The event which everyone is waiting for is coming soon. This is the time of the year that everyone, families, students and kids are looking for to enjoy, spend, play, swim, hick, or whatever theirs planning activity from the begging of the year. That’s is the summer vacation….
How can you make this planning and booking experience as a happy first chapter in their next story?
As booking / travel service provider, are you prepared for this? Are you already improved your system, or will you keep it the same? You need to take an action immediately if you haven’t yet done so. Let me just give you a shortcut of what users’ needs so you get a sense of the changes you need to consider (as a basic level!)
As there are many websites for booking your next journey, you mostly be looking at sites features before you looking at hotel deals! That make senses as you will probably spend a very long time (even days) to find your desired place. These features range from users to another are based on given situation like quick booking, or get the deal of the day. Still, the users have many common needs and perform similar behavior.
The users usually compare different sites and check the prices for each packages. Also, they are looking for the website that return more results and has many booking options (include many airlines and hotels). Still these are done in the background and related to the business objectives of the pricing and the partnerships with service providers.
However, the most important part here is how to present these data in manner that users will easily pickup his preferred stay and get best deals. It’s all about the user journey and the user experience.
If the user finds a good deal and get enough details he will book and checkout quickly if the site is provided with easy and simple booking process. Yes, the information and details should be clearly stated and every question that will pop up in user’s mind during search, will be spotted easily and answered clearly.
Here I will discuss the five most users wanted features which is NOT a comprehensive list, there are more than this and I’m considering this as basic quick list (without any order).
1.Sorts and Filters
The results of the search usually yield a huge list which are last over many pages. The default sort will be the best relevance and deals of the search criteria. However, traveler has different priority. He, for example, will be looking for the cheapest offer, so he will sort by price. Others will be looking for a place within certain radius which is close to landmark or attraction, in this case, a map view will be helpful for them. Whatever their sorting preference, it is very important to make sure that first the function is implemented effectively; and then it should be easy and simple to find and use.
So, what to include in the filter and sort functions? The short answer is “everything”. But be caution, you need to have all the possible items and functions that can be filtered in clear presentation. For example, you may provide the price filters as a slider range like this:
TIP: always state the total number of hits in clear place that will make the users easily find and know the volume he is dealing with.
2.Reviews and Rating
The most influenced factor in the users deciding and picking up the hotels is to hear from others about their experience and how was their stay. Getting unbiased and fair amount of reviews and ratings is very critical. Users are looking at helpful review and break down rating of the facilities and the service they got.
What makes a helpful review? The reviewer should be clear within his review and rate the hotel based on different factors, like service, cleanliness, food, value, location and so on. Sure, there will be overall score and average score of each one. Mostly high rating means people are very happy. But when they see very low rate, they will start to wonder what was the reasons. So, they will jump into that person reviews and what was happened. Maybe everything was fine and food was good but they have to wait for long time to check in as it was season time and place was very crowded. So, he got upset and rate the hotel with 2 stars only!
A clear statement and reply from the service provider is also important to dispute any miss rating and make it clear it will not be happened again. What will make it more effective is to give the review with a picture prove, either bad or good ones. Like this: the pool was so nice and here is the picture:
… or it could be something extremely nice and they want to share that moment like: “the room was big and neatly taken care of.” Or “when I get in the room I got these welcome fruits and a message from the hotel manager.”
Travelers are looking at a new hotel for their destination want to see more pictures and details about their next stay. More pictures with details and from different angles will mostly answer many questions that will pop up in the traveler’s head. When he sees the picture of the pool, the first question is answered “is there a pool?” next, “what is the pool size and how it looks like?” question will popup. He will be looking at the answer in the pictures for the pool whenever is available. Including more photos with people inside the pool swimming will give him an estimate about the size of the pool. Additionally, providing a pictures of pool with kids will tell him “Yes my kids can swim here, safely”.
All of this reaction is happened by looking at just the photos, more is better with clear caption. Yes, still some curious people still looking at the number like the size of the room, is it 42 m2? Ok that true and this should be included as well.
Will many pictures be overwhelming? Believe it or not, the more you will put, the more the users will need. Just do not be repeater.
TIP: Including a video (YouTube link) and 360 view is also a great idea.
Planner has a task with a mission to get the best deal out there. One of his major task is to be on budget. So, in order to do this, he needs to do many searches and compare the prices to get the best deal. Simply, he will jump over many sites to compare the prices of the similar hotels (yes, there are some website that can do this for you). An important notice here is that some booking websites trying to give the price without a tax or even just per night price in order to make the number small and attractive. Yes, the business is playing around to keep you at their website, still it is considered a very bad UX design.
Why? Because you are violating a basic UX role. The data displayed should be clear and straightforward without a need to do any extra math. I have seen users in the testing session who will pull out the calculators to calculate the final price! Still others will just click next for about 3 times to see the total!!!!!
The price plays a major factor in the traveler’s plan and it is in the most of the time has the final words. As traveler already set in advance the budget of the whole journey, they do not want to spend it all in the hotel stay. There are others expenditures that he also needs to take care of, like car rental, foods, and tickets for attractions.
5.Deals and Packages
Vacation means flight + hotel (and sometimes a car rental) booking these all together make it easy for the users to get the available options in one page and one hit. As in returns they are looking for generous discount as they going to get them together from one site. Still some other travelers still will pay the hotel only as they have different arrangement for transportation. In this case they still looking for a good deal like: “Book 5 nights and get the sixth night free.”
It is not only a matter of the price or cost, it big advantage is to combine the search for both the hotel and the flight in one shot. Instead of searching for the flight first then booking the hotel from different sites, where you will keep changes the dates in both sites until you get sync with availability then finally book the trip … with high level of mistakes.
Imagine if there any changes of the plan and you want to adjust the day…. just imagine…
Extra: Mobile apps
If you want to keep the users engaged with your service, you need to spoil them more. A mobile app is a great gift for your users that will travel with them inside their pocket and help them whenever they need. It should not be just a copy of the website, it should be doing more than that. Think of it as PA for your users.
If you want to build the apps make it more interactive and smarter.
Please let me know what do you think in comments below or get in touch with an email or a call. Thank you for reading. Wish you a nice summer vacation!
(Photo credit: flickr.com)
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