How Are User Experience Mistakes Affecting Travel Websites?
A study sponsored by Amadeus, a travel software provider, revealed a high degree of frustration among travellers regarding their online experience. Online activities included researching, booking and checking in.
Travellers going online in Brazil, Russia and India have the worst online experiences, with between 73% and 78% getting frustrated dealing with travel sites. However, frustrations in the US and UK are also rife.
A separate study showed that cart abandonment is highest on travel sites, averaging 82.7% compared to 66.8% on fashion sites. Designing a better user experience (UX) is the key to increasing your conversions.
Here are 5 UX mistakes travel sites make that damage conversions:
Creating Information Overload
Not Adapting the Site to the User
Unintuitive Date Pickers
Discount Code Positioning
Ignoring Mobile Devices
Sifting through “too much information” is the most frustrating part of performing travel related tasks online.
Take a look at Travelodge’s homepage; an image takes up the main part of the page, a form with many options is set to the left hand side and there are three rows of links at the top of the page. It appears cluttered and doesn’t entice travellers to start their search.
The result of my search shows me all the details of the hotel first and I have to scroll down to find out if a room is available and how much it costs. Just as they did on the homepage, Travelodge are failing to put the main call to action in front of the user.
This continues as I select a room and start the checkout process. Travelodge ask you to customise your stay, pre-selecting the first option for you and thus forcing you to check each option. There are seven options, each with detailed explanations that push the final call to action, ‘Complete booking’, further down the page.
Travelodge’s checkout is laborious too, particularly as it puts the onus on the user to scrutinise the booking details, rather than feeding it back to them in a way that doesn’t break their flow.
Fix with simple navigation and search
Sites with better browsing options and navigation become consumer favourites. The Hotel Guru puts the search form front and centre on the homepage and clears away most distractions.
The form is simple, just start typing a destination and hit enter, you don’t even have to specify dates.
The Hotel Guru bills itself as a guide to great hotels. The site shows a select number of hotels, having filtered out hotels that didn’t meet its standards already, reducing the amount of information its users have to compare.
Fix with reassuring language
Consumers are aware of dark patterns online, so are increasingly wary of dense or complicated text and pre-selected check-boxes. Dark patterns try to push users toward a particular action, such as paying extra or signing up to a mailing list, without the user noticing.
Booking.com use simple, reassuring messages that stand out, such as the one below, “Don’t worry Book now but make changes later if something comes up”.
Fix with skippable extras
Interestingly, travellers also said they want to know what extras they could have. You need to find the balance between information overload, clutter and offering extras that travellers consider to be higher value.
Placing options in a concertina that can be expanded keeps the page from looking too cluttered and daunting. Don’t pre-select any of the options, unless they’re already included in the price of the room. Lastly, allow users to continue to the checkout without having to scroll through the list.
If visitors to your site can’t understand your pricing or have to perform tasks to make the site relevant to them it’s not serving them properly.
53% of respondents to Triptease’s survey said they felt “frustrated by being shown prices in currencies other than theirs.”
It’s not enough to just let travellers change the currency themselves. They might not notice the feature so make it as easy as possible.
Booking a room at The Plaza in New York is a constant battle to keep the site showing your currency. Moving on to the next step in the checkout causes it to default back into dollars.
Great user experience should always seek to alleviate tasks for users and travel is all about location and the traveller’s physical environs.
Fix with local currency detection
Make sure the prices are displayed in the currency the traveller is most familiar with. You can safely assume that for most that’s the currency of the country they’re searching from. Set the default currency using the visitor’s IP address.
Hotels.com detect what country you’re in and select your currency but also allows you to the currency independently of the country.
Fix with options by proximity
The easyJet app detects where you are and suggests airports closest to you at the top of the ‘Fly from’ list.
Picking the date for your trip or stay is a major part of the booking process. It’s unfortunate then that many travel sites don’t get it right. However, lots of sites get this wrong.
Although Booking.com has been touted as one of the most persuasive sites on the internet their date picker isn’t immediately that appealing.
It looks like a set of dropdowns for day or date and month. Making a selection in this format is more difficult because it lacks context. However, to the left of the dropdowns there’s a calendar icon. You can click on this to expand a calendar. The calendar appears to be secondary to the dropdowns and so could easily be missed.
Triptease’s survey showed that travellers like to be shown dates around the ones that they’ve specified.
Booking.com have tried to avoid isolating dates by showing two months at once. Unfortunately, they commit another UX by not moving the dates on after I selected my Check-in date. See the screenshot below where Wednesday 8th of July is selected to check-in but the calendar for check-out shows June and July. All of June is redundant.
Fix with smart calendars
Skyscanner allows flexible searching with week, month or cheapest-month-in-the-year views. It also greys out dates that have passed and shows up to two weeks of the next month. If I move the Depart calendar on the Return calendar automatically moves on.
Alternatively test calendars that allow travellers to specify the number of nights they need rather than using dates.
Although discount codes may seem like an enticement they very often work against you. If you place a field for discount codes prominently in the booking process it acts as a prompt for travellers to look for a code to enter.
Dollar car rental put a field for discount codes in the initial search form. The text in the field sounds like a call to action, ‘Enter promo code’.
This is a major blow to the flow of the checkout, adding extra time and stress on the traveller who is now anxious to avail of the discount. Time spent away from your site means a greater chance they’ll get interrupted, distracted, find a better deal elsewhere or view your offer as worse value for money if they think they could get it cheaper.
You could get rid of discount code offer altogether but you can also try a few alterations:
Mobile devices are driving increases in hotel and travel bookings.
The UK site of car rental company, Dollar, doesn’t have a mobile friendly option. It’s difficult to interact with the booking form and doesn’t tell my device to display a numeric keyboard for the field ‘Driver’s Age’.
Accommodation takes the largest share of mobile bookings and trends show that mobile facilitates last minute booking.
Travelodge show no comprehension of the device you’re currently browsing on, displaying a link for the mobile site and a call to action to download the app when I visited via desktop.
Fix with responsive content
Hipmunk are clever, they don’t send you to an app store from their desktop site. Instead, they’ve considered the context you’re browsing in and allow you to enter your phone number to get a link to the app sent to your mobile device – nifty!
Fix with thumb-friendly design
eBookers’s mobile site is sparse, just what’s needed with large enough fields and tabs to be able to easily interact with the page using your fingers.
The best travel websites are continuously testing and optimising. By doing so many have achieved huge increases in their conversions rates. Check out some of the big optimisation successes these travel sites experienced:
- Expedia deletes one field from their registration process, increases profit $12m
- Travel Agency Gets 48% More Phone Calls Each Day After Conversion Optimization A/B Testing
- A Great Response to a Great Responsive Site: Macdonald Hotels
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