Hotel Web Design is one of the most interesting niches to explore when it comes to front-end development, UX/UI and graphic design.
In the current age of responsive web design (responsive refers to web-page elements re-organising themselves when you switch between mobile and desktop), the innovation and creativity seen in web development have truly exceeded expectations.
This is especially the case in the world of hotels, where the best hotel websites use these tools to their utmost advantage in order to create a user experience that matches that of spending a few nights in a luxury, world-class hotel.
In order to explore what works, and what doesn’t about hotel websites, we’ve written this article looking at 8 of the most popular hotels’ websites from around the world. These websites each have something special that will draw you in and, possibly without you realising, try and get you to book a cosy room for a night or two. All using some simple web design tactics and design principles.
Let’s take a closer look.
What do the Best Hotel Websites Have in Common?
When we’re considering hotel and resorts web design principles, there are a number of factors that come into play, before even looking at any of the websites. For example, what do you picture when you think of a sleek, luxurious hotel website? Probably a number of, if not all of the following things:
- Large, visually stunning images
- A simple way to make a booking, or check availability
- Important contact details, which easily stand out
- A clear indication of the location of the hotel (especially for chains)
- Specials, promotions and discounts displayed clearly
While these may seem like random guesses at first, if you came to any of these conclusions, there is, in fact, a fair bit of logic behind them. Images, ease of booking, visually clear details you might need, and specials promotions all do two things:
- They make the website pleasant and easy to use, encouraging a longer session duration (the time users spend on your website)
- If used correctly these elements can help ‘print’ details about the hotel in the user’s mind. We’ll go into this in greater detail in some of the examples below.
While some features like contact details and location are important to any business, when clearly stated, they can really be the make-or-break factors that can secure a booking in the customer’s mind.
Now, let’s take a look at some real-world examples. We’ve got a screenshot of each website’s home page (with the occasional screenshot of activity further below the fold (the fold refers to the ‘bottom’ of the visible area of a website when it first loads on your screen).
We’re going to break down what does and doesn’t work on these sites, with two handy pointers. Namely ‘location’, and ‘best feature’ for each hotel – allowing you some context, and focus in examining their sites.
- Location: Cape Town, South Africa
- Best Feature: Availability Checker
The One & Only is one of the most spectacular and famous hotels in Cape Town (and the rest of South Africa too, in fact). They make such a great example in this article, as their prestige, luxury, and sleek design are all immediately reflected upon visiting their website.
With a classic, simple black-and-colour on white look, the overall design of the One & Only website is noninvasive, yet visually striking.
Their subtle, floating bookings widget is one of the big reasons we think their site is a well-designed winner. Almost all hotel websites will feature some sort of tool like this, but the way it’s been positioned here (and even hidden slightly more on mobile), helps encourage you to check your dates without the pressure to immediately make a booking – as some hotel web sites encourage.
Another interesting takeaway, aside from the fact that the rest of the webpage has a strangely blog-ish feel to it, is that the image/video slider at the top of the page isn’t selling the resort itself. It’s selling the lifestyle, a marketing technique as old as time. Instead of photos of the suites, pool, restaurant etc. (which can all be found further down the page, which is important), you are met with simple stunning photos/videos of a landscape, a couple in a wine cellar, and a child playing in their hotel room.
These images and videos cast a wide net, attracting a whole number of demographics to the resort. This is a smart way to position your hotel, as it allows you to promote more than just your luxury rooms, services and staff – but rather promote the idea that there’s a reason that your potential guests should book with you, instead of another equally luxurious resort.
- Location: Nha Trang, Vietnam
- Best Feature: A simple, winning tag line
“Nha Trang’s only beachfront resort”. Even though it’s a few mere pixels below the fold, this opening line is an instant ‘marketing hook’ in the mind of a customer. Often, the subconscious question that comes to mind when browsing for bookings, is the question of ‘why should I book this place, over another?’.
This opening line answers your question and goes even further in cementing the idea of a beachfront resort. If you’re looking at any other hotels in Nha Trang after this one, you might love them, but you’ll always have that line bugging you – “But this one isn’t a beach resort…”
It’s simple techniques like this that can really be a winner – especially when combined with such stunning photos of the beachfront itself. These sorts of tactics can be a lot harder to come up with than a clever booking widget, or some luxury photos – but in some ways are much easier. After all, you’re simply selling the location, not the lifestyle/image like the One & Only.
