A simple mobile website can improve hotel business
The few remaining consumers who haven’t bought into the smartphone craze probably can’t fathom the convenience they’re missing. These days, with more hand-held computing power than we had on a desktop PC a few years ago, it makes sense that millions of mobile devices continue to sell annually.
Last year, several clients approached me to find out if the investment in a mobile version of their website was worth the effort. Flash forward to today, and it’s no longer a question, it’s a necessity, allowing operators to keep up with the rising tide of technological advances. In the world of travel, apps are already leading the way and they’re a big deal with airlines, magazines, car rental companies and cruise lines.
With thousands of apps, the customer expects hotels to follow suit with their own iterations.
Hotels need to explore the best options to support mobile devices. It comes down to choosing between a full-scale native app or a mobile version of an existing website. When deciding, consider how much content will have to be uploaded. It can be a daunting and complicated process, but if you make the product simple — in both design and methodology — it will be easier.
Mobile Website Trumps Web App
Although a traditional, computer-based website opens on a smartphone, it can be difficult to navigate since the average index finger doesn’t have the precision of a mouse. In addition, designing a full-scale app can be a lengthy process, especially for an independent or small-chain property. A more appropriate option might be to build a mobile website designed for a smartphone screen.
Mobile websites are created differently than traditional websites as designers alter interface elements, layouts and navigability so the site works on cellular devices. Apart from creating a separate mobile website for each of the small-screen sizes, it’s wise to adhere to the principles of “responsive” web design to reduce costs and confusion.
The responsive architecture used when building a website allows layout elements to flex and adapt to various mobile devices accessing the site. The inherent flexibility can be quite convenient when trying to simultaneously push announcements or updates to a traditional website as well as mobile platforms.
Designing a mobile site is the inexpensive option recommended for hotels that don’t have large budgets.
However, a mobile site does have its disadvantages. Having an app has cachet; it’s considered cool. And, apps can super-serve niche markets such as spa goers or golfers, for example. Native apps also load faster than mobile websites. Lastly, apps allow information to be organized simply and effectively.
However, unlike the responsive design of HTML5 web-based mobile sites, a separate app has to be coded for individual phone operating systems, which can vary. For most operators, the costs are high, with the exception of large chains, which can use economies of scale to launch and maintain apps across multiple platforms. So, it’s important to consider the primary reason someone downloads your ‘what’s new’ updates entice guests to download an app, yet neither task is common on a per-property basis.
And, since recurring use is what makes an app valuable, it may be best to stick to a mobile site.
A content-managed mobile site with core functionality can be built for much less than a conventional website and since a micro site would synchronize with a regular site, additional maintenance fees should be minimal to non-existent. The mobile site may be the faster app to implement, so the choice is simple.
Simplicity of Design and Layout
Consider how fast your app loads. Remember, guests will likely learn about your hotel by using a mobile device, instead of a computer since they’re often on the move and short on time. Any layout or stylistic feature that hinders performance will limit the number of visitors reaching your website. The principle behind this is called ‘electronic cognitive drift.’ If a web page or application takes too long to load — even just a few seconds — users lose interest. For example, imagine you’re at lunch with coworkers and, while leaving, one of them tells you to check out the hotel they recently visited. You pull out your smartphone and plug in the address. The website loads slowly and your friend’s recommendation falls flat.
A mobile website has to be in sync with today’s rapidly moving and incredibly time-sensitive world. Rather than trying to make your mobile website as robust as your PC version, consider the essential parts needed to market your hotel. You need to include a booking engine, but you may want to exclude many of the graphics and logos that slow down a tiny device. It’s a balance between functionality and tonality,
but it’s crucial to ensure your mobile website is as simple as possible and nullifies the “cognitive-drift” phenomenon.
When it comes to dollars and cents, simplicity may work to your advantage. Design a mobile website instead of a native app, then involve the marketing team so you know what to include in the mobile version without impeding load times. These steps will likely save you development fees.
Since mobile devices are here to stay, the smart hotel operator will attract potential reservations with a new mobile app, while increasing the hotel’s bottom line. Don’t lose new business by leaving your site poorly formatted for smartphones. As with all rising technologies, adapting sooner,
rather than later, is the better option.