Finally, my youngest is out of college! Employed! And living on her own! Go me! Last week, I was talking with a friend about today’s secondary education and how many tools kids have today that we never had growing up. We had libraries. They have the Internet. We had mystery meat. They have grass fed, farm-to-table, free range chicken on a brioche bun. After a few beers, we were having a good laugh and then we got into my biggest frustration with higher education. They make everything so difficult.
Specifically, I am talking about their websites. I had three kids go to three separate schools and all I wanted to do was pay the bills when they came due. Simple request right? I challenge you to find a simple way to pay a bill on ANY college website and tell me it is simple. My ex-wife and I needed to share accounts because they can’t give you two. We needed to change passwords monthly. I can’t recall, but there were some other hoops as well. And heaven forbid a grandparent might want to pay a little something. In the old days, we wrote a check, slapped it in an envelope and mailed it off. It needs to be that simple again. There should be a big PAY BILL link on the home page and from there all that is required is the Student ID number, the amount and the form of payment. Right? Not on your life. So now that I’ve ranted on that for a moment, let me tell you how that relates to you and your travel business.
The Internet has the potential to bring the masses to us. It is a WORLD WIDE WEB. Our clients can just as easily be from Tokyo as they are next door. That is huge. The downside, is that the agency down the street is playing by the same rules. With my kids’ schools I had no choice. As a travel consumer, I have too many. There is no incentive for me to work with you unless you K.I.S.S. KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID!
More and more clients are coming to us via the web. We need to make sure that the UE (user experience) is one that will encourage them to explore, learn, perhaps book, and engage our services. We need to K.I.S.S.
Make sure you plan time for a top to bottom website review with the UE in mind. There are certain key aspects that must be obvious:
- Brand Identity – I have seen many travel sites with a small logo tucked in the upper corner of the page. No! Be bold. When someone visits your site, they need to know who you are and confirm they are on the right page. If it means a logo re-design—do that. On a similar note, make sure it is clear what you do. Your name or the look of your site should clearly indicate travel.
- Contact Information – Big and bold. I do not want to scroll to the bottom of your page to click on a link to be brought to a contact form page. Put that up top and make it obvious. Pro tip: form generators fail and usually never let you know they fail. Include alternate means on the contact page—phone, email, address, etc.
- Social Media – Make sure your social playgrounds also have a prime spot on your site. Today’s consumer will likely want to check out your social skills as well. Make it easy for them. And if you are not active on some channels, leave them off.
- Focus on the Goal – What is the goal of your site? Are you looking for sales? To provide information? To push them to a social channel? To call you? To sign up for a mailing list? Determine the top few goals and make sure your site is designed accordingly. Personally, I never received any measurable bookings online, so I “devalued” the booking engine and focused on information. My best lead generator and sales producing page is the one that offers a downloadable packing checklist and a form for a single parent traveling out of the country. Again, most people do not like to be sold to. Most people understand they can buy travel almost everywhere today. Your job is to explain to them why they need to buy it from you.
- Mailing Lists – As anyone who has read this column before knows, I am a HUGE fan of mailing lists. Look into the options offered by your list manager and see what works best for you. The technology has improved. I have a mailing list form on my sidebar that is always there up near the top. A new visitor will get a pop up asking if they are interested in subscribing (this pops up 45 seconds into their visit so I can be sure they are there legitimately; and if they click it off, they will not ever see it again). And as they are about to leave my site (determined by a swift mouse move—we all do it) another pop up “before you leave, did you know…..” message giving them a tip and another opportunity to subscribe.
A good travel website is NOT a visually busy one. Too much clutter will turn anyone off. Keep it clean and keep your goals obvious. Keep It Simple Stupid! K.I.S.S.