When it comes to Instagram (or any social media profile) I’m always looking for something different to show up in my feed.

File under “Things I Get Tired Of Easily” when it comes to hotel instagram accounts: hotels sharing the same shots of guest rooms from the gallery on their website (at least when it’s the only content that’s posted); poor lighting and uninteresting composition (or lack of composition at all); pixelated or low quality images, clearly taken from somewhere else online; lots of images with text or promotions (in most cases, leave the text for the caption – if the image is interesting, then I’ll read about it!).

When I follow a hotel on Instagram, I want to see the dynamic personality of the hotel. I want to see curated content in some creative way, so I’m enticed to eventually stay there, dine at the restaurant, or explore the area.

How is this accomplished? To start with, the pictures need to be good and original. Whether the hotel works with a content creator or invites talented bloggers and influencers to shoot creative angles of the property, photos need to conjure wanderlust within milliseconds. Collaborations with other local businesses or individuals are also a winning combination for me. I love seeing native artisan pop-ups in a hotel lobby or a local, seasonal juice-turned-daiquiri served at the poolside bar. I’m more drawn to a simple, clear handle and I like a good hashtag. Actually, strong hashtag game is a must – create something that’s unique, whimsical, and on-brand.

I don’t think all this is too much to ask for. And to prove it, here are 6 accounts that have accomplished it all, and more!

1. The Dean Hotel

Providence, Rhode Island

Where “Old School meets new school,” The Dean Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island serves up a timeless style with luxe services and comfortable, beautifully-lit spaces. The Dean’s instagram is curated in a winter palette – high exposure and low saturation – highlighting stunning guest photos and beautiful corners around the city. Their playful hashtag, #explorewiththedean is a direct outlet to see the most instagrammable perspectives of Providence, the so-called Creative Capital, its museums, eateries and residents.

A perfect Sunday captured by @popcircumstance. | #explorewiththedean

A post shared by The Dean Hotel (@thedeanhotel) on

2. La Mamounia

Marrakech, Morocco

In 2008 when I visited Morocco, I wanted so badly to stay at La Mamounia only to discover it was closed for renovation. Since 1923 the historic property has hosted international VIPs, celebrities and heads of state, including Winston Churchill who called it “The most beautiful place in the world.” Today their social media game is strong, investing heavily in inviting bloggers and influencers from around the world (like my good friend Tommy Lei of MyBelonging) to sip, stay, and shoot all over the property and share their perspectives and experiences. Collaborations like these are key to building a millennial following and fan base.

3. Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills, California

The original California chic hotel: nothing takes me home to California like the iconic banana leaf wallpaper and pink stripes. And despite holding tenure for over 100 years as an icon of California hospitality, there is nothing dated about this hotel. Especially when it comes to their Instagram presence, where they know how to stay true to their brand – right down to the colors. Powerful collaborations with a number of your favorite influencers and local artists and craftsmen keep the account dynamic and light-hearted while daily highlights in their stories will leave you craving a club sandwich by the pool or a photoshoot in the corridor.

4. The Line Hotel

Los Angeles, California

Woven into the urban fabric of Koreatown in Los Angeles, the Line Hotel has positioned itself as a formidable force in the local culture and social scene. The variety of guests – primarily creative millennials who clearly know how to enjoy life – share their experiences at the place, either from bare concrete-walled guest rooms with full floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Los Angeles or the spring break-esque pool scene.

5. Four Seasons

109 properties in 43 countries

While each Four Seasons property also manages its own Instagram account, it’s the parent account that I like most because it shares highlights from all of its properties – especially the #FSJet and its collaboration with Net Jets. The seasoned luxury hotel and resort company already owned the game when they launched the private jet experience for its elite clientele, and it just got better with their posts on social media. Highlights in their stories included jet-setting between properties and crafting unique itineraries to feature several Four Seasons hotels in a specific area – like Latin America.

6. Wythe Hotel

Williamsburg, Brooklyn 

Diffuse light, exposed brick walls, and the New York City skyline are just the departure for the Wythe Hotel’s stunning Instagram account. The “original boutique hotel of Brooklyn” hosts not only visitors to the Big Apple but also townies looking for a deliciously local meal or a drink on the roof with “King Kong” views of New York. When their photos pop up in my feed, I’m immediately transported to the heart of Brooklyn, with a full beard, high waters, and craft beer in hand, savoring the best of its local culture.

Afternoon in a Brooklyn Queen. ūüď∑ @ziekofficial

A post shared by Wythe Hotel (@wythehotel) on

What are your favorite hotel Instagram accounts you’re following right now? Share them with me in the comments below or on Instagram!

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The last few years have brought major innovations in website navigation.

As more users are surfing the web and purchasing from their phones, responsive design (adaptive design across devices) is becoming increasingly important. This means the organization of web content must change with the way users navigate websites as well, so site navigation has seen major changes. Particularly for websites that contain a lot of pages and content, it’s crucial that website navigation is intuitive, simple, and clear for various users, devices and browsers.

