We have recently seen a shift in the way that a lot of businesses approach the design of their digital products and online services. They are increasingly moving away from the conversion rate optimisation (CRO) strategy of hurrying a user through their website straight to the checkout.
Instead, UX is now at the forefront of their minds when they are thinking about the design and build – and rightly so. Close to half (40%) of web users will abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load, and the average human attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000, to eight seconds in 2016. If a website is not easy to navigate or the information is unclear for the user, they are not likely to stick around.
With this in mind, we wanted to look at how some businesses are approaching UX design when it comes to their websites. To focus our research, we decided to look at the lucrative travel sector, to see how an industry which typically has a sizeable budget is investing in the user experience of its websites. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) found that between 2014 and 2015, 89% of UK holidaymakers booked a holiday online, making it crucial that travel companies get their websites right.
Our recent travel report, therefore, explored the usability, accessibility, and multi-device offering of 10 of the top travel sites including: Skyscanner, AirBnb, LateRooms, Booking.com, LastMinute, OnTheBeach, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Co-operative Travel and Expedia.
Overall, the majority of these travel companies had considered user experience somewhat in the build of their website. But the multi-device offering felt confused, not to mention accessibility – which had not been thought about enough at all.
Travel Sites Score Low for their Booking Processes
One of the most interesting areas of our report was the evaluation of the booking process of these websites. Bearing in mind that Skyscanner does not have its own booking process, we focused on the other nine sites for this part of our usability review.
Although the majority of people would consider the booking process to be the most important aspect of any ecommerce website, none of these travel sites scored full marks in this section. In fact, the average score was six out of nine. While they did get some elements right, there were a number of areas where they really fell down.
Our findings show that Booking.com and Laterooms.com achieved the highest points for their booking processes.
Progress Bars Should be a Given
When booking a holiday, there are a several elements for users to consider. Choosing the destination, flights, somewhere to stay, followed by any add-ons such as transfers and car hire, can make for a lengthy ordeal. This means the process can be made much smoother if each task is accounted for at the top of the page with a progress bar. Do not forget that users can have a short attention span. If they get frustrated or confused they could abandon the site before they convert. Letting them track their progress during the booking process could reduce confusion and add confidence.
Yet, our research found that four of the top travel sites (Expedia, Laterooms, British Airways, and Last Minute) did not have a progress bar in their booking process.
Obviously, the benefits of progress bars are not just applicable to travel sites. They are useful for job application processes, or purchasing an expensive item such as a car, for example. So we were surprised to find that some of these big brands had not implemented them.
But this was not the only element of the booking process that the top travel websites were not addressing.
Some Forms were not Accessible
Arguably the most crucial part of any booking process, forms, are something that all businesses with a website need to optimise. As a result, it was a red flag when we found that some of these websites did not have forms that were appropriate for every user. In a nutshell, just three of the nine websites had forms in their booking process that were accessible for users with partial sight.
UX professionals know how crucial it is for web forms to be accessible. Yet, on Booking.com, Co-operative Travel, Airbnb, Expedia, Last Minute, and On the Beach forms were not accessible.
The Importance of Design with Accessibility in Mind
It is predicted that there are over 30 million people in Europe alone who are blind or partially sighted. This means that not considering this in the initial design stages of a website could be rendering it useless for a large portion of people. In turn, this will result in these businesses missing out on sales, and could potentially tarnish their reputation if they are seen to be marginalising some user groups.
UX experts will be aware that users should be able to zoom in on websites, headings should be presented clearly and fonts easy to read. A good colour contrast is also important, and users should be able to make special requests for their trips, e.g. in order to notify a hotel that they will have a guide dog with them.
However, some UX Elements Were Spot On
Not all of the results were bad, however. These businesses had clearly thought about the UX of their websites. For example, on each of the nine websites the price was clear throughout the booking process (something that cannot be said for all sectors).
Form labels were also descriptive on all but one website (LastMinute), reducing the chance of users making a mistake and having to input information time and time again. On top of this, GUI components (graphical user interface), such as check boxes, were used appropriately in the booking process on every website, which was good to see.
Ultimately, out of the possible maximum total of 35 points that could have been scored in terms of usability, accessibility and ease-of-use across multiple devices, Skyscanner scored the most points (28 points) while Co-operative Travel scored the least (17 points). The average score for all 10 websites was 23 points.
We Need to Refine UX Efforts
Ultimately, it is positive that we have turned a corner and more businesses than ever are designing their websites with UX in mind. Now, we need to refine them to make sure that they are catering for all users, no matter what their abilities are.
For sectors such as travel, whose customers increasingly want to access services online, getting a website right could be critical for keeping up with competitors. Not only this, but having an inclusive approach to web design, that offers a good experience to users will prevent any negative impact on a brand’s reputation. And it is our job as UX experts to guide these businesses in the right direction with their websites.
To see the full travel report please visit this link.
(Lead image source: Torsten Dettlaff – Creative Commons)