Driving the digital hotel experience

This week, we launched a new digital initiative for our client, Beaufort Park Hotel and Conference Centre, starting with the launch of a new website.

The Beaufort Park Hotel has long been delivering superior guest experiences, as recognised recently when it was named Best Place to Stay at the Flintshire Food and Tourism Awards, but until now the online experience didn’t deliver the same standard of service.

The old website wasn’t mobile-friendly and, after a few years service, the design was beginning to look dated and uninspiring. Cumulative content bloat was also blunting the structure and flow, making it increasingly difficult for users to find what they were looking for.

We worked closely with the team at Beaufort Park, along with a customer focus group, to plan, design and develop a new website that is built with logical information architecture and drives satisfying user journeys.

The new, responsive website is the first in a series of customer-facing outputs that will use various channels and technologies to help to create the best possible online experience for guests before, during and after their stay at the hotel.

beaufort-park-hotel-homepagebeaufort-park-hotel-responsiveSusan Warnock, General Manager of the Beaufort Park Hotel, said: “We’re delighted to now be offering an improved online experience for new and existing customers. Our website is often the first line of contact with new customers, so it’s important that we immediately send out a message that customer experience is at the heart of our business.”

We’re excited about the nest stages of the project with Beaufort Park and we’ll keep you updated on its progress.

Find out more about the work we’re doing with Beaufort Park and some of our other clients.

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One very happy Scouse Bird

Last week, Group Dane was pleased to launch the brand new Scouse Bird Problems website…

For anyone who doesn’t know her (where’ve you been?), Scouse Bird is a popular anonymous fashion and lifestyle blogger, famous for her characteristically Scouse-witted tongue. With a growing social media following of more than 250,000 people, her reach spans from Merseyside way out across the globe, while her website attracts tens of thousands of visits every month.

Souse Bird asked Group Dane to create a new website, which is not only in-keeping with the brand from a design perspective, but also includes a easily manageable blogging platform and functionality that simplifies management of advertising.

We designed a beautiful, responsive website, which supports and builds upon the Scouse Bird brand and, through effective information architecture work, displays a large amount of content in an intuitive and user-friendly way.

scouseGiven the majority of Scouse Bird’s audience visits the website via portable devices, we knew from the outset that it was crucial that the site works well on all mobile devices, such as mobile phones and tablets.

sbp4We opted for Umbraco to handle content management (including blogging platform) and developed an integrated system to manage advertising across the site, which scalable management and reporting.

The verdict?

Another beautiful and perfectly engineered website by Group Dane and one very happy Scouse Bird.

scouse-bird-problemsSee the website for yourself at: www.scousebirdproblems.com

 

Famous last words: “Coming soon”

Have you ever noticed a huge empty shelf in Tesco with a “Coming soon…” notice on it for weeks or months? No. The reason they don’t do this is because it’s a waste of valuable space, it’s inconvenient for customers browsing and looks unsightly. So why would you do this on your website?

coming-soon-supermaketInconvenient

Website visitors hate being disappointed and that is exactly how they’ll feel if they click on a page or section of your website and are greeted by those famous last words “coming soon”.

“Coming soon” pages are usually added out of pure excitement for the glorious content that will soon take pride of place, right there for all to see. But in reality, your visitors will feel like they’ve been thrust back into the 90s to play an annoying game of Take Your Pick. Your visitors may be excited to see the content you’re hinting towards, but when they look behind door number 3, they’ll find an out of date pork pie.

Unsightly

Just like empty shelves in Tesco, a blank page with “Coming soon” or another derivative of “Nothing here for you” looks bland. Even if you try to cheer the page up with a nice image, it’s only about as effective as a nice bunch of flowers lodged between the empty supermarket shelves.

The fact you’re spending time thinking about how you can make an empty page look pretty should set alarm bells ringing. Save yourself the headache and hold off publishing the page.

Waste of space

If Tesco are eagerly awaiting a big delivery of a new product, they don’t empty the shelf until it’s due to arrive. This is obviously because they would be losing potential sales by wasting the retail space. The same goes for your website; whether you’re selling products, providing a service or sharing information, poor use of site space will affect performance by diverting customers away from the content.

Wait until the content is ready to be published and only then add the page or section to your site. Your users won’t thank you for waiting, but they certainly won’t hate you for not waiting!

Why is content king?

It’s no secret that a website’s success depends on strengths in a few key areas, including: design and structure; functionality; and content.

Interestingly, when a client asks us to develop a website, content is often the last item on their priority list.

From copy, images and videos to the titles of pages and sections, content is fundamental to the success of any website.

But why is website content so important? Here are a few pointers to help you to understand why great content is important.

Search ranking

Search engine rankings are driven by content. No matter how well designed or user-focussed your website is, without high quality, subject-relevant content, Google, Bing and other search engines will not rate your web pages as well as you would like.

Guiding visitors

It is important to remember that visitors are always looking to do something, whether that is perform a task, be entertained or find information. It is ultimately content that will guide a visitor around a website and encourage them do something. Without strong messages and appropriate calls to action, the user will struggle to follow the paths you have set out for them.

Images, video and beyond

Strong copy isn’t the only thing to consider when it comes to content. A picture may paint a thousand words, but if labelled up correctly, they can also pull in more website visitors, not to mention compliment the design of the website. There is little point investing time and money into fantastic webs design if you are going to assault it with poor quality images.

Given YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine, why not try to capture some of that traffic by creating video content that you can upload and embed into your website? Don’t forget to label the video appropriately and link back to your website.

Further guidance

If you would like more support or advice about improving your website content, find out more about our content services.

