What Small Hoteliers Can Learn from Big Brand Websites: Hilton.
By Andy Hayes ~ Exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com
Monday, 8th February 2010
As we mentioned previously, small hoteliers can look at bigger brands for ideas and inspiration for their online presence.

Let's continue that discussion with another major brand website, Hilton.  Hilton has four different language portals, but today we're only going to focus on their US Homepage, pictured below. 

What are some good website principles we can apply from looking at this website?

Search is Important.

You need to have a search function, even if you have a small website.  Some people don't like to take the time to use your menu or read to see if you offer what they want.  It is a sad fact that some web browsers think that to find something in a website, you have to use the search box. 

So just get one up there – it shouldn't be much effort for lots of reward.

A fresh, dynamic homepage is important. 

See how the latest specials and news appear on the Hilton homepage.  Search engines love this.  Website visitors love this.  Wouldn't you rather go to a website that looks just recently updated – maybe you're the first person to see these latest specials?  It also encourages return visits.  

Keep the basic structure of your homepage the same, but incorporate a section that has regularly updated content, such as specials, news, or otherwise.

You don't need flashy graphics and bold colors. 

Some might go as far to say that the Hilton website is a bit flat.  The background is white and the menu and text is grey with a few various blue accents to match the Hilton logo.  But the secret is, plain sites convert better.  People get overwhelmed with lots of flash and glam. 

What do you want to do with your website – entertain them or are you trying to sell something?

Put the important stuff on the upper left. 

It is good practice to order your menu from left to right in decreasing importance.  In other words, the most important stuff on the left, the least important stuff on the right.  Sales channels go first. 

Hilton's three major channels are the first three options:  specials & packages, meetings, and social gatherings. 

Keep it Easy. 

To look up a rate or check on availability, I don't have to provide the kitchen sink's worth of information.  I really just need to choose a location.  I don't have to log in, I don't have to pick a brand, nor dates.   This means I can easily slip into the funnel of information and then narrow down my choices when I'm ready.  Don't put barriers in front of customers wanting information.

I love Hilton's site because it's easy and friendly.  They could do a little more to help make the menu a bit clearer so you can tell where in the site you are, and I actually found a few pages don't load perfectly for me in my browser so looks like a few things were missed in testing. 

 But overall it's a great example you should look to for ideas and inspiration for your own site.

Andy Hayes is the Managing Partner of Travel Online Partners (TOP), a company focused on helping for small businesses in travel and tourism with online technology. 

To find out more about their do-it-yourself guides, coaching and consulting, visit the website www.travelonlinepartners.com
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