If you run a seasonal business like summer holidays or skiing tours, then the biggest mistake you can do about your website’s development is starting it too late.
Let’s say you own and manage a small apartment building near the seaside. You need a new website for this small business. The summer season starts in June and ends in September. 99% of your guests are visiting your place during these 4 months. You may say: “oh, we have plenty of time until June”. Sorry to say that, but I think you’re wrong now. You are probably already late.
When is the best time to start preparing your website for the season?
If you woke me up in the middle of the night from my best dream and asked me this question, I would probably answer you: “the sooner the better”. However, the longer answer to this question is that “it depends”…
How big change do you need?
- If you are satisfied with the look and feel of your website, just want to put some fresh content and new images on it, then you can generally do it whenever you want to. However, I would recommend you to change essential information (like prices on the website) between seasons.
- If you need to add some extra functionality to the site (like adding an event calendar or making it responsive) using the same design schemes, then the development should start somewhere before January.
- But if you need a completely new website until summer, then you are starting to be late now (in December). Ideally you should start the project right after the end of the previous season. It has another benefit, too: you will have fresh information about what did and didn’t work during the season.
Why do I have to act so early?
Chances to find the best experts
The earlier you think about the project, the more chances you have to find the best web developers. Just like with other professions, the best website developers are often booked in advance for the next few months. So it can easily happen that you come up with the idea to have a new website in December, then you realize that the developer team you’d especially like to work with is busy until the end of March.
Another problem is how you can connect the new site with your marketing communication. Summer season campaigns normally start a few months before the season itself. It simply looks unprofessional if you launch the website in the middle of the campaign (or – horribile dictu – during the season). The “look and feel” that your visitors are used to suddenly changes into something else. Moreover, it is really difficult to pay attention to the new website while you are managing arrivals, departures, rooms, etc.
Always refresh your web presence between seasons!
No space for mistakes
If you think too late, there will be no space for mistakes. Neither on your, nor on the web developer’s side. Imagine that you wanted to start the campaign for the season on 1st April. However, due to some reasons the website became ready to launch only by 22nd April. As the new website is an important part of your sales funnel, this delay made the campaign a lot more difficult for you. It can even jeopardize a big mouthful of your profits. Potential guests may have booked rooms at other hotels during these 3 weeks while you were offline.
Another problem is that if your web developer didn’t have the time to test everything out, your website is likely to have some bugs. If the deadlines are extra tight and the site has to be launched “yesterday”, then it can easily happen that your first real visitors will “test” your site. And if they see some defects on it, then they will think that you are unprofessional.
It happened to me once that a summer holiday organizer approached me in February and wanted a completely new website by April. I was super-busy that time. Even if we’d agreed upon the scope quickly, the earliest start date could have been mid-March. Even with a quick, 1 month development time it would’ve meant that we could have an untested site by mid-April, which was too late for him and too early for me…
What to do in these cases?
If you read this article too late, you may want to consider creating the new site for the next year’s season. E.g. in February 2017 thinking about the summer of 2018. In the meantime you can use your existing website / other online marketing tools to reach out for guests.
Another good strategy for the late runners can be to create a very basic website with only some essential information. These can be a few pictures, location and contact information, etc. Then you can add all the special widgets, sliders, booking, etc. for the next season’s update.