Putting customers first: UX and customer experience

You’ve probably read and heard lots of people in the digital marketing industry talking about user experience (UX) and how important it is to achieving your website’s objectives. Similarly, more biz-wigs are talking about how important customer experience is to your business. Both of these whisperings are true, but how do they relate to each other?

User experience versus customer experience

The term user experience (UX) refers to your customers’ relationship with your digital interfaces…how they feel about these interactions and how they behave and interact with your brand online through your website and any other digital platform or software you’re using.

On the other hand, customer experience refers to the complete experience, perceptions and interactions with your company as a whole. This includes how they found your business (for example online, on the high street, in the yellow pages, etc), their experience or interactions with your business (i.e. online, on the telephone, at your office or shop, etc) and how the relationship has progressed through continued contact (such as repeat purchases, product support, marketing emails and advertising).

use-it

Get on UX

UX is just one piece of the overall customer experience jigsaw, but it is also likely to be one of the first points of contact between your business and its customers. This is because, like you and me, many customers check out a company’s websites before making any kind of contact. It’s really important that customers (existing and potential ones) have an online experience that is positive and reflects the overall desired customer experience.

Ensure that your website’s UX is strong by checking accessibility standards and carrying out user testing; take a close look at design, content and site architecture.

Consistency is key (and lovely)

Once you have your UX polished, you need to consider how this relates to the overall customer experience. There’s no point having a great UX if it isn’t supported by a great customer experience when it comes to the quality of communications, complaints handling, brand perception, etc.

It’s a good idea to build the general principles of great UX into your overall customer experience strategy. How do your customers feel about each stage of their interaction with your company? Have you made customer-facing processes as simple, efficient and easy to follow as possible? Does the customer experience reflect your desired brand image?

The main thing to remember when looking at UX and customer experience is that your visitor/customer should be at the heart of everything you do. They will thank you for it in return business, recommendations and a generally warm and fuzzy glow when they think of you. Never forget that your customer has a choice.

For help with user experience or customer experience, get in touch for a chat.

Also see our blog post: How is your UX affected by responsive design?

How is your UX affected by responsive design?

“My experience of your website started at my desk and ended on the train.”

While on my lunch break yesterday, I visited a travel website on my work computer. My experience of the website was very good, so much so that I didn’t even realise when my lunch break was over. My boss will be pleased to read that as soon as I realised, I got straight back to work (honest).

Train - London Later, on the long train journey home, I pulled out my smartphone to finish browsing the same website. At first, I was pleased to find that the website was responsive (which means it adapts to the device it’s being viewed on). But wait. Something didn’t feel right… It looked completely different. I double checked it was the same website I visited on my lunch break… It was. Why was the look and structure so radically different from the desktop site? Why could I not find the information I was looking at earlier? Why was the navigational structure so different that the only things familiar were the colours? Without wanting to sound too dramatic, I felt confused, agitated and impatient with the website.

This got me thinking about how important it is for a responsive website to have a consistent user experience (UX) across different devices. If you’re not familiar with the term, UX is basically concerned with the emotional aspects associated with the use of interactive technologies like websites and web applications.

The whole point in a responsive website is that it will work and display adequately according to the user’s device. However, the fact it’s adapting means that the quality of UX is also potentially changing with it. It is important that any differences across devices must be logical and intuitive.

How is my responsive website’s UX?

Slip your feet into your customers’ shoes and think about how they might want to access your site.

Customers' shoesTest your website’s UX on all screen sizes and devices you intend to support, such as smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. Just remember that you don’t have the power to choose which devices you support – you must always, always go where your customers are. Remember, you can look at your web analytics to determine what devices are most commonly used by your customers.

For help with UX or responsive design, get in touch.

You deserve to go bust…

…if you don’t think your website is important.

We’re battling through the biggest recession for decades, so now is the time to get business smart and acknowledge the importance of your website.

The first thing most people do when they’re looking for a product or service is Google it. Like it or not, if your competitors have better websites, they will probably engage more customers than you.

You need to give the same care and attention to your website as you do to your products and physical shop window. Let’s face it, this is the digital age; your website directly impacts your business.

Group Dane blog post

Bill didn’t think his website was important.

Your first, your last, your everything.

For goodness sake, your website is your shop front, (good or bad) it’s your first impression, (pretty or ugly) it’s your face, (weak or booming) it’s your voice, (on trend or car crash) it’s your style, (silk hanky or runny nose) it’s your professionalism, (carrot or stick) it’s your culture and, crucially – it’s one of the most powerful selling platforms you’ll ever have.

Barry White might as well have been singing about his website in this song:

Make sure your website feels special to you, Barry White style. Ooooh yeah.

Is your website “OK”?

“OK” and “poor” are the same thing when it comes to optimising customer egagement. Keep working on your website until you can honestly describe it as “great”. Would you describe your products as mediocre, average, not bad, ok, or fair? You may not have to if your website is already saying that for you.

If your website could talk to you, is this what it would say?

No need for a chemical romance, but you should try to court your customers with a beautiful, functional website.

Let’s get serious.

If your business is unique, if you do something better than everyone else, if you have something to offer that is special…your website should reflect this.

For your potential customers, your website will be the only time they ever make contact with you. It’s time to get serious.

In this song, Jermaine Jackson is probably singing about sorting out his online presence:

It’s true that you only get what you pay for; if it’s homemade or one of those cheap £200 template deals, you won’t be kidding anyone.

Sucking air time

To find out how much you should pay for a bespoke website, specially tailored to your business’ requirements, get in touch with Group Dane for a detailed no obligation quote.

 

Photograph by Mock Turtle Moon, New York.