Like most visual things in life, a website is very much a personal thing. That said, there are certain practical additions that are absolutely necessary to ensure you give yourself the best chance of getting the booking. Here are a few things that – if done well – can make a real difference.
Great images help your customers relate to your property. Start by identifying what customers like or love about your property and then try to capture that in images. These are so important it’s worth considering getting it done professionally. Another option is ask a friend. Most of us know someone who is a keen amateur photographer!
Much of taking a good photograph depends on the light or indeed the timing/season. For example, make a note if you really want to show a particular aspect of your property or area that is seasonal: it could be bluebells, a certain shrub in full flower or the autumn leaves in woodland nearby. Never underestimate the power of these images as they really speak to us on a deeper emotional level. Always label your images so it’s clear what you are showing and consider having gallery to make access to all your images easier.
Try to set your site out in a logical fashion: think about what process your customers will want to undergo and what process you want them to undergo. If you can marry these together you are on the right track. It might help to visualise the journey your customer will take from approaching through the exterior or grounds to finishing up inside. They will be interested in your rooms, your local area and what activities are on offer and ultimately they will want to know if you have any availability and for how much…then they’ll book.
Availability and rates are critical, essential to closing the deal, indeed so important that they must be easy to access from any page and in a very visible position (i.e. at the top left of the page). Don’t make your customers work to find the answers. Generally it is best to have them in the same place on every page. If this is followed by instant booking functionality, you allow your customers to book your property when they want to…..and that could be at 1.00am if they are in Australia! Do not underestimate the amount of business you are losing by not offering this. Make sure that whoever is providing this service for you is displaying the appropriate security messages that encourage trust.
Another good way to generate trust is through the use of customer reviews or awards. Reading other customers’ reviews is now considered a “normal” stage in the process of selecting a property to stay at. Make it easy for your customers to reference these and ideally have them on your own website to stop them “wandering” off. Keep your reviews current (update them at least monthly) and actively seek this feedback from guests (i.e. ask them at check out if they would mind receiving a feedback email?) Nobody tells it better than your customers and all feedback is “good” feedback; use it wisely and don’t waste it. I’m constantly amazed at how generous some customers are in their feedback, especially if they had relied on feedback themselves when selecting the property. Awards are also very useful. Though they are not always instantly recognisable to a global audience, they do demonstrate a genuine passion for your craft.
If you have any special offers, make sure these are highlighted and clearly described: they are a great way of differentiating your property and leading customers into the rates and availability process. Many customers are flexible with their dates and will adjust their dates to take advantage of an offer.
It’s never too late to learn and question what you have. A good way to get ideas is to just go out there and look at plenty of other sites; it is easy and free to do. Think about where your eye goes when you see a new page; why did it go there? There may have been a subtle difference in the colour of the text or a “cracking” little image/photograph. If you have a great photograph, why not place your search and availability tab right next to it, or use it subtly on every page as an informal “logo”?
The use of colour is always a very subjective topic. Try to maintain a theme so each page uses similar colours and shades. You do not have to use the whole pallet! Lots of white as a background is a good thing; it just makes it easier for your customers to read the text and therefore focus on the important bits. Remember customers do not have hours to browse through your website.
When it comes to text, keep it simple. Don’t use too many font sizes/types on the page as this can make it harder for your customer to read. Some suggest no more than 3 font sizes/types. The actual content/text should be representative of your property. Ensure your key features and selling points are clearly indicated and written in a way that appeals to your customers’ emotions and imagination.
Lastly, don’t take this too seriously! You are trying to achieve a sense of place, something that is representative of what your property has to offer. Everyone has their own ideas and views, many of which are just right for them. These are just some of the basics that should be thought provoking and even if they just lead you to deciding you have the right website then at least you have “tested” it.