Another great design choice on the Evason Ana Mandara’s website is a simple and straightforward menu along the top, which almost reads as a ‘points of interest’ list. Without wasting time, you know that this location offers specials, spa/wellness treatments, dining & experiences, and is involved in sustainability efforts. Once again, this casts a wide net, attracting many different kinds of people who all book their accommodation with different reasons in mind as to why this location works best for them.
Speaking more generally, sustainability factors are becoming more and more important in hotel and tourism industries. Especially in areas like South East Asia, where tourism has caused its fair share of damage in the process of creating jobs and industry.
- Location: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Best Feature: 360-degree view app, and weather widget
Have you ever taken a look at a potential accommodation option, only wishing you could step into the screen and take a look around? Well, thanks to the creation of 360-degree photography, this hotel website offers exactly that. Around the centre of the menu bar, sits a “360” icon, which allows you to explore the whole premises, looking around and exploring things as if you’re really there.
This a quite a cool feature, and while it might not be the make-or-break in terms of securing a booking, it certainly shows guests that they have an impressive sense of creativity and attention to detail. Combined with the live weather report listed alongside it on the menu, these features create a feeling of transparency – that the Waldorf Astoria is not trying to show you ‘just one side’ of the location but allow you to see all of it for what it actually is.
Another great feature of this hotel website is the drop-down menu. Each sub-menu item has a picture associated with it. Most people visiting hotel websites in anticipation of making a booking are looking to see certain, particular features of the resort that are important to them. That makes this drop-down menu such a great feature. Instead of entering a back-and-forth navigation nightmare, visitors are instead able to easily navigate to the pictures they’re surely looking for.
Want to check out the rooms? Well, here they are at a glance, so you can already get an idea of which rooms you’re keen to look at. Have questions about dining? The dining drop-down shows that the resort has two on-site restaurants, classes, and private or in-room dining all available.
These design choices fall deeper into the UI/UX design area of web development, where designers and developers must try to anticipate the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of how users may interact with the website.
- Location: St Moritz, Switzerland
- Best Feature: The Intro Video
The website for Badrutt’s Palace in Switzerland shows us how a few flash features, combined with simple and effective, lightweight web design can really elevate an honest (and honestly gorgeous) representation of a hotel.
The intro video (or hero video as some might refer to it) is a simple, Wes Anderson-esque video combining short clips of the bellboys and chefs going about their daily activities, a few outdoor time-lapses and clips, and some simple pans across the interiors of the establishment.
This is similar in approach to the One & Only’s style of marketing. Only here we’re combining the interest points of the actual hotel itself, combined with the lifestyle it appears to be associated with.
One of the best parts of this website, as well-designed and intricate in detail as it is, is that the designers were able to hold back on the flashiness. As you scroll down the page, blocks of interest such as blog posts and events simply slide/fade into appearance, offering a calming experience where you aren’t overloaded with information. You can actually take some time to read what the hotel is about.
The only thing we didn’t like about this website is the menu – it’s a very cool animation, that many people will like, but we feel it breaks the immersive experience in feeling like a very separate feature to the rest of the website. This could almost be compared to a pop-up login window which breaks the user flow of interaction with the site, and subconsciously asks one to reorient themselves.
- Location: Amalfi, Italy
- Best Feature: Amazing interactive and responsive design
Casa Angelina’s website is a great example of how any hotel, or any business really, can embrace modernity in web design, creating an incredible visual experience for customers.
Casa Angelina is certainly doing all the normal things a hotel website should do to ensure some customer retention (great images, important information front and centre, and a simple menu layout that is effective and looks great). They have, however, forgone a basic website design in place of an incredible moving puzzle of pieces, the layout of which was meticulously planned both for web and mobile use.
The reason, though, that their website is so great for using this kind of style, is not simply for the style itself. The fact of the matter is that Casa Angelina managed to make a complexly-constructed and laid-out site simple to understand and easy and quick to use. Without these attributes, such a complex design would be wasted, and could even do the opposite in driving customers away.
Their website is also a wonderful display of the effective use of space. At any given point on the home page, images take up at least 50% of the visual space, and as you scroll down, blocks move around in ways that direct your eyes towards useful information, with no wasted space.
Even if their fonts are a little light to be placed on a white background in places, this is an incredible example of groundbreaking and forward-thinking web design that makes the Casa Angelina’s website a winner on this list, as far as we’re concerned.
