Some lessons learned from user testing hotel websites
To highlight how user-testing can be useful in finding opportunities to improve, three of the most popular sites in hospitality were submitted for a Peek User Testing program.
User-testing hotel web sites is a worthwhile task. This exercise looked at a hotel website, an OTA powerhouse and a metasearch giant – Hilton, Booking.com and Skyscanner.
These three are arguably best of breed in their respective fields, so what can be learned from the masters?
Hotel website – Hilton
Be flexible – include an option for those who are ‘flexible with dates’ on your site. Sometimes guests won’t have specific travel dates in mind and are hunting for a good deal; help them find one!
Avoid confusion – it is important not to confuse the user. In this example, the visitor wasn’t sure whether the popup displayed was from Hilton itself or a third party. It detracted from the booking process negatively, with the visitor commenting “it always makes me nervous when you get a popup…that you don’t know where it comes from”.
Include search by attraction – Hilton allows you to view hotels near attractions. For leisure guests this is a great feature as they’ll often know a few attractions that they’d like to visit in a particular location. For example, on the Hilton website you can search Eiffel Tower and it will show you Hilton brand hotels near the iconic Paris attraction.
OTA – Booking.com
Use attractive imagery – it may seem obvious, but only use your best imagery on your homepage. It’s a visitors first impression and in this example, the first image they saw instantly appealed to the visitor as it looked ‘relaxing’. Also give consideration to what the visitor wants to see and not necessarily just what you want to show them.
Powerful filtering – Booking.com allows you to filter by Price, Star Rating, Deal, Meals, Property Type, Review Score, Facility, Room Facility, District and Chain. Whilst some of these may not be applicable to your business, empowering the visitor to easily refine their search may well aid conversion.
Use notifications to catch the eye – The visitor is drawn to the Booking.com ‘notification’ at the top of the page. No accidents here, Booking.com has realised that we’ve become conditioned to notifications in little red boxes (think Facebook, your iPhone etc.). A clever idea, it draws the eye and entices the click
Metasearch – Skyscanner
Be instantly recognisable – The visitor was very quick to realise (in under 10 seconds) that this was “…a website where I can find a hotel”. The homepage states ‘Hotels, Apartments and Hostels’ – the purpose of the site is very clear. Quickly and clearly establish what you’re offering on your homepage to ensure your visitor isn’t confused.
No imagery above the fold – Skyscanner’s website (for hotels) doesn’t show any imagery above the fold. This may actually be a conscious decision to draw attention to their tool to ‘find hotel deals’. The visitor comments that “there’s a lot of white space” – again, this is a tactic often employed to ensure that attention is drawn to key calls-to-action on a page.
Consider localisation – The URL submitted to test was skyscanner.net/hotels.html. You could argue that perhaps Skyscanner could have redirected the US visitor to http://www.skyscanner.net/hotels.html?market=US automatically (using their IP address), but regardless, she found her way to the US pages. This is where it got clever, note how Skyscanner localises the navigation to read ‘car rental’ for the US market and ‘car hire’ for the UK market. The distinction between the two may seem a small semantic detail, but it clearly caused the visitor some confusion in this example. Where possible, tailor your content to the audience; consider different languages, terminology and browsing behaviours for international visitors.
It’s important to note that these are the results of a single user test, from a single visitor to the site. This obviously leads to subjective results but does not diminish the top-line takeaways highlighted above.
NB: This is an analysis by Sam Weston, editor at HotelSpeak.
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