Completing a holiday booking form is an important part of the customer journey from dreaming of a break to blissfully lying on a beach.
Making it easy and maintaining a sense of excitement and anticipation, is a crucial consideration for family holiday companies when it comes to form UX.
If a potential customer has their heart set on a particular holiday at a particular price, then you could be lucky and they’ll stick with your form no matter what.
But with the level of choice in the market, a less fussy client could easily get frustrated by poor UX and look for a comparable deal elsewhere.
How Our Insight Can Help You Get It Right
Holiday booking forms are unavoidably long: you need lots of detail to confirm the booking and probably want to cross-sell services such as airport parking or excursions.
A happy holiday-maker, thrilled to have finally found their perfect break, will want to move through your form seamlessly. They want to book, pay a deposit and get the departure date in their diary asap.
Here’s how to increase the chances of that happening.
In January 2018, I analysed the family holiday booking forms of 49 UK companies.
Measuring 52 different metrics from number of steps and fields to mobile usability, each form has been ranked to create a UX league table.
They’ve been scored out of a total of 81 based on critical factors, such as having inline validation or a live chat option, that will decrease user frustration and increase conversions.
My research reveals the main areas ripe for UX improvement:
- The type of address look-up used
- Marking required fields to make the process quicker and smoother
- Inline validation to highlight input success and errors
- Using mobile-friendly keyboards
So which holiday companies are flying high when it comes to customer conversions and which are struggling to get off the ground?
Here’s a preview of the top and bottom five in my UX league table:
TOP OF THE TABLE
- Audley Travel
- Mr and Mrs Smith
- Black Tomato
BOTTOM OF THE LEAGUE
- Mark Warner
- Fleetway Travel
- Hays Travel
Read about my methodology and data compilation technique.
What are the likes of Audley Travel and Hoseasons doing to smooth the way? And how can companies such as Balkan and Mark Warner reach the right destination?
Here are my four key take-aways:
- Use the Most Advanced Address Look-Up
How you ask holiday-makers to input their address requires some thought. The style you choose can reduce both the number of fields and completion times – or increase them.
There are three main options when it comes to gathering address details. Each has a different impact on your form’s UX: some make the process painful, others make it a breeze.
Manual entry, the traditional method of inputting an address, requires the user to laboriously type in each line separately into several text fields. As well as taking time and effort, this outdated technique has a high error rate and makes unnecessary data demands.
Our research shows that that 32.7% of family holiday booking forms use this old-fashioned method rather than the simple and superior alternatives.
Standard address look-up is used by 53.1% of the companies we analysed. Often called postcode look-up, this requires the user to type in their postcode to reveal a drop-down list of matching addresses.
This functionality can reduce the number of fields used from around five for manual entry to just two.
Advanced address look-up goes one step further and uses just a single text box. It allows the user to type any element of their address, not just their postcode, and quickly see a list of possibilities. These refine themselves as more information is inputted, creating instant validation with minimal keying.
Only 4.1% of family holiday companies are taking advantage of this helpful technology. For those who don’t, upgrading to an advanced look-up will reduce user effort and frustration.
- Make Sure to Mark Required Fields
Clearly differentiating between required and optional fields gives your users a welcome helping hand.
Specifying the minimum data requirements within your form, often with an asterisk, will help customers complete the process quicker as they can choose not to spend time filling in unnecessary fields. It puts the ball in their court: an instant UX win.
Within the family holiday industry, 30.6% of the companies we researched choose not to mark required fields. This means they’re running the risk of provoking form abandonment by demanding too much data.
You can minimise this risk by explaining why collecting certain information is necessary and making the user feel more comfortable.
Adding a short explanation, either inline or via a pop-up box, why you need this non-standard information will speed the process up and build trust between you and your user.
For example, within a holiday booking form it’s likely that a mobile number is marked as a required field. Being able to read a message stating why – “so we can confirm travel details by text” – will reassure.
Our analysis shows that 71.4% of holiday companies choose not to provide this type of helpful information. It’s a missed opportunity to boost UX and your brand image. Just 2% use a pop-up message and 26.5% opt for an inline message either next to the field or which appears via a click.
You can go one step further by only including your required fields, eliminating the need to mark any of them as optional and therefore making your form shorter. This approach will also eliminate the stop-start process of users wondering or reading why they need to provide certain information.
Integrate Inline Validation
Inline validation is your opportunity to create an online dialogue, a friendly technique to inform users and guide them through the form.
The most effective way to integrate it is to highlight both success and errors. A green tick that appears upon successfully inputting data into a field will drive the user forward towards the end goal: completion and conversion. A red cross will quickly alert them to an error, accompanied by a message to help them easily correct it.
This type of gamification provides positive reinforcement after every field, encouraging and rewarding progress. The result is a satisfied user who has the confidence to move on and get the job done.
From a UX perspective, this is significantly superior to the alternatives: highlighting only on error which lacks the reassurance that progress is being made and listing all errors once each field within a step has been completed. The latter is famously frustrating and could prompt many users to groan and disappear to do something less annoying.
But only 26.5% of travel firm sites use inline validation on success and failure, an obviously-missed trick. A further 38.8% have no inline validation at all and 34.7% report just on error.
As holiday booking forms are usually long and complex, it’s especially important to make the journey as quick and easy. Inline validation on success and failure helps here by offering the best level of feedback and therefore the best chances of conversion.
Make the Most of Mobile-Friendly Keyboards
My final tip is to incorporate mobile-friendly keyboards to make data entry simple and less error-prone.
Smartphones now account for 60% of all online adult minutes in the UK: you can score easy UX optimisation points here by catering to this high number of users. Unlike filling in a form on a desktop, data entry on a mobile is complicated by the smaller screen and limited keyboard and needs to be considered.
There are many types of mobile-friendly keyboards to choose from. Each one facilitates data input by switching to the most relevant keyboard for the task in hand.
Of the 49 family holiday firms we analysed, 43% don’t use a mobile-friendly keyboard for a phone number field. This means more work for the user and more time spent on form completion.
A further 27% of forms don’t convert to an email keyboard type when this address is requested. Instead they have to alternate between two different keyboards in order to input an @ symbol, increasing frustration levels and the likelihood of errors.
Adding these virtual keyboards is a straightforward optimisation which boosts efficiency, helps users stay within boundaries and limits abandonment levels.
Incorporating these four simple optimisations into your holiday booking form will send you soaring above the competition: your conversion rates will improve and your customer satisfaction levels will fly.