What would the perfect hotel website look like?

(This question was thrown at us during a conference several years ago)

Website design for hotels is a hot topic of debate amongst the accommodation industry. (that and SEO....see 'Do the Work Not the Magic'), so we thought we would nail our colours to the mast on this subject;

We would argue that website design within hotels is quite frequently steered by marketing people, who may have spent much of the past and present designing brochures and flyers for the hotel and/or various marketing events. However the internet is a very different medium from print, customers expect instant gratification, ie They want to be able to get all the information they need within the magic 17 seconds that is often quoted as the average amount of time a viewer spends on a webpage. There is strong evidence that a casual viewer is looking for just 3 bits of information when it comes to hotels;
A. What is the hotel like (photography)
B. Location of the hotel (map)
C. Price of rooms (room rates)
The website that can serve up this information in the quicket manner possible is likely to be successful. So to answer our own question; In our view the perect website would look something like;

Perfect Hotel Website

Many of you might have realised that this is nothing other than a hotel listing from an OTA (Online Travel Agents), but we would argue that to a certain extent the OTA's have it just right, they know from carrying out multi million € analysis that users want to see very quickly;

A. What is the hotel like (photography)
B. Location of the hotel (map)
C. Price of rooms (room rates)

Even without access to this analysis, we see that more and more bookings are drifitng away from hotel websites towards the OTA's. Whilst there are mamy causes for this at least one is that they are giving web viewers exactky what they see in the shortest possible time.

Many years ago we were subject to a presentation from the then IT Director of Ryanair. He asked the audience to guess what his budget is for Web Design? Audience guesses ranged from 10 Million € to 50 Million €, in fact the answer was ZERO. This example is not entirely true but it serves to highlight the difference between pure look and feel (check the ryanair.com website, its clear very little is spent on design) and functionality ie what the website actually does for the viewer.

This distinction between look and feel and functionlity matters because hotels have finite resources in terms of time and money, 80% of which we often see spent on the 'look and feel' of the website. OTA's cannot or will not spend that much times in this area, instead they invest in features and functionality that better serves the customers needs........and as a consequence bookings continue to drift towards the OTA's.