visit (after the homepage) are “Rooms,” “Special Offers,” and “Gallery”—and usually in that order.

To make these pages super-easy to find, make sure they’re always clearly visible in your website’s navigation bar, listed in priority from left to right (in languages that read left to right). If users are forced to search for the content they’re most interested in, you could quickly lose their interest and a potential booking in the process.

3. Booking button not sticky

No matter how far down the page your users scroll, they should always be able to see your primary call-to-action (CTA), which for most hotels is the booking or reservations button. There’s always a lot of talk about whether a CTA should be positioned above or below the fold, but the simple fact is that keeping it visible at all times removes any risk of it getting missed.

Example of a sticky booking button

Beyond page position, there are a few other ways you can increase the effectiveness of your CTA. For instance, don’t make the color of your booking button the same as the rest of your page, otherwise it’ll potentially get lost in the background. Surrounding your button with space on all sides will also help it stand out from your other content.

To further capture attention, make sure the text of your CTA is at least subhead-size, and make any supporting body copy around the CTA bold or larger than normal.

4. Inconsistent wording on calls to action

Having a consistent call-to-action is crucial to driving conversions. Your audience needs to be crystal clear about the next step you want them to take. But too often, hotels use different wording in different instances on the CTA.

For example, if a potential guest sees “Book Now” on one button, then “Reserve” or “Learn More” on another, your CTA will feel disjointed and diluted. But if you repeat the exact same terminology, you’ll reinforce the action you want your audience to take and make them more likely to click.

The language you choose should also match your brand. Luxury properties tend to use “Reserve” while a lot of other hotels often use “Book Now.” Whichever you decide to go with is mostly a matter of personal preference, but in the end, the most important thing is that you choose one version and stick with it throughout the site.

5. A slow-loading gallery page

People want to see photos—and lots of them! Images are what sell the property, and it’s why the gallery is one of the most visited pages on a hotel website. So if there’s one way to kill conversions, it’s making this page slow to load.

What frequent issues lead to a slow-loading gallery? From a technical perspective, photos that are too big and not optimized for the web is a common one. And while lazy loading (where content doesn’t appear until you reach the end of the page) is great for text-heavy blogs, it can be far too slow for images.

Most people will also want to look at specific areas of your hotel rather than scrolling through an entire gallery. To help them search more easily, arrange your images into categories such as “Interior,” “Exterior,” “Rooms,” and “Location.”

Example of sorted hotel photo gallery

As a general point, it’s worth noting that almost 50% of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. And they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. Our dedicated post on loading speeds offers a range of tools you can use to check and improve the speed of your own hotel website.

6. Low resolution or out-of-proportion photos

With wide, full-screen hero images now de rigueur for many websites, hotels may find that the photos they’ve been using for years are no longer suitable.

As a rule, photos should be at least 1920×1080 pixels to accommodate large screens. If you’re not sure about the size of your images, send the biggest files you have from your photographer (always ask for the high resolution ones!) to your web agency. They can then reduce the images to the proper size to maximize for quality and load time.

In particular, it pays to avoid using distorted photos. A hotel imagery study by Expedia found that distorted images received the most negative feedback from test subjects. Photos that were either poorly lit, or taken with a fisheye or telephoto lens, were also regarded as suspicious, and indicative of the hotel trying to “hide something.”

7. Content isn’t cross-pollinated across your website

It’s important to think of your website as offering a continuous experience rather than isolated pages of content. All areas of your site should naturally lead to one another, encouraging users to continue exploring or clicking.

So for example, your “Rooms” page could have a carousel of special offers at the bottom. Or a room photo in your gallery page could link to a room description page. Or a blog post could showcase a special offer. The opportunities are endless, so don’t let your content live in silos!

The website of River’s Edge Hotel in Portland, OR nicely showcases this kind of flowing style. Every page on the site has a natural link to another section. For example, the Hotel page ends with a carousel of the Rooms pages, the Rooms page ends with a showcase of Special Offers, and the Offers page also links back over to the Rooms. The result is an altogether more cohesive and satisfying online experience.

Avoid the conversion killers

Today, travelers have countless choices when it comes to booking accommodation. A website with poor usability will rarely be tolerated, and even small UX mistakes can send potential guests running to book on the OTA site instead (or even worse, another hotel).

By avoiding the UX mistakes outlined above, you’ll provide a more streamlined, engaging, and intuitive browsing experience that makes life easy for potential guests to browse and book directly on your hotel website.

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Senior Marketing Director at Pegasus and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at nancy.huang@pegs.com.

One thought on “Common UX mistakes you might be making on your hotel website

  1. 1. Hamburgers should be avoided not only on desktop, but on mobiles as well (Pernice, Kara; Budiu, Raluca (2016) Hamburger menus and hidden navigation hurt UX metrics: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/hamburger-menus/).

    3. The problem with sticky page headers is that too many users hate them viscerally (For example, readers’ comments to a positive article “Sticky menus are quicker to navigate” {http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/09/11/sticky-menus-are-quicker-to-navigate/} display a lot of negative emotions: “For me most pages with sticky navigation is exactly distracting and intrusive”, “I absolutely dread sticky menus”, “I HATE HATE HATE sticky navs”, “The fastest way to get me, an average user, to leave a webpage is to have “sticky” elements of any kind” (see comments 16, 29, 34, 66, 76, 81, 91, 94, 96, 97, 99, 101, 104, 109, 110).

    4. Wrong. It is absolutely correct to use “View rooms” on the homepage, “View room details” on the list of room options, “Book this room” on the room description page, and “Confirm your booking” on the room booking page. CTAs should differ depending on the position of user in the booking process.

    6. Photos should be large enough but not too large: 1920*1080 is an obvious overkill. See Hotels.com and Expedia.com for appropriate image sizes.

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