The introduction of the Hamburger Menu¬†(the icon made up of a few horizontal lines that replaces the full menu on mobile devices) came into the picture as a solution to remove long lists of links from mobile screens. It didn’t take long for hamburger menus to be used for desktops as well. Critics attest that hamburger menus hide valuable information and can hurt conversions, citing the “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” philosophy. While this argument is valid, I think there is a place for the hamburger menu on some websites especially as the users grow more accustomed to using it.

Overlay menus (characterized by a full-screen overlay that covers the screen and displays only the menu) and Mega Menus (a form of dropdown menu with several columns and even dynamic content) are other ways of presenting sub-pages of a website in the main navigation, making them accessible on every page of the website.

Pros and Cons of the Hamburger Menu

When deciding if a Hamburger Menu is a good idea for your website, it’s good to know both the pros and the cons for adopting this kind of navigation.

Benefits of adopting a Hamburger Menu

Provides graphical hierarchy to content allowing users to “digest” smaller amounts of information at a time. Especially for properties that offer many services, room types, or just have a lot of content, trying to squeeze everything in the main navigation bar can make the header seem overwhelming and messy.

Minimalist design and less confusion. There is nothing worse than a large, beautiful full-screen image or video that’s covered up with a long string of links in the header. As long as guests have a clearly defined Call To Action (Booking) button available to them at all times, the Hamburger Menu could be an optimal solution to clean up the header and organize the navigation better.

Responsive across all screen sizes. It’s actually easier for responsive design to design a Hamburger Menu for all screen sizes. This avoids the issue of your main navigation menu wrapping to the second line on smaller screens or overlapping your logo.

Potential drawbacks of adopting a Hamburger Menu

Additional clicks can hurt conversions. For highly converting websites, such as extensive ecommerce websites or online stores, the additional click to view the menu could be a nuissance to browsing products and discourage users from completing their transactions.

Intuitive? Despite the fact it may seem like the Hamburger Menu is understood by all users, the reality is that there is still a learning curve for this relatively new UX design feature. For this reason, placing the Hamburger Menu icon in the top right corner, which is where most users search for the main navigation intuitively, can help make this feature more clear.

Thinking about reimagining your site’s navigation?

When is a Hamburger Menu Not a Good Idea?

In my opinion, high converting websites – large e-commerce websites – do not benefit from the hamburger menu and would do better with a Mega Menu. The objective with these types of websites is to drive traffic to complete transactions and every click counts. Forcing additional clicks to view the menu is counterproductive to this strategy.

Some Examples of Our Favorite Overlay Menus and Hamburger Menus

Below are a few of our favorite hamburger menus and overlay menus. What makes them our favorite? They offer a high impact appeal with big graphics and bold colors, organize the website content in a simpler way, and allow the website to be explored at different levels of investment.

The Standard

The Standard hotels are known for their grunge party culture and groovy vintage vibes, so when it comes to the website’s main navigation they went with their brand red on a clean white background. It’s slick and clear, making it easy to explore every corner of their site.

The Line Hotel

The Line Hotes are the cool, newest hangouts in whatever city they’re in (currently LA, DC, and Austin). They opted to place the hamburger menu in the top left corner to save the prized top right hand corner of the screen for the booking button. Based on studies of where user’s tend to look first at the screen, especially to interact, the top right corner is important real estate (think “Restaurant Menu Psychology”) – so hotel companies seeking to optimize conversions through direct bookings should consider this

Two Fifty Main Hotel

It’s definitely a choice to move the main navigation from the top of the screen. Almost inevitably you’ll run into the issue of missed conversions or higher bounce rate (users that visit just one page of your website before leaving). But never the less, if the design is clear, simple, and functional, who’s to say it doesn’t work? The Two Fifty Main Hotel moved it’s hamburger menu to the middle of the screen on the sides, and opens a very minimal menu. For a small hotel, this is a great solution to cover the bases and simplify the content for visitors.

Personalized Italy

An example from our own work, we recently updated the Personalized Italy main navigation to accommodate a growing destination list. In keeping with the starry brand language, user’s click on “Start Dreaming Here” to open the main menu overlay. Large colored boxes visually organize the destinations in corresponding blue hues (each selected by the client to represent a specific relationship she has with the place – explained on each destination page). The full-screen navigation dedicates an equal amount of space to each destination to encourage visitors to peruse different areas of the site they might not have explored with simple text links on the top of the screen.

Italy Hotline

Another one from our collection, the Italy Hotline menu overlay is activated only for the “Tours and Destinations” link in the main menu, while the “Gourmet Experiences” link directs the user to the food tours category.

 

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When a hotel is already dreamy, it’s not that hard to make its website dreamy too. The ingredients are simple: a talented photographer, a competent web designer, and a clear idea of what the website needs to¬†accomplish. It’s a lot easier said than done. All these ingredients need to work in harmony for the website to be a success. But¬†when they do, it’s pure magic.

