Two years ago, the coolest web consultancy in the galaxy sent into orbit a new website for the coolest boutique hotel in the galaxy – our Delmar Loop neighbor, the Moonrise Hotel.
Three months after launch, the site had paid for itself by increasing online reservations 38 percent each year due to Integrity's user-centered design approach.
How did we do it? Fasten your moon boots, space cadets. We're glad you asked.
Like most of our website projects, we started the Moonrise redesign with a comprehensive discovery phase. In an Integrity discovery phase, we don't just ask clients what kind of stuff they want on their new site; we ask in-depth questions about their business, their customers and their challenges.
You'd think a hotel with a huge moon on its roof, a light-up staircase and the amount of space memorabilia you'd typically find in John Glenn's basement would already have a website that promotes its unique awesomeness.
But General Manager Paul Lauritsen and his team felt the old site, built by a web company that worked mostly with hospitality clients, was just too cookie-cutter, slow and clunky.
"The initial site was horrible and not user-friendly," Lauritsen said. "It ended being somewhat of a generic thing because (the previous company) tried to make all of their hotels have one look."
Then there was the issue of online reservations. Moonrise's patrons often reserved rooms through third-party booking sites. These sites keep a hefty percentage of each sale, which, of course, cuts into the hotel's profit.
Think of it like someone offering you a delicious moon pie, then taking a giant bite out of it before handing it over to you. Not cool, dude.
With a deep understanding of the Moonrise's out-of-this-world business and the full support of the client, we got to work building a new web presence that could make E.T. stop trying to phone home and book a room. The new site launched in late 2013.
Two years later, Lauritsen is over the moon. Direct reservations made through the site keep the hotel's bottom line strong, and no one calls to complain they're stuck on the site.
A key factor in the site's success was a smooth integration with the Windsurfer reservation system. Visitors making a reservation leave the Moonrise site to complete their transaction, but the Windsurfer interface leverages the site's visual design, creating a seamless user experience. And since they're reserving rooms directly with the Moonrise, the hotel gets to keep more of that yummy moon pie, er, sale.
We also gave the hotel the ability to create its own promotions to fill empty rooms during non-peak periods. After all, why let rooms sit empty when you could offer an attractive discount and still make about as much from the direct sale as you did from a booking site transaction.
More users are finding the site, too. Only 10 percent of visits to the old site came from search engines; that number has grown to nearly 34 percent with the new site, thanks to our carefully-crafted search engine optimization strategy.
Photos also played a large role in the redesign, with high-resolution images at the top of every page and an extensive gallery showcasing all of the hotel's amenities. It's consistently in the most visited page on the site after the home page.
"People want to see where they’re going; they want to see what the place looks like," Lauritsen said. "A stagnant look at a room doesn’t help, but a myriad of photos does the trick."
We also correctly anticipated the continued rise of mobile browsing – especially in the travel and hospitality industry – and made the site responsive for easy use on phones and tablets. Sure enough, mobile traffic now comprises nearly 60 percent of overall visits to the site.
"Clients like the Moonrise Hotel make us want to come to work every day and build amazing stuff," Integrity Partner and CEO John Simanowitz said. "We're honored they put their trust in us to create an awesome, money-making new site, and we're beyond thrilled with its continued success."
Lauritsen complimented Integrity's web project process, especially the initial discovery phase.
"At of our initial meetings about the hotel, you drew out of me what I couldn’t verbally say," Lauritsen said of the project team. "It’s your forte. You ask really good questions. You took on the perspective of my customers. You gave me an image and that’s what the public now sees."
No matter from where you're traveling, be it Pittsburgh or Pluto (you'll always be a planet to us!), the Moonrise is the place to stay if you're looking for a snazzy place to crash in St. Louis.
And if you're looking for a team to make your next web project shine brighter than the stars, hit us up; we're just down the street!
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