A hotel’s website is one of the only digital assets that a property truly has full control over.
But what is better for hotels, a completely customized website or a pre-built template?
The answer: it depends.
At Top Suite, we have a balanced mix of hotels with custom sites and our Always Amazing “template” design. When discussing website options with new clients, we like to share the reasons that some hotels choose one option or the other. Listed below are some of the reasons we discuss as we counsel clients through the decision process.
Why would a hotel choose a custom site?
Truly Unique Property
When a hotel has a truly unique character, a custom website that reflects that character can help viewers start to experience the feel of the property and get excited about staying at the hotel.
Example: Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel and Creekside Villas in Sedona, AZ
Multiple Properties – Multiple Sites
In some cases, several properties are managed by the same ownership group. Creating a custom design that can be used for each property creates a cohesive look across all of their their websites. This approach also allows the group to spread the price of a custom site across multiple properties.
Example: Stovall’s Hotels near Disneyland®.
Independent Hotel Brand with Multiple Properties
When an independent hotel brand has multiple properties, a custom site that showcases all of the locations is a great way to legitimize the entire hotel brand. For SEO purposes, having all of the locations on one site increases the overall number of links that are pointed to the domain, this helps search rankings across the entire site. Also, managing just one website allows the digital marketing process to be more cost effective than having multiple websites. Example: Aspen Hotels of Alaska
Third Party Software Integrations
We have had situations where a hotel wants to integrate with another website or 3rd party software. For example, a hotel may want to have a custom feed of the latest plays or shows in their area and allow guests to book tickets directly through their hotel website. Integrations like this usually require custom design and coding.
A Site Like No Other
Some clients simply want to have a site design that is not found anywhere else on the web. The custom site allows the property to express its unique brand and location while standing out in a crowd of cookie-cutter websites.
Why would a hotel choose a template site?
Quick to Launch
Templates allow a hotel to get their website up very quick. Removing the time required for design and coding – the launch process is focused on content, photos and integration with the booking engine. This process can go very fast – we typically have sites ready for review within 7 business days. Compare that to a custom design and coding project that can take 6-10 weeks and you see why a lot of hotels like the template option.
Proven to Work
Most quality templates have been tested and refined before being made available to other hotels. Launching templates with a limited beta allows small quirks to be fixed or underperforming features to be enhanced. At Top Suite, we use A/B testing to determine which design layouts or features generate the best outcomes. The result: a template design that is proven to drive bookings.
Actually, most templates are not continually updated. This approach requires a commitment to explore new features, regular testing and a solid process to push the updates live with minimal downtime. It’s a lot of work, but at Top Suite, we feel that effort is what makes our hotel template the best in the business. A couple examples of our Always Amazing template in action:
Best Western Plus Seville Plaza Hotel in Kansas City, MO
Best Western Parkway Hotel in North Toronto, ON
One of the most common reasons to choose a template website is the low setup cost when compared to a custom site. Because the design and coding is already complete, the saved time results in a significant cost savings. How significant? That depends on how complex the custom project is, but on average our template prices are 1/4 that of a custom site.
Which Do I Prefer?
I am often asked which approach I prefer. The art director and designer in me enjoys the exploration and problem solving that only a custom design project can bring. Custom sites are great in the portfolio and are looked upon more highly by the web design community than template sites.
However, for the business owner in me, there is something very satisfying about creating a design that is flexible for many hotel brands and allows properties of any size and budget to afford a world-class website solution. Our template sites combined with Search Engine Optimization have proven to be game changers for the bottom-line of our hotel clients. I hate to avoid the question, but I like them both equally and I’m proud to offer solutions that match the website needs of any hotel.
Posted by: Adam Kline
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