Month: March 2014

Enjoy your stay: How hotels can set themselves apart online

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12 days. 288 hours. 17,280 minutes.

Like many of my peers at the University of Oregon, I’m impatiently awaiting spring break 2014. This year, I’m spending my break in three of Europe’s most beautiful cities: London, Barcelona and Paris.

As much as I enjoy researching and planning what I’ll do during a trip, I loathe booking hotels. Sifting through pop up ads and snake oil salesmen to find the right hotel in the right location at the right price is stressful.

(Side note: If you feel the same way I do about booking hotels, use tripadvisor.com. You can sort by price, rating and neighborhood to find the right hotel for you. More importantly, the site has TONS of user reviews and organizes user ratings in an easy-to-understand way.)

Thankfully, I survived, and with the stress of booking hotels behind me, I took a step back to examine what influenced me most as I was making my selections. What I came up with is what I’d consider a best practices guide for hotels hoping to fill their rooms through online marketing:

–       Pictures, pictures, pictures.

  • Beautiful photos are the quickest way to a hotel booker’s wallet. Hiring a top-notch photographer to highlight the size, cleanliness, and modernity of the room is a no-brainer investment for hotel owners. Quality counts!

–       Engage with reviewers

  • The world is full of whiners, so scathing reviews are inevitable for any hotel. But, customer engagement makes the difference. It’s crucial to engage both the happy and unhappy customers politely and quickly. Acknowledgment goes a long way for both the delighted and disappointed.

–       Highlight outstanding location

  • During my search, I spent much of my time copy and pasting hotel addresses into Google maps to figure out how long it’d take me to get from the hotel to places I plan to visit. Hotel owners: do the work for your customers. Create a guide with your hotel’s proximity to the city’s most popular destinations.

–       Sharing is caring

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Graphic Design is like Figure Skating

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I’ve always had an appreciation for people who make near-impossible feats look easy. Watching Olympic figure skaters like 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya twirl time after time on the ice without a slip or stumble made us, the spectators, feel as though we could strap on skates, hit the ice and perform the same flawless routine. In reality, we’d be spun into a nauseating whirlwind before falling bottom first onto the ice, assuming we even made it that far.  

In this way, graphic designers are like figure skaters. I know, sounds like a ridiculous comparison, but let me explain.

I was recently tasked with creating an infographic as an assignment in my strategic writing class. I’ve worked with graphic designers on several projects, and like figure skaters, they made it look like child’s play. Move that there, change that font, tweak that color a bit and BAM! A professional-quality piece ready to publish. Naively, I approached the assignment thinking I could replicate that ease, and boy was I wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I’m too ashamed to share my finished product on the interweb. The experience was humbling and gave me a deep appreciation for graphic design. A wise man once said that life’s greatest lessons are learned in defeat, and I’d like to share those lessons with you today. Here are my 4 tips for the amateur graphic designer.

1.    Sketch a draft. I made the mistake of relying on a mental picture of what I wanted my infographic to look like during the creation process. After hours of frustration, I finally put pen to paper and it made the process a lot easier

2.    Start early. Mistakenly thinking design was a piece of cake, I waited until the last minute to start. BIG mistake. Simple changes and additions take a long time for amateur designers.

3.     Be flexible. Falling in love with your first draft or first idea will only cause frustration and stress. Go into the project expecting to scratch your first idea. Starting early will allow you the time for multiple drafts. 

4.     Welcome criticism. Find a friend or colleague who doesn’t like you all that much and ask them to point out anything they don’t like about your design. This candid feedback will go a long way in making your project a success.