Let’s face it – you can build what you think is the best website, with all kinds of bells and whistles, giant photos, and informational text up the wazoo. However, if the information you provide, and the expected flow of the website is not what your visitor expects or understands, you are losing money. How do we make sure that our website is, in fact, the best experience for our users?
First, we need to know who our users are, and what they are trying to accomplish on our website. More than likely, you will have several types of users. We’ll group these types of people into personas to better understand each one’s specific needs.
For each persona, you will want to clearly map out the following:
• Assertions and fears
• Image of the typical type of each
• Mindset of phase of the purchase cycle
• A list of tasks that need to be fulfilled
Let’s take a look at some typical hotel website personas:
1. Rita the Researcher
Rita is looking to book a hotel in your area, but she hasn’t decided on where to stay yet. She is doing extensive comparative research on many hotel websites, OTAs, TripAdvisor and asking her friends and family on Facebook. Our website needs to provide her enough information about the location, quality, room types, and amenities of our hotel, in addition to pricing, WHILE ideally convincing her that our hotel is where she wants to stay. We want to persuade her to come back to book with us when she is done researching.
2. Bob the Business Traveler
Bob is coming to your area for a business trip. Proximity to whatever business he is conducting will be important to him. He is looking for convenience for his trip: transportation from the airport, onsite fitness amenities, onsite restaurant. He might be less price sensitive than a leisure traveler. He needs less room choices than a leisure traveler, who is likely traveling with other people.
3. Tina the Tourist Traveler
Tina is well acquainted with your hotel. She has already done her research and is ready to book. She wants to get right down to the process and be done. Tina may have been Rita the Researcher – either a few days or weeks ago, or potentially even a few page views ago. She needs to the booking process to be as painless as possible.
4. Gina the Group Planner
Gina is planning some type of group event: potentially a business meeting, or a family reunion, or even a wedding. She is going to be focused on getting information on the website and most likely picking up the phone to eventually book her needs. Depending on your hotel focus, you may have personas for each type of these planners.
These are just a few examples. You may have different ones or several more than three. The method of coming up with personas is to use your existing analytics tools, focus group, surveys to your database, or even interviews using your call center to garner information. You are looking for commonalities such as gender, age, travel frequency, travel type (leisure/business/romance/adventure, etc.).
Keep in mind that you can’t please everyone all the time. You’ll want your list to be personas that can help on your website. If you find 3-4 personas that make you the majority of your revenue, and one persona that typically doesn’t transact, the focus of your website optimization should be on those 3-4.
Now that you have your list of personas, what next? Let’s look at the typical cycle of launching a website.
Most organizations spend most of their time in the Build>Launch part of this cycle. We really want to focus our attention on the Learn>Idea portion.
This is all the research we’ve conducted thus far, using all the tools available to us. It’s important that EVERYONE involved in the website process be involved in this research, from the General Manager, to the website developer. It gets everyone on the same page on who the people are that we are going to help in this hotel reservation journey.
Coming up with either a new website design or tweaks to an existing design should go through the same process:
- Sketch: Again, EVERYONE gets involved in this. Nobody needs to be an artist to get their ideas down in a basic wireframe sketch. This allows everyone’s voice to get heard, and allows for the cross-ideas that might not otherwise happen to come to fruition.
- Decide: Everyone votes on their favorite version – you may want people to pick their three favorites. You may also want the highest paid person in the room to have extra votes to make sure that he/she feels important in the decision making process.
- Prototype: Build out the top 3 ideas. This could be in Photoshop or a basic HTML page
- Test: Get real feedback on the 3 prototypes. You can use your current email database to survey your existing users on what THEY think is best. You can also use services like usertesting.com where you can ask participants to vocalize their thoughts on each prototype. You can ask very specific questions, like “What do you think will happen when you click this link?,” or “Which feature on version 1 would you like to see of version 2 or 3?”
4a. If this is a tweak to an existing design, you can also use testing software and run an A/B test. See this post for more information on the A/B testing process.
Lastly, here are a few quick tips on making websites usable:
- Don’t make the user think
- Don’t break usability standards
- Design billboards: a user should be able to see a clear call to action on a web page from across the room
- Perform a 5 second test: have users look at your site for 5 seconds and then tell you what they remember. You will quickly be able to see if you’ve gotten your message across.