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How To Buy The Best Website For Your Travel Business

6 min read

“I need a website” is a typical starting point. “Why do I need a website?” is a better start.

A nice looking and well working website is a must for any travel operator’s credibility. It’s your calling card and a way to distinguish yourself from competitors. But buying a website from an outside agency or a web designer can feel like buying a pig in a poke. We’re here to help you get started, so you know what you’re buying.

65 % of all world wide sales in travel and tourism in 2020 were made online. This percentage is estimated to rise up to 72 % by 2023. (Statista.com)

While travel restrictions due to Covid-19 are lifted and the amount of online searches and sales are increasing, it’s a perfect time for any travel business to check:

A) is your online presence what you need it to be and
B) is it mobile friendly

In this article we give you some helpful questions to answer and useful tips to follow when buying a website from an agency. You save a lot of time and effort, and ultimately money, when you enter the project well prepared.

What do you need?

The best way to get the most out of your investment is to first get a good idea of what you are looking for in a website.

A good place to start is to take a look at other travel business’ websites. What’s good about them? The colours, the layout, the pictures, their booking system, their stories? What features would you like to have on your website and what can you do without?

Copy the links to your favourite sites and write a short description of what is good about them. This information helps the web designer narrow down their design options to a few relevant ones. By checking which agencies made your favourite travel sites, you can approach reliable professionals who can provide a quote for your website build. They no doubt already know the travel business and have a portfolio of good work.

What do your customers need?

After browsing the web for what YOU like, it’s time to turn to your target audience. After all, your website is for them. Take a good look at your travel business and answer these questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What problem(s) are you aiming to solve with your new website? Have you tried to solve them in other ways? Why didn’t it work?

You don’t have to have the solutions. The agency knows what’s possible and how. They can offer you the solutions. As long as you can be as concrete as possible in explaining your situation and your needs.

Functionalities

Trends in websites change a bit slower than in fashion, but they change all the same. When you browse the net you learn to recognise roughly when each site was made.

Mobiles are already the dominant browsing tool and this changes the way modern websites look and function. Mobile compatible websites might not look as neat and easily navigable as desktop or laptop computer users are used to. But no business today can afford to drive away the mobile users from their website.

Out of all ecommerce in 2021 almost 73 % of sales are made via a mobile device (smartphone or tablet). Compared to 53 % in 2016, this is a huge increase and is estimated to grow. (Statista.com)

Increased mobile use has also led to the trend ‘less is more’. When you can’t show every link, like you can on a computer screen, you have to pick and choose what you show the user and in what order. What is the least amount of functionalities and pages you can have, and still give your customers all the information they need?

Typical travel website items or functionalities are:

  • Your story / who you are
  • Description of your services and prices
  • Online booking system
  • Location (map) and instructions
  • GDPR compliance statement (to show you use and keep customer information according to privacy rules and regulations)

For additional functionalities answer these questions:

  • What else do your customers need to know about your service?
  • What other functionalities does your travel service need so that your potential customer is convinced to buy your product?

Again, these are the questions you can ask your web agency once they get to know your business.

How much does it cost?

This leads to the budget. How much can you realistically spend on a website? Please remember that you aren’t only paying for the design and build of your website. It needs to be hosted, updated and maintained as well. This includes yearly and/or monthly fees you need to consider.

Think of the website maintenance as the same as with cars. Even if your content doesn’t change, the backend and the plugins, everything that makes your website work, needs to be updated and possibly changed regularly for everything to run smoothly. And just like with cars, the more bells and whistles you have, the more maintenance it requires.

A good idea is to make a list of priorities:

  1. What is the absolute must for your website to be functional?
  2. What can be left for future improvements if the cost becomes too high?

You can always ask for references from your colleagues in the travel industry. How much do they spend on their websites and what do they get for the money?

Tools for writing and updating the brief

Now you are well prepared to contact web agencies with a request for proposal accompanied with your important design brief. They’ll appreciate getting a client who can already give them proper guidelines for their work. This makes cooperation much easier for you both.

Typically design briefs are sent by email as Word documents or PDFs. But this presents a problem when you start working with your web designer. They are bound to suggest better functionalities or totally new solutions to your problems. Your business environment can also quickly change and you need to update the brief. This means a lot of back and forth calls and emails. There’s a risk that either one of you loses track of what was agreed on.

Could you use a document sharing tool for the brief (like Google Docs)? Many agencies have their own project tools, but you can suggest a tool you yourself are familiar with. This way you can collaborate in updating the brief as the project advances. New functionalities and new targets can change the budget and timetable as well. This way you can keep track and make sure there are no nasty surprises or communication breakdowns.

Template for the best website design brief

  • My contact information
  • Short overview of my business
  • My current website situation
  • What do I aim for?
    • What problem(s) need to be solved by the new website
    • My main customers/target groups for the website
    • What functionalities are a ‘must have’ (for example a booking system) and what are a ‘nice to have’ but not absolute necessity (for example a local news feed)
  • Inspiration: list of good travel websites and why I like them
  • (If I have) my company’s design guidelines (logos, fonts, colours etc.) that the web design has to comply with.
  • (If I have) a more general guideline (for example core values, an origins story etc.) that helps the web designer find the right mood and outlook for my website.
  • The budget
    • Design and build of the web site.
    • Are the hosting fees included?
    • What about future updates and maintenance?
  • The schedule
    • Starting date for the project.
    • Deadlines for different deliverables like wireframes and final designs
    • Launch date
    • Meetings and comment rounds needed for the project to proceed on schedule.

Congratulations, you’re good to go!

Roughly half responders in Western countries said they searched for travel inspiration online, while the other half trusted the tips of friends and family. The online inspiration percentage is even bigger in Asia, with Taiwan (66 %) and South Korea (64 %) on top. (2020, Statista.com)

 

Authored By

Hanna Hägglund
Content Strategist at | Website | + posts

Hanna is a seasoned facilitator and wordsmith from Helsinki, Finland. She loves guiding ideas to fulfilment and telling stories that breathe life into otherwise technical language.

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