Best in class mobile applications in the hospitality and hotel industry [examples]
Over the last ten years, hotels have jumped on the mobile app bandwagon and with good reason. Why? Let’s look at the facts: 40% of Americans use apps to book travel. That’s huge. Upon introduction of their initial mobile application, Intercontinental saw a rise in profits via their mobile app of over 300%.
Let’s take a look at the great benefits of mobile apps in hospitality, and how industry leaders are building their mobile applications. As a hotel owner, you are asking yourself ‘what will a mobile app do for my business?’ These are the key benefits of a mobile app for your guests:
- Guests have the convenience of making payments via their mobile device which improves your bottom line.
- Guests can find your hotel on a map and see photographs of the hotel.
- Guests can contact you from anywhere.
- Guests can check availability, make bookings, reserve a table in the hotel restaurant – all from their mobile device.
- There are even apps that allow guests to open their room door, control the lights and even open and close the drapes.
There are a host of useful advantages that offer convenience, save time and keep your business right in front of your clients on the one item that is always with them.
You as the hotel owner also benefit a great deal from your app:
- The application is an extension of your brand and image.
- You have the ability to send special offers and coupons to your guests, on their mobile device, bringing you repeat business.
- They allow owners to stay in touch with their guests.
- You show your customers that you have their best interests at heart.
- You use cutting edge technology that saves you time and keeps your records well organised.
How are hospitality industry leaders using mobile apps?
Here are some examples:
This is Hilton’s landing page (on Apple) which holds on the screen while the app is loading.
Here is a better example of how a splash page can be used to ‘wow’ your customers from the outset – IHG’s priority rewards app used an inviting photo in an idyllic holiday setting:
This is InterContinentals Hotel Group’s (IHG) iOS application. What’s very interesting (and different) about this application is how the Group chose white as a background colour and it works surprisingly well. It allows the logos to stand out really nicely and white is an excellent colour when there are a number of different colours on the page – as with this one. The main IHG logo is prominent, and notice how the designer has put the IHG Rewards club section as one large, clickable area, which invites the customer to click on it first.
This obviously benefits IHG as a company, as it keeps customers coming back again and again and you, as a hotel chain, want your customers to use your rewards as it saves both you and your customer money.
The design is also well thought out because, if, as in IHG’s case, you have various different brands under the one main company, it permits your customers to easily go to the section required.
This is SPG’s android app home page. This is a nice looking app – and the image conjures up the perfect holiday. The tabs are nicely laid out to one side, and the logo is hidden but easily found. The purple however is a bit dark and is not the nicest shade – a better colour could have potentially been used here.
This is Hilton’s home page on Apple. This design is slightly incongruous (in the writer’s opinion) – when you see the Golden Gate Bridge you don’t automatically think ‘oh Hilton hotels’. The image itself takes up a large amount of screen space which could have been put to better use. Also notice that Hilton’s logo is practically invisible on the screen. The dotted arrow (in a circle) does not really give an indication of what it does and the screen looks like it’s giving the weather, rather than the customer’s dates of his/her next stay. It seems wasteful.
Always try to use as few screens as possible, where possible. If it is necessary, definitely use it, if not, definitely do not (is the rule).The more ‘clicks’ your customer has to make to get to where he/she wants to go, the more likely they are to stop using the app.
It is always important to remember the screen size when designing the app, and making sure that the user can easily navigate with their finger. Again, the light blue in this example is possibly too bright:
Here’s Omni Hotels and Resorts app’s home page on Apple. Again, not an especially effective page – this app is highly interactive, with mixed results, and this is a classic example of why. Wasted screen real estate, poor design and making it look like a magazine (when it isn’t) is not really very useful. And the screen doesn’t seem to have any functionality to it at all.
This is IHG’s app (on Apple). As you can see, there are a number of different colours on these screens, however the white gives a great, balanced look and feel and the oranges and purples do not look out of place. A lot of designers forget that white can be used as an effective background colour – but this app is proof to the contrary.
These images show the initial ‘menu’ page, followed by the ‘hotel’ page itself (for different hotels and a different chain under the same brand).
The menu allows the customer to find a hotel, make a reservation, manage their stays (for frequent travelers), access any messages and check IHG’s news and offers.
Remember that IHG is a very large hotel group, and therefore, its app allows the customer to carry out multiple different tasks, over a number of different hotel chains, all from the comfort of one application. This would not be recommendable (straight away at least) for a smaller group of hotels (or a single hotel) – always keep in mind what you feel is absolutely necessary, and what can be added later as your company grows. Obviously IHG is in a position to offer all their services.