- Location: Montmarte, France
- Best Feature: Using distraction as an attraction
The Hotel Particulier is one of the most incredible bespoke websites we’ve come across, in any industry. They’ve taken what the Casa Angelina achieved, and gone a step further to perfect it. While the feel is a lot less “clear, white sandy beaches” and a lot more “European city hotel”, it still captures the same feeling of incredibly well-used space and design choices.
The font choices, layout and animations on the website all fall within the boundaries of popular modern graphic design – but what makes this a winning combination is how well everything gels together. There aren’t any choices here that seem out of place – everything important is readily accessible, and just like the Casa Angelina site, images make up most of the visual space no matter where you are on the page.
The animations on the intro images are especially enticing. Blending psychedelically between one another, they almost appear to give a little shout of “Hey, customer, I’m here showing you some images!”. This is a feature that would be annoying in many implementations, yet it works here, just adding a small little change to set this web site’s images apart from all the others we’ve looked at in this article. This is likely to place a little ‘hook’ in the user’s mind, as no other websites we encountered had this feature.
Lastly, their touch of “See you Soon. Love” as a title card at the bottom of the home page is a warm, welcoming touch which erases any doubts about how ‘caring’ this establishment is, especially after their site shows them to be a bold, stark and stunning brand.
- Location: Warsaw, Poland
- Best Feature: Interactive design like no other
Visiting the Europejski website feels like a hotel visit within itself. You’re met with a beautifully animated intro video, which seamlessly blends into an interactive website designed in the same style, with no break in immersion along the way.
A simple homepage with a very humble sketch of the hotel appears, with a simple tag line “a place where culture, business and art meet”. Here, they hit on the ‘selling a lifestyle’ target. A beautiful and simple overlay menu is available to the right, and anything else you may need to know (website language, location, contact details) are all readily available right there.
When you scroll down, however, you’ll realise the fun has just begun. The drawing of the hotel jumps out at you, spinning in 3d, and settles into a map of the surrounding area in a beautiful and seamless animation that must have been somewhat mindboggling to build.
Scrolling down again reveals another flip of perspective, spinning to the side of the hotel where their retail and office spaces lie. Again, we flip into Lifestyle, Hotel, History and contact pages. This is such an undeniable winner of web design, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the animations and design are beautiful, so any visitor is likely to end up looking at every page on the site. This means there’s more time for a customer to get hooked into some offer or feature, and secure their stay at the hotel. In addition, in flipping through this biography-esque page animation, you unintentionally read a lot of interesting points that end up educating you about the premises and its surrounds.
In short, a well-illustrated, and well-animated design that’s fun to play with can lead a user into inadvertently reading every single piece of text on the site, and becoming somewhat of an expert on the hotel in the process. This is a goal which is very difficult to achieve, but as we can see here, not impossible.
To conclude this study, let’s look at a few pointers we’ve picked up from comparing all these different websites (as well as many others which didn’t make the cut). There’s always something to learn when observing the work of others – after all, inspiration is the root of creativity!
While there are a lot of crossover factors, the one thing that none of these websites lacks is a wide range of clear, large images which are visually attractive, yet honest.
The number one reason that customers might visit a hotel website is to examine images of the hotel, making good photographs (and a good photographer) the most vital point to nail down when designing a hotel website.
If a hotel doesn’t have the most incredible five-star restaurant, a hundred-acre property, or some award-winning entertainment options, there are still ways to easily show potential guests why they’re a contender.
When it comes to things like community involvement, green/sustainable initiatives, unique location or unique activities, the travel and tourism market is growing more and more in favour of these features. After all, emotion is one of the most important steps in achieving virality, so it’s not to be taken lightly what a ‘save the turtles’ initiative can do to attract customers.
Another common feature of these websites is a very common design combination. White background with off-black text, a script title font combined with a sans-serif paragraph font, and a few light CSS animations to keep everything pleasing to the eye.
There really is no reason to get over-complicated, or crowd the page. Most people can only focus on one or two things at a time, at a stretch – this means how you choose to divide your content, and how much of that you display on your homepage are two incredibly important factors to try and implement in a “clean” and “sleek” manner.
This is somewhat of a follow on from the previous point but simply put – there’s not much to a hotel website. If you’ve got great photos, smartly placed booking widgets, some useful buttons and a functional menu, you’re already of almost 50% of the way there.
Once you throw in a talented web designer, some creative SEO and a few little bells and whistles, you’re ready to be open for bookings, and filling rooms.