If you’re like most B&B owners, you spend a whole lot of time and money making sure your B&B looks just right. You remodel your house, find the right furniture, agonize over the decorations and test and re-test recipes to find the best ones to serve for breakfast. And every year since you’ve been in operation, you’ve put time and effort into making sure every guests’ experience is just perfect.
Many business owners don’t realize it, but it’s equally important to spend that same amount of effort making sure your guests are having that same experience when they visit your website.
When your guests, the majority of whom use the internet to research their accommodations and many of whom actually book online, first arrive at your website, what do they see? Do they see a reflection of what it’s like to stay at your physical B&B? Or do they see a few words and pictures stuck onto a page that you haven’t bothered to update in several years?
Consider this statement from an article in a design magazine I read regularly:
According to a 2002 study, the “appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size, and color schemes,” is the number one factor we use to evaluate a website’s credibility. (Stephen P. Anderson, In Defense of Eye Candy, A List Apart, 2009).
So, if a website is well-designed and visually appealing, that website and the business behind it rank highly in their visitors’ eyes. Conversely, if a website is outdated, hard to read, difficult to navigate, or any of the above, that business loses credibility in its visitors’ eyes. If your website is the first impression your potential guests have of your B&B, how do you think your visitors see you?
It pays to think about how you want your guests to perceive your B&B. Since your website is the first place they stop, you need to make sure that what they see online is equal to the experience they will have when they actually arrive. If you’ve made your B&B into a haven of relaxation, make sure your website emphasizes the relaxing atmosphere through a soothing design, great photos, well-written text, maybe even a video. Those who are looking for relaxation will be more likely to pick up the phone, or click the link on your reservations page, because they already know you offer what they seek.
I recently returned from a trip to Europe, during which I stayed at several English and Irish B&Bs. I did almost all of my searching online, and most of my booking, and when I came across an ugly website, I usually skipped right over it, even if the B&B was in my budget, or offered the right location. On those rare occasions when I did call–when it was the only one in town, for example–I hesitated, unsure whether the property was worth staying at. If they didn’t maintain their website, what else didn’t they maintain?
Things worked out ok for me, but there were many B&Bs that missed out on another guest, just because their website was out of date or was poorly designed. How many guests are you missing out on because your website isn’t up to par?
It made good business sense to update your B&B’s furnishings, or your house’s plumbing or any number of physical things that would enhance your guests’ experience. Happy guests equal return guests and referrals. Likewise, it makes good business sense to invest in a well-designed website. Your website can enhance your guests’ impressions of your B&B. You can use all of this new technology to show your guests what it’s like to stay with you before they even get there. And they have a really great experience online, they know their experience will be that much better once they finally get to your B&B.