A closer look at the Autograph Collection website

A closer look at the Autograph Collection website

In November of last year, I proclaimed that 2011 would be the “Year of Design.” The hospitality industry was stuck in a rut, designing sites that used a simple recycled formula instead of driving innovation. When done well, design can differentiate, it can inspire guests and it can drive revenue.

Last week, I read a press release announcing the launch of the new Autograph Collection website. Within moments of visiting the site, I knew I was seeing something fresh and bold. The site integrates compelling design, interactivity and a commitment to telling the brand story brilliantly. It’s refreshing to see a brand try something new and confirm that quality website design is making a comeback in hospitality. Much was done well with the website, but I think there are a few new applications and design features that should be considered for your next website design.

1. Facebook Connect  

I predict Facebook Connect will become an oft-used tool in the industry by next year. Simply put, the technology allows a user to sign into a website using a Facebook account. When signing in, a user is giving the site permission to see their personal Facebook information, providing marketers with a tremendous amount of data on the demographics and interests of their customers. Facebook Connect is easy to implement and is free from Facebook. Autograph Collection uses Connect to create a unique website profile, complete with custom views.  

2. Social integration  

Beyond Facebook Connect, the site does a nice job of integrating social media. Each hotel page can be shared in 10 different ways (Twitter, Digg, etc.), and a Flickr photostream is integrated throughout the site, allowing guests to populate images of hotels directly into the brand site.  

3. Site usability  

Users are encouraged to explore the Autograph hotels in a variety of ways. A person can select the type of experience (e.g., Artistic Getaway), the purpose of the trip (e.g., Wedding Celebration) or a desired destination. Each selection guides the potential guest seamlessly into a list of corresponding properties. Users will enjoy navigating the site and dreaming about their trip.  

4. Site personalization  

The site is built to work differently for every user depending on preferences. The options are numerous, but one of the most interesting is the ability to change the theme, background and color scheme of the site. When creating a personalized view, the site states, “Like each Autograph Hotel, you’re an original. So why not design a site experience that reflects your individual sensibility? ” 

5. Commitment to brand 

The site was designed as an extension of the Autograph Collection brand. The brand prides itself on representing a collection of unique independent hotels. The site represents that vision, escaping the ordinary traps of hotel brand websites. As the press release about the site states, “We are delighted to launch the Autograph Collection brand with a digital experience that allows visitors to express themselves through their unique perspectives and by doing so, help shape the brand itself.”

6. Property vanity sites  

Autograph Collection seems to be embracing individual hotels’ ability to build vanity websites. In fact, detailed information about each property is not contained in the brand site. This allows each hotel to focus on telling a more comprehensive story about their location, features and guest experience. It also allows the hotel to maintain a strong search engine marketing presence.

The critic in me can find flaws, including the lack of a mobile-friendly site and minimal content for optimization purposes, but I give the team that built Autograph Collection kudos for stepping outside the box.  

What were some of the great website designs on 2011? Leave a comment with any sites you enjoyed.