A world-leading digital experience

Macdonald Hotels

How we created the world’s first truly mobile-responsive ecommerce website for the hotel and leisure sector.

One rich experience

Macdonald Hotels briefed Equator to design and build a new website to improve the booking process and sell specific attractions and features, including golf, spa breaks and weddings. The task coincided with an exponential increase in the use of mobile internet, and we were committed to making the new site truly responsive and user-friendly, on phones and tablets as well as desktops.

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The shopping list

Macdonald is a medium-sized chain of around thirty, mid-to-upmarket hotels through Scotland and England. With a corporate site that failed to deliver in terms of usability and results, they tasked us with producing a solution that would:


  • Simplify and improve the customer journey
  • Grow bookings and revenue
  • Bring key features of each hotel to life
  • Differentiate the Macdonald portfolio and brand from competitors


We saw it as a real opportunity to explore and implement innovative new technology on mobile. At the time, consumer research suggested that mobile internet use was soon to surpass desktop use, so we were determined to make the user experience equally exciting for every device.

How we made it work

We knew mobile and tablet visits to hotel booking sites were up, but that they weren’t satisfying users. Everyone was talking about ‘responsive design’, but failing to deliver.


Our ground-up design meant a complete rethink, from wireframe stages through the complete build process, then testing and analysis. The approach extended into the specific design and functionality of the booking panel - a significant evolution from standard components for desktop use.


The text was another major task. Around 600 pages of copy were rewritten with a stronger personality, a consistent tone of voice, better SEO performance and a smoother on-screen reading experience.

Implementing the technology

The new site was built around the Umbraco content management platform, and we’ve now upgraded multiple times as both software and client business have evolved. Getting the initial implementation right first time has been key to straightforward, robust upgrades, representing excellent return on individual investment.


Our large-scale Opera integration now supports more than 30 hotels, including several resorts with more complex requirements. The booking engine handles extras like golf and spa use, dining and weddings, as well as the core room-booking function. An extended admin interface allows Macdonald Hotels’ staff to add and change local and time-limited offers, while a corporate booking tool provides extra management capabilities for VIP organisations. 

Innovation led the way

The industry and media were quick to pick up on what was a truly ground-breaking project. Our work was showcased by both the trade press and the Financial Times.


Launching in tough recessionary times when the hospitality industry was hurting, our new site increased bookings by over 12%. Average booking revenue was up 8%. The site more than paid for itself in the first six months, and sales grew by over 340% after launch.

“The site more than paid for itself in the first six months, and sales grew by over 340% after launch.”