Thursday, 11 August 2011

What readers want

By Sarah Gibbons, Editor, Travelbite.co.uk

Now and again an opportunity comes along to find out what people really think about websites – and mine came in the form of Travel Talk on Twitter (#TTOT), a weekly Twitter discussion (always rife with banter) on all things travel-related, with the topic and questions changing each week.

This week’s topic was travel websites – very relevant to Travelbite – but far from being solely focused on the travel genre, many of the comments made are relevant to all types of websites.

One remark cropped up time and time again, when discussing what qualities make a website good – the importance of honesty and reliability. Website visitors want to read sincere opinions that are backed up with fact. A common answer was that no one wants to see obviously unrealistic prices, which never turn out to be accurate. People want to hear the good and the bad; an article which is too ‘fluffy’ comes across as false.

Lack of transparency is frustrating - whether fluffy green claims that aren't backed up or false claims around pricing etc.”.

“Sincere, reliable opinions! Just love to read a sincere and full of personality travel post :)”.

“True and honest personal experiences of his/her travels...and not afraid of not being "politically correct”.

“Interaction, fresh news, good writing and above all... reliable information”.

Another of the main topics was the commercial side of websites. Too many ads was often cited as an example of a bad website – a website which is focusing too much on making money and not enough on good quality content. Pop-ups are definitely a no! Another pet hate discussed was articles which at first sight seem to be editorial, only to realise that they’re sponsored advertorials. These should be clearly labelled and separate from the main editorial articles.

“Personal travel sites should really avoid too many adverts & definitely dodgy spyware ones. Oh & those signup for newsletter pop-ups”.

“Too much emphasis on making money, too little emphasis on actual travel-related stuff”.

“More google ads than content. When there is content, not sure if it's sponsored. Pop up ads/sign up boxes that don't go away”.

When discussing the actual content, good images were cited as a ‘must’, as was good quality writing, which should be full of personality, opinions and preferably be entertaining.

“I think a combination of helpful tips with personal &funny experiences of them can be a winning combo!

In terms of travel writing, people want to read insider information and off-the-beaten-track destinations, not the usual tourist hotspots. Video content was also cited as a plus. Accessing this content should be simple and the websites easy to navigate.

“Features of off-the-beaten paths in every destination & not just the usual tourist baits”.

“Something that could convey all five senses of a particular destination! Goodness I miss the smell of Istanbul's spice bazaar!”

“A user friendly set-up! Unique & good content!

The central point seems to be: websites (in this case travel websites) really need to remember why they are there and what they are for. The readers should be the top priority.