Making Sure Your Site is User Friendly
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012
If you are not clear why you are investing in the development of this unique channel, it will be near impossible for you and your team to create a site that is user-friendly and builds long-term relationships.
In the hospitality sector, building long-term relationships is critical if your site is to produce an acceptable return on your investment. The pool of potential visitors to your site might seem bottomless, but in fact, there has been significant research to indicate that once users abandon a visit because of a negative interaction, there is very little likelihood they will soon return. In other words, above all else, your site must incorporate a "user-friendly" personality that begins the moment a visitor types in your URL.
Even something as simple as the URL you choose when registering your site can contribute to a sense of user-friendliness. You can try and be creative, but most people when searching the net will enter www.(your hotel name).com or use one of the more popular search engines like Google or Overture to find you. Do not throw in unnecessary words or dashes to complicate the URL. Keep it short and true to your name. Your users will appreciate it.
The moment a visitor arrives at your site is when the proverbial "rubber meets the road". All your hard work and energy, your investment in top quality art and photography, the millions of dollars in technology and design and the people hours invested to insure your visitor has a pleasing experience will mean nothing if your home page takes more than 20 seconds to open. Our predictive business intelligence based on feedback from over 30,000 visitors to some of the most recognized brands in the hospitality sector confirms that slow download speeds are a major factor in contributing to a low user satisfaction rating.
You may have great high-resolution photos of your property or a trip-planning calculator, but if it takes too long for them to open on your visitors PC, you have wasted your money and your visitor's valuable time. Even more important, you have an unhappy customer on your hands. Remember when you are designing your site that not everyone is accessing it from the office with a high-speed broadband connection. One option you might want to consider is to let your users use a version of your site based on how they are connected to the web. For example virtual room tours, videos, high-resolution photos, music and ambient sounds etc might be offered on broadband versions only, while dial up users are offered features tailored to the download times of their connection. This would insure EVERY one of your visitors had a web experience tailored to meet their needs. And meeting their needs is what you must do to insure they return.
In order to make a site user-friendly you have to cover all the basics. Our clients use a strategic behavioral framework that encompasses all aspects of an actual user's experience to predict and measure user satisfaction. They look at all aspects of the experience beginning with the site's basic navigations tools and paths. Is it easy to get around the site? Can the visitor find the information they are looking for? Are visitors getting lost and frustrated? If you don't have the answers to these questions, you can be sure some of your visitors are leaving your site with a less than satisfactory experience.