I read recently that there are something like 850 million websites in the world, and who knows how many are travel-related, but it must be at least in six figures.
So a new list by skift.com (itself one of the best travel websites) of “The 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World” limits itself to official tourism sites of either countries, states, cities or regions — known as destination marketing organizations, or DMOs. That certainly makes it more manageable.
Even though I always take lists like this with a large shaker of salt, I agree with the sentiment expressed in the accompanying piece by Samantha Shankman: “Websites created by destination marketing organizations are some of the most underused resources in travel today.”
Skift’s analysis of the 50 most visited U.S. tourism websites, done in October of this year, revealed that none had more than 570,000 visitors that month. And the longest average time spent on any one site was…five minutes, and even that was well above the average.
But, Shankman continues, those on their “best designed list” are “packed with logistical information…tourism resources….and beautiful imagery,” and offer mobile tools as well.
Their list includes six sites in the U.S.: Massachusetts Tourism (massvacation.com); Visit DC (www.washington.org); (Fall) Tennessee Vacation (fall.tnvacation.com); Travel Oregon (traveloregon.com); Visit Florida (visitflorida.com); and Discover Los Angeles (discoverlosangeles.com).
A few observations:
The Massachusetts Tourism URL, massvacation.com, is unfortunate; it sounds like masses of tourists descending on some overcrowded port or trying to squeeze onto a jammed airplane. Admittedly, “massachusettsvacation” is a mouthful, but aren’t there any better alternatives than massvacation? Still, that said, the home page design is as easy to read and navigate as any you’ll find, and it showcases attractions that are happening now.
I was also thrown by the URL for the Washington, DC, site. Washington.org? It sounds more appropriate for Washington State or some lobbying group. On the website’s home page, it says “You’re lucky you found us.” If that’s a reference to their URL, I’d certainly agree. By the way, I checked washingtondc.org, and it’s for sale. (washingtondc.com is taken by another tourism website.) The website’s design, while colorful, is also a little jarring, with bright red and whites the predominate hues. It made me want to turn to something more soothing.
The “Fall” Tennessee site comes with three other seasonal sites , all of which can be accessed from Tennessee’s main site, tnvacation.com. Very nice stuff. The problem is finding them. When I went to the home page of the main site, it took me five minutes to find how to get to the “Fall” site — and I was looking for it. If you didn’t know it existed, you might never find the nearly buried link to “Seasonal Splendor” in the little box labeled “Explore TN” or at the bottom of the page under “Seasonal.”
Furthermore, someone at the website is asleep at the switch: this morning (when I checked the website) is December 23. That’s winter. Yet the “Seasonal Splendor” link still took me to the “Fall” website. Maybe the folks there are so proud of their recognition that they don’t want to switch it over, though the “Winter” site looks pretty good, too. In any event, the seasonal sites are much more attractive than the main site, so perhaps a redesign there is next on the list.
The Travel Oregon site is one of the best. Even though the home page crams a fair amount of “teasers” onto the page to get you to the inside pages and it’s not as splashy as some of the others, it’s easy to read and follow.
I especially liked the beige map of the western U.S. with Oregon colored in green and with surrounding states labeled merely by their abbreviations, while “Oregon!” is labeled with an exclamation point. That’s a great feature for overseas travelers — and the geographically impaired in the U.S. — who may not know that Oregon is just north of CA, and NV, west of ID and south of WA. There’s also a dramatic wide-action photo at the top of the page of a skier wending his way down a snowy mountain, a good seasonal touch.
I wasn’t as crazy about the Visit Florida site, which toward the top has a lot of little boxes — squint-your-eyes-to-read-them little — with various categories of types of activities (“outdoorsy,” “kid friendly,” “romance,” “for foodies,” etc.). But further down are larger boxes that are easier to read and that link to photos, videos and various bits of information. The problem is that the inside pages also feature fairly small, light, hard-to-read type over white backgrounds. Visit Florida would not get my vote.
Discover Los Angeles may have the best home page of all. Below some splashy photos depicting various iconic sites and places is an easy to decipher map inviting you to explore ten different regions of L.A. This is extremely useful since the city is so spread out — and the regions are, indeed, very different. Below that is the obligatory celebrity-based guide to the city — i.e., where Magic Johnson would go to eat and how Rob Lowe would spend a day off. And below that is a very simple and easy to read site map of “What to Do,” “How to Explore” and “Where to Stay.”
For a huge, diverse city like Los Angeles, this site does a great job of simplifying things for visitors.
Producing easy to read, easy to navigate websites is one of the top jobs that destination marketers face today.
Baby boomer travelers, for one, rank “difficulty of navigation” high on their lists of website frustration. If they don’t quickly find that they’re looking for — or are greeted by a crowded home page that just seems like a jumble of disorganized information and links — they’ll look elsewhere.
On the whole, with some quibbles, these six U.S. sites do a good job of it.
In my next post, I’ll take a look at some of the non-U.S. sites on the skift.com list. You can read the original skift piece here.
Meanwhile, if you’re reading this while traveling for the holidays, have a safe and enjoyable journey!
Answer to Last Week’s Travel Quiz:
According to a holiday travel survey by Choice Hotels, what was the most common anxiety felt by holiday travelers who end up staying with relatives rather than at hotels?
A. Having to wait in line to use the bathroom
B. Getting stuck in long conversations with “odd” relatives
C. Having to sleep on an air mattress or on the floor
D. Being awakened before they wanted
The answer was D, Being awakened before they wanted. A, Having to wait in line to use the bathroom, finished second.
Be sure to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!