The ‘hotel’ page is well designed – the colors work well together and the designer has managed to fit a lot of key information on a small screen without it looking too busy. The handy ‘call’ and ‘map’ buttons are well thought out – and it’s also very useful to have the ‘Hotel check out’ time and the ‘confirmation number’ so prominently displayed on the screen.
It works because all the most important information is available on one screen – always try to ensure that the screens on your app are not too ‘busy’ and do not include information that is not absolutely necessary to your customers. If you feel all the information is necessary, use a trick similar to IHG’s application, which gives handy buttons that allows your customer to get to the information quickly and simply. It is always advisable to add another screen when dealing with a lot of information, rather than trying to cram everything in to the one screen.
This is W Hotels’ (part of the Starwood group of hotels) hotel page on Android. This page has been nicely set up – again keeping the tabs consistently on the right is a good idea. Try to maintain consistency when designing your application so that customers always know where to go/find something easily.
They have also given a ‘one click’ phone number so that the customer can quickly call to make a reservation or find out more details.
Notice how the pink ‘W Barcelona’ text does not match the purple pillow which clashes slightly.
Comfort Inn (on Android) have used this page to good effect, notice how they use their brands colours for their app as well. They have put the buttons at the top, which is a good place to put them as the human eye naturally scans the top left of the screen first and the ‘call to action’ is the first thing you see:
Marriot’s app (on Apple) has now been changed from this:
And it has done so to good effect, however why the designer opted to put text over the image was a strange choice. The customer wants to be able to see the image of the hotel, the text could have been put elsewhere.
Here are some examples of how hotel chains allow users to search for hotels. The search capability below is stylish and easy to use, however make sure it is very clear what each button does. It is not clear exactly what the button with a ‘clock like’ circle in it does (next to the text box under ‘Find and reserve a hotel’):
Here is another ‘search’ page from Choice hotels – showing the different types of ‘dates’ fields that can be used on applications.
This is Ibis’ application search page in French which is functional and well displayed:
Search results page
This is how Marriot displays results.
As you can see, only two (possibly three) hotels can be displayed on the screen which can get slightly frustrating for the user because they have to scroll down a long way to get to the hotel of their choice. These lists can also take quite a long time to load because of the size of the images. It is sometimes best to go for smaller images for faster loading times.
This is how Choice hotels displays search results. They have put a ‘filter’ and a ‘search’ button on the page which is useful functionality to have:
Choice has also used a novel approach to displaying their hotels, which is using a gallery which works quite well:
Here are some examples of map pages on hotel mobile applications which can be displayed in a number of different ways. Choice hotels has gone for an old fashioned ‘paper style’ map, which renders well on the screen:
Intercontinental Hotel Group’s app on Android has used the map to great effect, using tasteful red pins to show its hotels in the area. The handy text box shows the name of the hotel and general information. In cases such as these (when there is a lot of information close together), try to use other mobile application functionality which improves user experience, such as in this case, a text box, a pop up window or a sliding menu (be careful with these features though – make sure the person who creates your application uses them wisely and they do not pop up or slide out for no reason, or too often. That becomes frustrating for users). Notice how again, there is a lot of information on this screen, but it does not look ‘busy’:
Omni hotels have chosen a simple ‘Google’ style map:
Other pages of note
Some hotel apps have other pages that are useful, for example Omni hotel’s ‘offers’ page, which uses a nice list to create interest in its brand and events going on at its hotels:
IHG has done a great job with this page which details a lot of useful information about one of their hotels and includes special offers, a number of clickable images, where the hotel is located and what is included in the price.
Hilton offers a handy ‘Look up Reservations’ section in this example which ties in to your reservations in their database. Very useful for frequent travellers or a traveller’s admin who needs to check this information on the go (however the screen could have been made more pleasing on the eye):
And of course, here is an app opening your hotel room using Near Field Communication (a.k.a. NFC)!
So, there are lots of really great, interesting things you as a hotel owner can do with a mobile application, which will benefit your guests and your business. Although there are a multitude of things to keep in mind when building your app; key points to creating an excellent app are:
- Keep the design nice and simple and ensure that the colours work well together.
- Make it easy to navigate.
- Remember the screen size when designing the buttons and icons.
- Try to make the application as fast as possible. If images can be stored elsewhere to make the app more nimble, all the better.
- Photos and images should be large where possible, and of high quality.
- Information pages (ones that do not contain images) should look good, not be too ‘busy’ and well segmented.
- It should be very clear what ‘information’ buttons do.
- Make it visually stunning and interesting to make your visitors want to use it again and again!
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