Living and working in Italy, I’ve seen my fair share of dreamy locations: abandoned hill towns, castles-turned-hotels, urban retreats that close¬†you off from the chaos and create a majesty all their own. But translating that into a website is tricky. It takes the right amount of those ingredients to be successful. And that’s just what happened for the UVE Rooms & Wine Bar.

Located in the hills of the Langhe in Piedmont, northern Italy, Uve is nothing short of an elegant retreat nestled in a natural paradise. And their website captures that perfectly.

In addition¬†to¬†photography that captures every curious angle of the modern-meets-ancient architecture and design of the hotel, the website’s layout is crisp and pixel-perfect. A muted color palette lets the images speak for themselves, and their asymmetrical layout encourages your eyes to bounce around the¬†screen keeping¬†you engaged with¬†the content.

Having lived in Italy for several years now, I’ve come to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of her people are. When it comes to food, drink, and the pursuit of happiness, there is no contest. But when it comes to efficiency and organization, there’s much to be desired. Navigating this website you wouldn’t know it. It’s a website that’s packed full of javascript elements that would slow down a normal website.¬†Fanciful, elegant transitions between pages make slightly longer load times go completely unnoticed. The use of animation in this website is perfect.

I love a good overlay menu, and this one hits the nail on the head. A stark, non-transparent charcoal background displays the list of pages in 2 perfect columns. Simple hover animations give you all the good UX feels while still being elegant.

The small hotel¬†offers just 8 rooms, each unique and named after a different grape varietal of the region.¬†Hotels of this size rarely¬†have sophisticated online booking engines, and it’s more complicated when each room is different. So in this case¬†all that’s really necessary¬†is a good contact form – and I LOVE¬†how the availability request is handled on this website.

Forgoing the traditional contact form¬†you’ll find whether you’re¬†requesting availability or interested in more information about a life insurance policy, the UVE website¬†sets up the request in a slick¬†8-step process. Each step requires a single piece of standard information, which makes¬†it so quick, easy, and satisfying.¬†It’s just the right amount of¬†twist from the predictable request process.

So many beautiful websites get by with just beautiful photography. It’s a testament to a talented designer when even the page transitions become a note of elegance, or are notable at all. For a place that prides itself on originating some of the best Italian wines in the world, the competition for making slight details remarkable is fierce. But it’s exciting when a website is able to accomplish just that. Everyone else oughtta take note.

Looking for more inspiration? Head over to our SAYHELLO Creative Pinterest account for more delectable digital delights!

*Props to the talented guys and gals at AQuest Digital Agency for the design and development of the UVE website.

We’re seeing the powerful impact¬†video can have in a website in all sorts of contexts.¬†Homepage backgrounds¬†made from drone footage and virtual room tours are just a few ways that we commonly see video used in hotel websites. Master chefs in the kitchen throwing spices or plating up¬†something delicious has become pretty standard, nonetheless¬†effective, for restaurant web¬†design. But when¬†someone uses video in a totally different way, it gets me really excited.

Case in point: I am totally in love with the way video is used on the website for Meet the Greek, a restaurant and function space in New South Wales, Australia.

It’s a pretty simple website really, composed of just a handful of pages that communicate the menus, basic function-planning information, contacts, and a gallery of photos. Navigating to each page splits the screen in two, with content on the right and a paired video that loops on the left.¬†The video is by far the highlight of the website. It features a Greek man, seated in a velvety green upholstered armchair surrounded by cluttered side tables. In just a few seconds, each video creates¬†a vignette that speaks volumes on so many levels: the culture of the restaurant, Greek culture,¬†the restaurant’s food and hospitality philosophy and a general Greek philosophy on life. It sets such an unexpected backdrop for the website its¬†content.

I’m always¬†curious how menus are presented on restaurants¬†websites.¬†A restaurants’ menu (and price list) is one of the main reasons a user visits a restaurant website to decide to make a reservation or not.¬†The menu on Meet the Greek is minimal, organized and essential. Slick nav buttons let you quickly switch from Food to Drinks to the Banquet menus. No stock photos of moussaka or 12 different fonts to sift through in a poor attempt at skim value. A pdf version is available for download, which is helpful for travel agencies and concierges.

Menus on websites are always dependent on how diligent the restaurant owners are in keeping them up-to-date. But seeing as the website was built in WordPress, chances are making edits to the menu was designed to be simple for even the host to do as the beginning of his/her shift.

I think what stands out the most for me in this website is that the restaurant highlights it’s culture and story over predictable shots of food. While food doesn’t take a backstage role on the website, it’s cleverly integrated into the design by way of stunning video vignettes of an older Greek gentleman sitting in his throne. A restaurant website needn’t prove it serves food, guests already know that. Standing out means transcending something else about you, what your philosophy is, and what your really dishing out: the whole experience of visiting your restaurant.

Now after seeing this website, I know what place I’ll be putting on my itinerary the next time¬†I get a chance to visit Sydney.

*Props to the guys and gals at ED. Creative Agency in Australia for the design and development of the Meet the Greek website.