Mobile growth and the importance of responsive web design for hotels

Mobile growth and the importance of responsive web design for hotels

The very nature of how people interact with the web has seen a radical transformation in recent years. According to recent figures, the number of users accessing the web via mobile devices has now surged ahead of desktop. But these modern-day web users aren’t just using mobile devices in lieu of desktop computers; they’re effortlessly switching between desktop, tablet, and smartphone throughout the day.

In this new digital landscape, the transitory nature of how people access the web means that companies need to ensure they offer a seamless online experience across all devices. This is something that major web development companies are achieving with responsive web design.

What is responsive web design?

As the name implies, a responsive website adapts its interface to whatever device it’s being accessed on, providing an optimal viewing and interaction experience that helps to make for easier reading and minimal resizing or panning on the screen. It’s a popular approach for businesses who want minimum hassle as it involves maintaining just one version of a website under a single URL.

In contrast, some companies choose to produce a “mobile version” of their site. This is an altogether more complicated process that requires the creation of a separate site using a different code. Google has publicly stated that they’re not too keen on the practice of mobile-only sites. Aside from that fact, creating a separate mobile version of a website means that ongoing maintenance or changes become more time-consuming, as you’re essentially maintaining two separate websites.

For those reasons, responsive design is often regarded as the most effective way to ensure an optimized user experience across all devices, and it has become a standard process in developing modern websites.

Understanding user intent in mobile hotel bookings

Good responsive website design for hotels isn’t just about switching up font sizes and turning navigation into dropdown menus. It’s about understanding user intent across different devices, particularly when it comes to mobile.

A huge amount of people now use mobile when they’re browsing and booking their travel plans. More than two-thirds of leisure and business travelers use their smartphones to research travel, and this year it’s projected that more than half of all online travel bookings will be made using a mobile device. This upward trend in travel is particularly evident in the hotel and apartment rental industry, both of which lead the way when it comes to the percentage of online bookings being made via mobile.

Live hotel rates displayed on a mobile responsive hotel websiteFor hotels to be successful with responsive web design, they first must understand these travel behaviors and how to adapt the design so that it best accommodates these behaviors. This may include highlighting some features on the mobile view over others, such as emphasizing the phone number and making it “callable” when a user taps on it.

User context is also extremely important. For example, many travelers accessing hotel websites through mobile tend to be last-minute bookers—in fact, 60% of mobile hotel bookings are made within 24 hours of a stay. Many of these travelers are also on the move, booking hotel rooms while packing suitcases or heading off to the airport.

So when these types of travelers are viewing a hotel website through a mobile device, what’s the most important information they’re looking for? For starters, they’re going to want to see the nightly rate as soon as possible without having to go through too many steps to find out. They’re also going to want to see rooms and amenities, and easily find out the address and location of the hotel, along with parking or public transport directions. The booking process also has to be quick and easy.

These are the types of considerations that play an important role in designing a hotel’s responsive website.

Responsive web design’s role in SEO

Back in April 2015, Google launched a new algorithm that was designed to prioritize websites that were mobile-friendly. The impending release of this algorithm become popularly known as “Mobilegeddon.” At the time, industry insiders predicted there could be huge penalties for those sites that didn’t adapt.

From an SEO perspective, businesses that didn’t update their websites weren’t hit quite as hard as some first feared. That said, in recent years Google has been very clear on the fact that they favor mobile-friendly sites and provide an in-depth guide on their benefits.

An update to the algorithm was just recently announced, although the changes may not take effect for a while. In the meantime, it’s worth taking Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, a handy tool that provides a quick confirmation on whether a site meets the criteria.

Given their vast influence on search, there’s more than a strong case to pay attention to Google’s recommendations and updates.  But that’s only part of the reason why adapting your site to mobile is so crucial.

Algorithms aside, ultimately what Google is working toward is delivering the best user experience possible. For hotels that means ensuring that travelers who land on your website from any device can quickly and easily 1) get the information they are looking for or 2) complete the action they are looking to make, such as making a booking. Good responsive web design plays an important role in ensuring an excellent user experience across devices.

Future-proofing your hotel website

Having a responsive website has some obvious benefits for today, but it also brings some pretty significant advantages for the years to come.

By 2018, it’s predicted that mobile devices will account for 37% of all online hotel and travel bookings. Having a hotel website that is only optimized for desktop will inevitably lead to a growing number of dissatisfied users who choose to book elsewhere.

But this growing reliance on mobile is just part of the reason why having a responsive design site is so important. Technology companies will inevitably continue to refine and reproduce their own products, changing screen sizes and software for next-generation models.

The beauty of a responsive site is that it’s optimized for any device size. So even when Samsung or Apple decides to introduce a new tablet or alter the size of their mobile devices, responsive websites will still render optimally.

For hotels, good responsive website design is a form of future-proofing. It provides the peace of mind that your site design will remain optimized across every device, seamlessly adapting as technology companies continue to bring new products to the market.

Interested in learning more about mobile trends and strategies for hotels? Join our free webinar on July 14, 2016 hosted by Travel Tripper, Checkmate, and StayNTouch.


Moving with Mobile: A Blog Series

Nate is the Digital Agency Director at Travel Tripper and oversees website design and development, digital strategy, SEO, inbound marketing, and email marketing for a growing portfolio of global hotel clients. He's an avid mountain biker, a coffee and craft beer enthusiast, and a proud family man. Contact him at nate@traveltripper.com to learn the 3 things that every hotel marketer must do to succeed in 2018.

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