I have seen this tragic type of website design on several hotel websites in the past week. Maybe it is a new thing, or perhaps it was just by coincidence.
What really made the hair stand up on the back of my head though was that I realised the action I took as a result of it. I had started to open a new browser window during a hotel booking, and I was opening up Booking.com in preference to the hotel website.
That’s right, I had instinctively opened up Booking.com knowing that their photo galleries for the room type I was viewing would not be butchered like they were on this particular website.
The tragedy that seems to be taking place is that website designers seem to think it is trendy or aesthetically pleasing to crop perfectly good photos that were shot at a 3:2 ratio into something more resembling 2:1 or 3:1. This has the effect of chopping off the top and bottom of the photo (depending on where they crop it).
Presumably the theory is that the guest doesn’t want to see the roof or the full interior of a hotel room. They will be satisfied with a more visually pretty photo of the hotel room, which just happens to look better stacked in a grid.
This is marketing Hare Kare in my opinion. The only photo size that works in terms of respecting your guests and giving them the complete information they need to make a booking decision is the entire photo that the photographer probably agonised over in terms of its composition and final cropping.
Then along comes the hip designer and decides that these photos should be cropped because... "They just look better cropped and that is why you hired a designer". That is one of the problems with designers, they often don't see things through the perspective of the guest and conversion rate optimisation.
Please don’t allow your designer, website designer or marketing team to butcher photos in this way because the outcome is that guests will simply leave your main marketing website. They will visit Booking.com where all photos are displayed at full resolution taking up the entire screen when clicked on, and are presented in their true and original ratios.
That is exactly what I did, and I never for one second considered going back to their main marketing website to book my stay. I also found it very convenient to book on Booking.com, and because they made it so easy for me, I booked there.
That is the cold hard reality of what is happening out there in the real world. More and more people and moving from your marketing website to Booking.com because of the vastly improved user experience. That is really unfortunate and it can be mitigated by making your marketing website as simple and as informative as possible (rather than just pretty).
If you have read some of my previous blog posts you will get an impression of how much disdain I have for website designers. I am sure they are very nice people. But they are not helping you keep guests on your website when they make these poor user experience (UX) design decisions.
For the record, here is the page of the website where the photos have been cropped, are limited in scope and are do not display in a larger format:
Strangely, when looking on Booking.com the photos presented there don’t even resemble those on the main marketing website. That is such a shame, because this seems to be a popular and well liked hotel in Noosa. They need to pay way more attention to their online presence, if they are going to expect more direct bookings.
Finally, on their Booking.com page for that room type there is no photo of the kitchenette. There is on the website, but on the website there is no photo of the lounge!
Please don't give guests any reason at all to leave your marketing website once you have them there. Give them everything they need to make a booking decision by presenting all information or they will leave in a heartbeat.