We place a huge amount of importance on great and engaging User Experience (UX) Design, and we firmly believe that this makes the difference to our conversion rate. But what does UX mean?
UX Design Explained
UX stands for User Experience, and at its core, it's about designing software around the people that will use it. It's about understanding their mindsest and their needs, anticipating where they might make mistakes, and guiding them in the right direction.
This might seems obvious, but if you've ever used a piece of software that feels it was designed to trip you up, you'll know how it feels when companies focus on the technology, and forget about the people.
These days it's not enough to build technology that works. We need to build technologies that people want to use. Your hotel is not the only one that users can stay in, and your website is not the only one where they can book a room. People don't have the time or patience to learn to use a confusing booking engine, and if they find the user experience lacking, they will be on an OTA website in a heartbeat.
So What Can We Do?
So how do we harness UX to keep users booking on your website? The goal is to enable the user to achieve their objective - on our case booking a hotel room - in the best way possible. There are three main elements that play a role; those are Look, Feel and Usability. By focusing on these three elements, we can suceed in this goal - which is, converting a looker into a booker.
1) Get the Look Right
The Look is about the visual appeal of your website and booking engine. It's about your colours and your branding, and creating a consitency between your online platforms, your printed materials, your signage, and the experience of being in your hotel. We should never underestimate the power of visual appeal to establish trust in your user, and a research conducted by the Standford Credibility Project backs this up. In a study of over 2500 participants, nearly half assessed the credibility of websites based on their visual appeal.
We can see that it's important to put the time and effort into creating a highly polished and professional looking booking engine, customised to your hotel brand. Remember, you are asking users to enter their credit card details,, so trust is paramount. It's worth going the extra mile to make sure that your branding carries from your home page, right through to the payment page and confirmation email they receive.
2) Make Your Users Smile
The Feel of a product or a service is slightly less tangible, but it's in the little things, the ones that make your customer smile. It could be a nice animation when the menu opens, the hover effect on a button, or the friendly tone of the micro-copy. It's about getting your brand's personality across and making your website a joy to use.
3) Make it Simple and Usable
Usability is the third and most important element of UX. Your booking engine can be the most beautiful in the world, but if it isn't easy to use, that's all for nothing. Usability spans a whole range of issues, from making sure the language that is clear and easy to understand, to making sure the buttons are large enough to tap comfortably on mobile.
The best way to assess the usability of your website is to put it in front of real people, give them a task (such as asking them to book a room), and observe how well they get on. Where do they hesitate or trip up? Do they understand the differences between your rate names? Can they find all the information they need, when they need it? Or do they get stuck with simple things, like opening the gallery and not being able to close it again? All of these little irritations add up, and any one of these can cause a user to abandon a booking. If users are making mistakes, then the design needs to be refined to be frictionless. Your customer experience should be seamless and smooth.
This article has only just scraped the surface of what UX Design is, and hundreds of books have been written about usability alone. Hopefully, it has given you a brief overview of how the Look, Feel, and Usability of your website and booking engine all contribute to whether customers will book directly with you. If you can get the user experience design right, you'll be on the way to competing with the other online booking sites.
If you want to know more about how we implement the practices of user experience design in our booking engine and website development, contact us or schedule a demo.