Top tips: Hiring a web designer for your boutique

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Choosing a partner to create your new website can be quite a challenge. Wired Media, hotel web design and marketing specialists, provides us with some pointers on how to ensure you make the right choice.

Process
Take time to understand the process each company will follow. Ask them to talk you through each step and make them aware of the sign off process you need to follow.

Will they be able to help you meet your requirements? The company should take time to understand your property and your key objectives before starting the design or build process, if they don’t question you on these you should be concerned.

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Their website
Does their website support what they say they do? Are they experienced in your market or a jack of all trades and master of none? Ask to see examples of the work they have completed for similar clients and how they achieved the results.

Their customers
Talk to their customers to make sure they can fulfil their promises. Try to find customers who have worked with them but have not been recommended to you by the company themselves, you may get a more honest answer this way.

Templates vs. bespoke
Some companies will create your website from scratch based on your hotel’s individual requirements so everything is unique to you and your business. Others will use a pre-designed template with a standard layout and simply apply your imagery and branding.

As every property is unique we believe your website should reflect your property. When you choose to have an individually designed website the company you partner with should audit your current site to see how your current visitors behave, then work with you to ensure your new site is designed both to reflect the personality of your hotel and to make it as easy as possible for your potential guests to book. If you use a template you be given a set design which may not be the best fit for your hotel guests. You will pay more for an individually designed website but the return on investment far exceeds that from a template site.

If the company you want to use does use templates, ensure they fit your requirements and property. The template will also need to have been well thought out so the layouts used are good for search engines but also work well for the customer and not simply designed to look nice with no thought to usability. Ideally the company will have designed their own templates specifically for hotels and based on their understanding of what does and does not work rather than just using a standard nondescript one.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Most companies will tell you that the websites they create are search engine friendly, but there are different meanings of this. Ask them to explain what this will involve. Are they simply adding metadata or will SEO be considered throughout the complete process?

Page layout, page load time and the quality of the code are all key aspects which can influence where you rank in search engines, so they should be considered. In addition to this, your site will need to be optimised for your chosen keywords (the terms people use to search for your hotel). This includes writing good, relevant copy and also ensuring the metadata (the hidden code behind your website used by Google and other search engines) is optimised.

Don’t forget, companies serious about SEO will ensure your site is well optimised for the mobile user too, through a dedicated mobile site or responsive website design.

CMS (Content Management System)
Make sure you will be able to easily update the key sections of your site once it is live, such as offers, images and copy. Your website should come with a CMS, ideally one that isn’t bespoke to the agency you are working with this as this ties you into them unnecessarily. There are also perfectly good ones such as WordPress that are excellent for hotel websites.

Marketing
Once your new website is live, there are two metrics you can manipulate to improve bookings; visits and conversion rate. Ask your company to provide you with statistics showing a clear improvement over a 3 or 4 months’ time period. Ask them to explain how they achieved it and speak to their customers. Again talk about process, talk about the required outcome and be confident they understand want you want and can get you there.

Think about the future
Don’t just consider what the website needs to include now, you also need to think about what it might need to include in the next 6-9 months. When Christmas comes along you need to be able to easily add your new offer or event section without incurring further development costs.

There are certain things that will need to be done on your website that you cannot do, such as hosting it and backing it up to ensure it is consistently live on the internet. Make sure you discuss this with your website partner to ensure they can offer this support.

Price
When selecting your partner, cheaper is not always better. Your website is an extremely important part of your brand, it is likely to be the first impression many guests have of your property – it’s the start of the customer service experience so getting it right is key. You also want them to book through your website and not via an OTA (online travel agent) where commissions are incurred.

Price often reflects the service or the output you receive. The quotes you receive will vary dramatically so it’s important you ask lots of questions. You need to ensure what you are paying for is going to meet with your objectives. Most people would agree it is better to pay £8,000 and get a regular return of £80,000 than pay £4,000 and get no return on investment at all.

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