An Exploration into the Principles and Elements of Design in Hotel Websites


Edward Marquez

Jul 10, 2019


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It’s no secret that when you stay in a five-star resort or even just a budget motel, you pay attention to your surroundings. If the hotel did its job, you notice that someone had to have spent a lot of time and money on how it looks. It’s not an accident that the circa 1980 fancy comforter matches the abstract painting hanging above your bed. Or that the towels you dry your hands with bear the same embroidered logo as your bath towels. You are provided an experience when you arrive and stay in the hotel. This experience is accomplished through the use of design. Some properties do it very well, by maintaining a very consistent design and immersing their guests in their brand. If this concept holds for the property’s physical address, then why wouldn’t it be carried over to the web address as well?‍

Interior design or website design, it’s all the same really

Web design and interior design follow a very similar set of elements and principles. Much like any other form of design and art, these principles vary slightly and are hotly debated among creative professionals. One thing is sure, these elements and teachings (however defined) dictate what constitutes “good” design. That is a design that is both pleasing to the experiencer and also functional in its use. These elements are made up of line, color, texture, shape, value, and size, which are put to use with these principles— unity, balance, scale, contrast, movement, rhythm, and space.

There is almost an infinite number of formulas that can be cooked up to present a successful design. In interior design, these principles and elements are put to use by making guests feel welcome as they enter the lobby.  They provide them comfort in their rooms or even offer a logical exit path in the event of an emergency. In very much the same way, guests of a hotel’s website should be provided with similar attention to detail. Their initial arrival at the site should be met with a welcoming feel that is unified with the property’s interior design elements. When providing images of guest rooms, the user must feel like he or she would want to stay in that room. If they decide to book, there should be a logical and straightforward path to the booking engine as well. General knowledge on the property is just as essential as common knowledge on the website.

First Impressions: Before the guests even set foot in the hotel

A hotel’s website is often the first interaction a guest will have with the property, and the hotel should want to provide an excellent first impression for that guest. Take the typical young (potential) guest, browsing the internet for hotels, rates, and attractions in the area. Given the current trends of online shopping, the user will most likely visit an Online Travel Agent (OTA), like Priceline, Expedia, or one of the many others available. In some cases that user will book the room on that site and never see the hotel’s vanity site at all.‍

That’s not always the case. What if the user wants to use that OTA or other places to explore the hotel options in the area. Once they are done, they will visit the websites of each of those options?

The hotel, or more specifically, its website, has just been placed into a sort of “digital buffet,” where presentation is everything. Consumers are going to visit each of these sites, and based on the site’s use of these design elements and principles. Then they are going to make a decision. Let’s pretend for a moment that all websites load the same and site speed is irrelevant (before you say it, yes site speed is essential). Our digital buffet has now loaded, and we are presented with a spread of delicious and maybe not so delicious websites. The user’s first look at the site will be met with all of the many principles and elements of design, much like the many dishes available in an extravagant Las Vegas buffet. The user’s eyes act like a hungry diner’s nose sampling the scents of the many dishes presented to them. Their minds salivate with thoughts of soft beds, sexy nightclubs, and stunning beaches. Whether the site was done well or not, we all perceive our world somewhat similarly.  We’re all going to notice these details both consciously and subconsciously. The trick is for that hotel to present its “dish” in the most pleasing way possible. In other words, they want to maximize the use of those elements and principles of design.‍

The Principles and Elements of Design: In a Nutshell

If you gathered anything from the “digital buffet” example, it should be that these design elements and principles are both essential to having a successful website design. They require a subtle elegance to get it just right. In keeping with the food theme, you could imagine a website design again as a nice steak. You don’t want to overcook it or season it too much, and you can’t just leave it raw. No, a chef understands that his diners want that steak to be cooked to order and with just the right taste for their pallets. They might even get an excellent red wine paired with it. Paying particular attention to the use of these details are essential in cooking and also apply in website design as well. Doing so will, without a doubt, affect a guest’s decision to take a bite or move his plate to the next item in the buffet.

I will be exploring the elements and principles of design in more detail later. There are a few fundamental things I want you to keep in mind before any work begins:

First and most importantly, the elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create websites and any creative work. Good or bad, a website will incorporate these details. Successful design is using them to your advantage to accomplish the goals of the design.

Secondly, to use these elements and principles successfully, you must define your goal or problem. The way to achieve your goal is through the use of these elements and principles.

Lastly, the design is bound by a set of rules, and these are the elements and principles of design. A strange concept about these rules is that they should be followed very carefully, but always tested and even sometimes broken. As much of a contradictory statement as this is, it essentially means that design is liquid and the rules are not set in stone. Exploration of these rules sometimes takes a design in exciting directions. Designers and artists embrace this concept, and it’s what pushes design to be different, engaging, and significant.

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