Why your hotel website must be mobile friendly

All of the latest figures and reports point to a sharp increase in mobile spends online vs desktop and laptop devices. Tablet and mobile device spends are really on the increase, as much as 30% on the previous year, and this is a trend that experts can only predict will continue to grow.

Even within the travel and tourism sector, hotel websites have seen the number of users who are comfortable in booking over mobile/tablet increase to make up around 40% of the overall direct business online. So with figures like above mentioned time and time again, surely it’s about time you reviewed whether your website is functioning as it should be for mobile / tablet users?

If the above didn’t have you reaching for your iphone to fire up your website perhaps this will; Google will actively penalise your website in their search results for queries from mobile devices if your website isn’t functioning as it should be on these devices. Google did warn about this several months ago, and then those users with their websites listed in Google Webmaster Tools will have started to receive warning messages if their site did have any issues rendering on mobile. Now Google has taken it one stop further and have started to demote those sites that don’t give a good user experience on mobile, so now as a hotel you really must check your site.

How to check if my hotel website is mobile ready?

The easiest and quickest way to check is simply by visiting your hotel website URL on your mobile, or tablet. If it doesn’t work correctly then you have an issue. Try navigating the site pages, and try completing a booking. How easy did you find it to view the key pages? How easy did you find it to check availability, or to complete a booking?

If you struggled, imagine your customer trying to struggle too. And realise that this is your website on just one device – how it appears on other mobiles (with varying screen sizes, internet browsers, etc) will always vary and is something you can’t always control.

example responsive website

Testing if a website is responsive manually

Mobile vs Responsive websites

There are 2 ways to answer the issue of mobile website design. You can either have a new bespoke website created for mobile devices – this works by your website “checking” what type of device a user is using every time they try to access your site. If they’re on a desktop / laptop then great; the website will be rendered as normal. However if they are on a mobile / tablet, the website will know to load up the mobile version. The benefit of this is that you can have the site designed with a limited number of pages, and a completely tailored layout. A disadvantage of this design choice is that a mobile version of every web page will need to be created, unless a redirect script is used (taking visitors to non-important pages to the homepage for example). This type of setup can cause issues when sending out newsletters with readers trying to open links from a mobile device and getting redirected to other pages.
Usually with this kind of setup the website URL is www.m.hotelname.com as the mobile version of the site is located on a subdomain / directory.

To me the alternative option is the best one, and this is to have a responsive website design. This is when your website responds to the users device, and resizes itself to fit for that user. Most websites have responsive designs, and this seems to be the most effective solution to the issue. One quick way to check if your website is responsive or not is to open it on your desktop and try resizing the size of the window. If the site adapts (resizes itself) to fit the screen, it will be responsive. If it doesn’t change, or seems “locked” into position, it’s likely that it either has a mobile design (in this case check on a mobile device) or worst-case scenario it doesn’t cater for mobile users. The website URL remains the same if it’s responsive and opened on a mobile / tablet; it doesn’t use the m. subdomain like a mobile design does.
The benefit of a responsive design is that all your website content automatically adapts for mobile users so you don’t need to get the content uniquely created – saving a lot of time and effort. A lot of people open newsletters on mobile devices, and as of yet the newsletters can’t give a different link for a mobile user. Another huge benefit is that it means your site adapts to fit every device, and every browser – something that a mobile design can’t guarantee.

Hopefully now you and your hotel will see the benefit of having a mobile friendly website, and although we lean towards responsive design, there are advantages and disadvantages to either design choice and it will ultimately be down to a matter of taste. There are other issues to look at including mobile SEO but this will be a topic for another day.

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