It has been over 3 years since I started to work with resorts, villas, and hotels to help them create a bridge between their brands and customers. With many of the clients, I worked towards ensuring their hotels’ SEO, website structure and brand were able to achieve their goals online, while with others I worked towards helping them build the hotel’s brand and visuals as well.
One of the biggest challenges encountered was to choose the right tools to build the website, ensure it can push rankings on Google, but most importantly to ensure a smooth experience for the users looking to book a stay with one of my clients.
Questions such as should we use WordPress to build our website? Do we need a custom CMS? Do we need any CMS at all? If we use WordPress, how do we create a template from scratch? What if we use templates?
As a result, I have created this guide to answer all these questions and hopefully get you headed in the right direction when designing your hotel’s website.
This guide will help:
- Hotels, Resorts, Vacation Rentals, and Villa owners to understand which option to choose and why
- Hospitality Marketing teams who are looking to improve the performance of their website
- Design and Development teams looking to make the right choices for their customers
Before you choose the right platform for your hotel’s website, you will need to ensure your hosting account is capable of helping your business grow.
Choosing the right hosting and tools for your hotel’s website
Your website should have the goal of getting traffic, a lot of traffic. Hence you need a server and hosting company that can help you scale your website’s traffic while ensuring your website does not slow down.
Also, keep in mind that a great server speed is really for the Search Engine Optimization goals that you will be implementing on your website on a monthly basis.
Since we are looking to enhance the user experience of your guests online, we need to make sure your website loads as fast as possible. For this, I will recommend choosing a company like Media Temple. For some, they are a bit on the higher-end when it comes to price, but it will be beneficial for your hotel’s return on investment.
The next tool you want, but is not a MUST is a Content Delivery Network to store all the video and image material that will be running on your website. Furthermore, this will also give your hotel’s website the speed you want when your users interact with it.
Another one to keep in mind is servers that allow you to locate your hotel’s website on multiple servers around the world. For example, hotels and resorts in the Caribbean promote their services to Europe, North America and other parts of the world. Hence, you need to make sure they all get the same experience, in a consistent manner.
Are you working with your own booking system, third party or none at all?
Not every hotel, resort or villa needs to have a booking system. For some villas, it is easier to get the contact information through a form or using applications like AirBnB.
However, it is something that you need to keep in mind before building your website. There are many benefits to having a booking system integrated into your website, the benefits are for both your team and users. So keep in mind the following:
- How easy is the booking system to use?
- Will there be a long learning curve from my team or myself?
- Can I integrate it with any platform?
- Can I modify it to keep a consistent look of the hotel’s brand?
- Can it accept payments?
- Are different price options allowed in the system?
- How does it work on my website?
- Will it have search forms that are customizable?
- How does it look like from the user’s point of view?
- Are other hotels using this system?
For this, I will recommend that you give it a score from 1 – 10 for each question. Then choose which one has the best ratings.
Choosing the platform for your hotels’ website
By now you should have two big elements ready in hand. One is your hosting with a CDN account to ensure you get the space and speed you want. Second, you know if you will be using a booking system, which will be the best one for you.
Now, let’s talk about the different platforms that are available.
There are tons of platforms out there to build a hotel’s website, the problem with some of them is that they do not allow you to bring in elements of your brand, grow your website and constantly scale your business.
For this post, I will stay away from platforms like Square Space, Weebly, and Wix. They are just not the right solutions for websites of this kind and will most likely limit your ability to scale your hotel’s website.
Hence, we will only work with three options. First where you can create your own customized CMS and build your website on it. Second, you can choose WordPress to build and scale your hotel’s website. Third, you can build your website using Webflow as an alternative to WordPress.
Let’s dive into this section.
Choosing or creating your very own CMS for the Hotel’s Website
This is a great option if your budget can handle it, and if you have a team to be able to accomplish the goals and tasks. This option will give you the benefits of constantly being able to scale and add new fully customized features to your website, both front end and back end.
The Pros are many, as you will have full control over what takes place in the system you are building for your hotel. It is a very good option for large hotels, who may also be using their very own booking system, Client Relationship Managers (CRM) and other customized tools they were not able to find elsewhere.
