Good web design is about more than having a pretty storefront, for travel websites it can actually lead to an increase of bookings through your site.
There is no shortage of travel booking websites online and in a saturated digital landscape the wandering consumer is used to having to shop around, with 55% of page views getting less than 15 seconds of attention.
It is therefore important that you give your visitors a reason to stick around on your page – and fast!
It is important that you tell a story through your website’s interface, and here are some rules that you should keep in mind when working with designers …
Set the scene with full-screen images
A common way that modern websites engage consumers is by using tempting high-quality images with only minimal, well-written text to support the visuals.
It cannot be denied that our brains process images much quicker than we process text – 60,000 times quicker if you believe the internet** – and the right images can communicate a lot to a consumer, saving your copywriters from producing paragraphs of garbled brand rhetoric.
A full-screen background image is a sure-fire way of grabbing the user’s interest from the moment they hit your homepage but be sure to take the time to ensure that the image (or images in the case of a slider) is as informative as it is striking.
The key here is to allow the consumer to visualise themselves in those destinations or situations – you’re telling them; “this is where you could be and we’re the ones who are going to take you there.”
Consider your target market and what their needs are, whether it is efficiency for business travels or luxury for holidaymakers. Your page needs to gratify these needs from the moment they arrive or they’ll be gone before you can say “last minute summer deals”.
The best stories don’t tell you what they are about, they show you.
Get them hooked right away
The online travel industry is notorious for its cluttered homepages and busy network of subpages, so prioritise your content accordingly and only include information that is likely to engage users and achieve your goals.
The booking engine is the centre of your website, after all the whole point is to get people to buy, and this should be visible right away. This alone can take up quite a bit of screen real estate but is a valuable asset.
Special offers, testimonials and other persuasive elements can give visitors a reason to stick around but too much all at once can overwhelm. Make sure the content is spaced out in juxtaposing blocks so that the user can take them in separately and easily move to what interests them – again, remember here that images speak louder than words.
The challenge of the designer is to find clever ways to present this information in a way that is simple and easy to digest.
Don’t let them cut the story short – keep them engaged!
Establish your character with consistent colours
Colour is very important in making a first impression and you should keep them to a minimum; two or three main colours will often be enough.
If you already have an established colour scheme that is based on your logo or other promotional materials then you’re a step ahead, introducing a plethora of new colours can look cheap and tacky.
Colours that are too brash are likely to affect the user’s perception of your site on a psychological level and should be used liberally – keep background colours soft and make sure text is easy to read. Many websites use a predominantly white background so that colour can be utilised to draw the eye to important elements, like a search button or any kind of call-to-action.
Remember user experience is king in the design of all websites and this means simplification – colour is a valuable tool in signifying how to navigate your website.
Set the tone of the journey you want to take them on!
Cut unnecessary pages
Scrolling websites that reveal supporting content further down the page provide a better user experience than those that link to a variety of new pages.
Not only does it take away the frustration of constantly waiting for a new page to load, it is also much more intuitive for the user. Content that requires a lot of text and results pages can be tidied up by hiding certain information in collapsed blocks, providing links to expand them should the visitor want to learn more.
Web pages optimised for scrolling have become the norm not just in the travel industry but also in web design in general, which is largely due to proliferation of mobile internet browsing where screens are smaller and it is easier to scroll than tap tiny links.
Which leads nicely on to …
Let them take your story anywhere
I really can’t tell you how important it is that your travel website is responsive across different devices, oh wait, yes I can – here’s an article all about it!
The benefit of keeping web design simple is that is translates better to smaller screens and stays true to your brand’s online image.
Consumers do a lot of their web browsing on-the-go and the travel consumer in particular craves convenience. When 4 out of 5 online consumers shop on their smartphones or tablets, you can’t really afford to miss out. It is also unlikely that they will fire up the laptop to go to a site that is not mobile responsive – they will simply move on to one of your competitors.
The experience of your website between devices should be seamless, those who are used to your desktop site should be able to easily navigate your mobile site and vice versa, so it makes sense to cover all the bases in one go.