A recent study by IPerceptions, a market research company that specializes in Web sites, found that many visitors to hotel Web sites found the sites confusing enough that it precluded them from booking rooms. Oops!
Hotels should take heed: More than 40 percent of the study's 123,000 respondents reported that they didn't book a room "because of a usability problem with the booking engine or because of a technical or navigation issue in another section of the Web site." Sure, consumers are always looking for a deal and may bypass a hotel's Web site altogether in favor of a discount site such as hotels.com, but if someone is on a hotel's Web site, the point is to keep that person on the site.
I don't find the respondents' reactions all that surprising, actually. I've had trouble finding information on many a hotel Web site, from parking rates to something as basic as in-room amenities. For example, the Montage Hotels & Resorts' Web site, which was recently redesigned, seems much more streamlined until you click on the links to the individual hotels. That's when you notice the redesign hasn't reached all corners of the Montage company. Try to find information on in-room amenities on the Montage Beverly Hills reservations page, and you'll come up empty-handed. Do the same on the Montage Laguna Beach's page, and you'll have no problem. The inconsistency is frustrating.
Also aggravating is a poor design that has a Web site's user navigating away from a crucial page, such as a reservations page, to find information on a room type. This is the experience I had while trying to find information on Four Seasons' reservations page. I had to either click through twice to find room-type information, or I could click on the left-hand navigation bar's "Guest Rooms and Suites" link, which would circularly take me back to the reservations page after another two clicks. But why take users away from the reservations page in the first place?