This story starts off with a complete website. You have invested a lot of effort and money to make it work, it has good page ranks and search engine standings, and it basically does everything you need it to. When you had it made, you were only thinking of promoting your company on the web.
However, the times are changing and there are a lot of software systems out there that proclaim to be „complete software solutions “. Don’t get us wrong, they usually are. Some of them also offer a full support for directly linking with a website and connecting the back office to the website and the online booking process. We would advise you to be careful here because some software systems can integrate into your existing website, other necessarily require you to make a new website.
Integrate online booking software with a travel website vs. developing a new website on top of online booking software
Integration with the existing website is sometimes a great idea. However, sometimes it can end up being a bad choice. Let’s break down the basic reasons for integration with the existing website.
Correct reasons for integration with the existing website:
- Your page has a good page rank and comes up high in the search engines
- Your page gets a good audience and provides a huge number of leads
- Analysis of your page shows that it is user friendly and that it is easy to browse through it
Wrong reasons for integration with the existing website:
- The idea that this will save a lot of money in costs
- The idea that this will save a lot of time in development
- Sentimental reasons (e.g. you are used to working with the current site, etc.)
Integrating the online booking software with a travel website is a project
OK, so you weighed the reasons and still decided to keep your current website? Great news for you, this means that your current website is doing something right!
The integration of the travel software to the existing website is a full project that will require your time and constant reviewing. Assign a person to be a project leader for this, and plan some time for that person to spend working with the software vendor’s team on the integration.
Be prepared for the following:
The new integration will take time
Depending on the model of integration chosen, this time will vary. But it is not possible that you decide to integrate and – presto – the integration is done. It will always require some work from the team that developed your own site or the online booking software vendor’s team. Or both. Even when the integration is marketed as “just add a widget here”, somebody still needs to add it, learn how it works and customize it to meet the needs of your company.
The new integration will have a cost
Yes, this will cost you, depending on the features and the development time. Some vendors might charge for some services, like widgets and iFrames. Others might give them away for free, but charge for technical support. Some perhaps just give the API away, but then you have the costs of your developers who need to use it. Some charge the API, but provide free technical assistance with it. Regardless of the payment plan, the integration with your current website will cost you.
The new integration will make some changes to your current website
We have had clients who wanted to do integrations with their existing websites but keep everything as it is. All this is OK. However, most software systems cannot make that happen. Depending on the integration method, you can have it ranging from fully adapted to your website to implementing predefined controls. This, again, depends on time and money. But even with the most effort, it is difficult to get everything 100% the same, so do not event try. Embrace the possibility that people doing the integration also have some experience and might suggest a better solution for you than the one you already have. Be prepared for the changes.
Methods of integration
There are three basic methods of integration to your existing website:
From your software vendor, you will get the HTML code for iFrame elements. These elements then hold pages from the travel software system which display e.g. the search box, the detailed descriptions of hotels… and allow for the whole online booking process to take place inside the iFrame elements.
The software vendor team will provide you with a code snippet or a widget of some kind that you just add to your website code. This will add certain parts of the online booking user interface to the places in your website where you would like them to appear (e.g. search box, hotels on special offer, search results…)
Some travel software systems are equipped with an API system. This system allows your website developers to make queries to the travel software (e.g. get me all available hotels in London on some date, get me a full detailed description of Hotel Lemax, get me all cities in France where I have any hotels available…), and process the data in any way they want. This offers full customization of the appearance, feel and the online booking process on the website, however, it requires quite some time for the development team to completely understand all of the API system functionalities.
Comparison of methods
It is possible to compare the three methods of integrating the online booking software with a travel website. However, this again depends on the travel software. Some systems will allow you to change the design in the iFrames and widgets they provide you with, some will not. Some systems will provide you with actual access to codes. Some systems will have configurable iFrames and widgets where you can set some things based on some parameters.
All this varies from one travel software system to another.
What we have created is a small table, giving a general comparison of the three. However, for any detailed comparison, you should really talk to your software vendor.
We hope that these very basic guidelines will help you in your decision making, to get the best looking and functioning website you can. Please let us know what you think? Do you need extra clarification? Do you need additional advice? Have we missed something? Let us know.
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