If your hotel is not that big, then you may find this option a bit overwhelming. Also, the budget is a big factor in choosing this road. First, you will need to spend monetary resources in designing and developing the website and the different dashboards your hotel’s staff will be using. Second, there will have to be an extra budget allocated to monthly maintenance of the system and for tasks that may take extra time.
Before choosing this option ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your budget of $30,000USD +?
- Will finding developers to help you build this be easy?
- Are your staff members or yourself fast learners?
- What are the deadlines you have to build your website?
- Will there be many new customized features in the near future?
Choosing WordPress to build your Hotel’s website
WordPress, as you may know, is one of the most famous Content Management System for websites, especially in the hospitality sector. And it has all the rights to be king, as it really allows hotels, resorts, and villas to create beautiful online experiences that allow them to scale their business and generate a positive return on investment.
Today, over 75 million websites and blogs are being powered by WordPress. And, this includes hotels, villas, resorts, and vacation rentals. Actually, 85% of the clients I have worked within the Tourism and Hospitality sectors have chosen WordPress as the main Content Management System.
The Pros for WordPress usage in hospitality websites are many. First, it is commonly used so team members and staff should be very comfortable using it when it comes to editing content. Second, it allows you to customize and build tools for your hotel’s website that allow you to scale your business rapidly. Third, you can integrate lead generation tools for your hotel in a matter of minutes, as well as, the most famous booking engines for hotels.
The negative aspect of WordPress comes to play when the theme and templates are chosen to build a website. Here is where you want to be careful with your hotel’s website, especially if you are looking to scale the growth of the website and your hotel. Many of the pre-made themes come with tools such as Visual Builders, that make your website slow and difficult for Google to crawl your website.
So if WordPress if your choice, you need to make sure that your hotel’s website is designed and developed without any template such as Jupiter, Bridge, or plugins such as Visual Builder, WP Bakery Builder and so on. For WordPress, what your website needs to use is a Framework, this will cut many hours of the developer’s cost as it will give them the main framework to implement the design.
Furthermore, you need to make sure that there are not many plugins on your hotel’s website, as they can cause problems with the user experience of the website.
Before choosing this option, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your budget $10,000USD +?
- What third-party tools (Booking systems, Payment getaways) will I need?
- Are the features that I need on the website capable of working in WordPress?
- Has any of my team or myself worked with WordPress in the past?
- What are some of the features that we will need in the next year? Will I be able to adapt WordPress to fit these features?
Choosing Webflow to build your Hotel’s website
For some people, they will be thinking ‘Webflow? What is that?’ It is a platform that allows you to transform amazing designs into websites. But it goes a bit further than that, it also works with you to host your website and provide the CDN I spoke about earlier.
As of today, many businesses such as Intuit, Nasa, IDEO, Dell and other famous companies are starting to use it as their Content Management System.
There is a good reason for it. Webflow really allows you to create customized designs. It gives your designers and developers all the tools they need to transform the designs and solutions they have crafted into a fully capable website that your users can enjoy.
The pros Webflow has to offer, start with its ability to be customized to fit any design. Once your website designer can design it, with Webflow you can bring it life in less than half of the time. The platform’s CDN takes away the CDN cost, but only if you are hosting your hotel’s website with them.
One of the biggest benefits I have seen in the tourism industry is that it allows staff and teams to quickly update content on the website in a matter of minutes.
As the platform is new to some, you may experience a bit of a learning curve and your designer or developer will have to spend some time showing your team how it works. Furthermore, you will have to use a booking engine/ system that gives you a script to add to your website for Booking forms. But this is something that most booking systems are offering, so it should not be a problem.
Before choosing this option ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your budget $10,000USD+? You will have to spend some on the design, development, and training
- Are the designs created in the high-end of creativity?
- Does my booking engine provide scripts for the forms?
- Are my developers familiar with Webflow?
- Are there any new features that will be needed on the website?
All the options above are great, it all depends on your budget and choice. I have created a downloadable workbook to make the decision-making process easier for you, all you have to do is click here to download it.
If you are building a new website for your hotel, have you asked yourself these questions? And if you already have one, are any of these elements currently on your website? The bad and the good ones, they all need to be audited to help you scale your hotel’s website.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below. I will be looking forward to hearing and learning from you.