keep it simple; get to the point

I often hear “people don’t read.” And while research shows reading patterns have changed in the last 10-20 years, people do scan text content for relevant information and read more carefully when narrowing choices. The same three things that hotel shopping decisions revolve around are therefore also the same that tend to get a shopper’s attention:

  1. Photos – is it worth the money for the upgrade or view?
  2. Price – is it in my budget? Can I afford to splurge?
  3. Description – is it the right fit for me at this time?

We covered the importance of quality photo content in a previous post and price is a whole other topic not related to user experience, so in this article, we’ll be focusing on the third: descriptions.

The trick with descriptions is to get straight to the point with a minimum number of words to help ensure quick understanding. Photos can show less detail than shoppers want, and prices vary so much by day and time of year that perceived value often hinges on additional detail found in text descriptions, labels, and photo captions.

Hoteliers have control over all of these in the SynXis Booking Engine. The Neilsen/Norman Group, who has studied online reading behavior for the last 14 years as part of digital usability, emphasizes being brief and designing for scanability, especially for content viewed on mobile devices. Baymard.com has published extensive studies on product page design and concludes that all users rely on descriptions to determine the best fit for their needs and that adding feature highlights is impactful.

Our team of UX experts at Sabre recommends the following based on observations from our own mobile and desktop testing that underscore what these research giants have documented:

Cut the fluff.
“Marketing copy” requires more time and energy to determine what’s important. People get frustrated if they spend that time without the expected pay off.

Keep text objective.
Make room names scannable and comparable. Include room name, room type, bed type and view in the name. In our studies, we frequently observe scrolling up and down as a way to compare room types by room name, especially on mobile devices. We ask users to talk out loud while they shop our sites. They’ll say things like “What’s the difference between this room and this one?” while scrolling and toggling between room types to learn the difference in price.

Craft 2-4 bullet descriptions.
Bullets are easily scannable for everyone, especially on smaller screens and more accessible for people with cognitive impairments. Turn on rate, free meal and free cancelation icon messaging for added scanability.

We often hear comments in usability sessions like:

  •  ”I like bullets so I can easily scan the selections.”
  • “I look for free breakfast.”
  • “They usually tell me upfront if I can cancel for free.”

Make use of rate names and descriptions in the same way.
If the room comes with great perks, make that clear immediately.

Finish the story.
Photos and price provide a working outline, but short, bulleted descriptions fill in the details that help guests compare their options.

“I look at the photos first, then the descriptions if something catches my eye.” – potential hotel guest during a usability session.

Use SynXis amenities to enhance the description.
Amenities lists provide further clarity in SynXis Booking Engine and the most requested amenities can be highlighted with icons. More on this in a separate post.

Create photo captions when you upload photos to SynXis.

  • Walk-in shower with dual rain heads and individual temp controls

says WAY more than

  • Bath pic 1

A well-detailed description highlights features in the photo and clarifies what’s hard to see or can’t be seen such as “individual temp controls.” It’s also accessibility compliant as it allows guests with vision impairments to experience the photo too.

Use long descriptions to extend details, not repeat them.
Longer descriptions can be viewed when users click “details” links throughout the SynXis Booking Engine. Use this option to extend the short story, not repeat it.

Make rate policy descriptions easy to understand.
Rate policies should not read like a terms and conditions document or lease agreement. They should be short and to the point.

For example, “Free cancellation before 8:00 pm on May 5” for nightly stay hotels, maybe a bit longer for resorts.

Don’t be afraid to provide text.
Remember that if you don’t, you may not be conveying the full value of your hotel. Just keep the text relevant.

By combining scannable text with vibrant, professional photos that reflect the price point, you’ll improve your conversion potential. Look for a future post on maximizing that potential with the “right” SynXis Booking Engine layout.