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Flights search engine Skyscanner recently launched a redesigned version of its site in beta, with the aim of making it smoother and more usable.

Skyscanner

There are plenty of travel search engines around, so how does the new Skyscanner measure up? 

Homepage

The Skyscanner homepage is nice and neat, with plenty of white space and not too much clutter. The search box dominates the page, which makes it clear what users need to do to find a flight.

As well as the main search box, other options for finding flights include searching through weekend breaks, two week breaks etc, using a map, or using the calendar for available flights.

Searching for flights

Skyscanner has made the search function pretty usable, starting with basic information on number of passengers, travel dates, departure airport and destination.

The site has replaced its previous drop down menus showing airports and cities with a feature that suggests destinations as you type. This is useful in avoiding spelling errors which would return no results. 

Skyscanner search suggest  

Users can also search for flights using the calendar function which plots flights and prices day by day: 

Skyscanner calendar search

This is potentially useful but, once you have chosen flights from the calendar and clicked on 'next' your flights are deselected on the next page, meaning you have to choose all over again. 

Also, the same flights and prices were often unavailable or difficult to find when this happened, which could be a source of frustration for customers.

Skyscanner has also provided a map so you can select the airport for departure, then the destination.

Skyscanner map search

This is a nice idea, and it certainly looks good, but it is a little confusing to use, and takes much more time than it would to type in the 'to' and 'from' airports in the main search box. 

It could be more usable too. The map starts out zoomed in on the UK and parts of Northern Europe. Once you have selected your departure airport, an arrow appears for you to point to your chosen destination.

Unfortunately, the boundaries of the map don't move when you reach the edge with your cursor, meaning that you have to use the arrows or zoom tool to move around the map, which is not the best way to do it. Most users will be better served by the main search box.

Search results

After searching, flights are displayed on a table for the dates selected, showing times, airlines and prices: 

Skyscanner flight search results

The search results are easy to understand, and can easily be adjusted to show dates and times other than those originally searched for.

One problem is that not all prices are displayed, and some of the prices displayed may be a day or so out of date, so users need to select 'check now' next to individual flights to see an up to date price.

Surely it would be better for Skyscanner to automatically search for the latest prices to save the customer having to so themselves, as this can be time consuming when looking through a range of flight times. It may also reduce a user's trust in the accuracy of the search results.

This may not be wholly in Skyscanner's hands, as many such sites rely on daily feeds provided by travel agents and tour operators which aren't always up to date by the time the customer searches for a flight.

Skyscanner has added some useful filtering options though, to help users narrow down their searches and exclude unwanted flights from the results: 

Skyscanner filtering options

As well as altering dates, users can filter their results by depart and return time slots, the chosen airlines, and the number of stops and changeovers, which is all good.

It would be good to be able to limit the searches according to budget though, which would avoid the need for customers to hunt through flights which are out of their price range.

Results can be displayed in order, showing cheapest first, but this option is only via an unlabelled button on the filter options which I only discovered by accident. Ideally, customers should be able to set a maximum price.

Basket / Checkout

There isn't a shopping basket as such on this site, just a summary page showing details of the flights and dates selected:

Skyscanner flight summary

This is a useful summary, but users should be aware that extras such as in-flight meals will cost extra once they choose to book the flight.  Mandatory taxes are included in the prices quoted though. Also, leave it to long to select 'book with airline' and the price may no longer be available.

Once you select to book the flights, you are transferred to the travel operator, so the checkout process depends on the airline you have chosen.

I think Skyscanner would also benefit from making the 'book flight' button stand out more. It is in the same blue as other features on the page, as well as being hidden away below the fold.

Conclusion

Skyscanner is an attractive site, and is pretty easy to use. The main search function works well, and provided a good range of results and prices from different airlines for most of the journeys I selected.

Some of the other search methods are less effective though; the map can be tricky to use for choosing long haul flights, and the site would benefit from keeping prices more up to date.

Related research:
Travel Website Benchmarks 2007

Related articles:
Q&A: Vicky Smith of Travel.co.uk
Thomas Cook redesign: Has it improved usability?

Graham Charlton

Published 8 September, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (9)

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matt

I used to love skyscanner until this redesign. There is too much flash and ajax if you ask me. My favourite feature was the 'whole month' option but that seems to have gone apart from the option on the home page.

I had advised a number of people to use skyscanner, some of whom were not that technical, but they got to grips with the old version very quickly. This one is much too complicated and the same test users had problems with it.

Like facebook did, the guys should go back to having an 'old skyscanner' option.

almost 8 years ago

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Skyscanner Flight Search

Hi Graham,

Thanks for the very in depth and comprehensive review of the new site.

There’s just one point we'd like to clarify regarding taxes and price quotes, specifically with reference to the following sentence in your review:

"users should be aware that extras such as in-flight meals, insurance, tax etc may be added to the price quoted"

As you correctly pointed out, optional extras such as meals, insurance and baggage may be added later, BUT: all prices quoted on Skyscanner include all mandatory taxes - so there shouldn't be any nasty surprises for users.

Matt – thanks for the feedback. The new site is still in BETA and is a work in progress. After lots of feedback about the new design, we’re still working on a number of improvements which we will be implementing over the next few weeks.

The ‘whole month’ search functionality which you (and many of our users) love, is still present – simply click on the little calendar in the search bar and then check ‘whole month’.

We do welcome all feedback, and listen to every piece of it in an effort to improve the site. I hope you’ll get used to the new look and continue to use the site for your flight searches. If you have any more detailed feedback, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks

Sam
Skyscanner Flight Search

almost 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Sam,

Thanks for your comments. I've updated the article to correct my mistake.

almost 8 years ago

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Skyscanner Flight Search

Hi Graham,

Thanks for making the change. Just to let you know, we've now re-instated the drop-down menu functionality in addition to the predictive text search boxes - so users can now choose from either when entering their departure and destinations.

thanks

Sam
Skyscanner Flight Search

almost 8 years ago

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sam

I used to love sky scanner and over the past few years I have booked lots of flights both for myself and all my family. I am so frustrated with the new website, as so far after approx 10 visits NOT one offthe advertised flights on the whole month view is correct. Time and Time again I select a flight advertised at around 50-60 inc taxes only to find the correct price is around £200. Not even with the inclusion of a suitcase and an enforced inflight meal can justify a £150 increase. Please sky scanner you used to be excellent now your a farce - sort it out

almost 8 years ago

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Yosemite Sam

I haveta say, I'm not lovin it either so far, and for the time being, won't be recommending it to anyone. I put countless people on to the previous skyscanner.

almost 8 years ago

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Yosemite Sam

Okay, to be fair, and constructive, a couple of specifics: Where is the button on the initial page if you're only interested in direct flights? And it's really annoying when you back one step out to that page, and find the details gone. It's reverted to the last search of the last session. Arrgh!
That "whole month" thing should be placed in the upper search area. A great feature which should be front and centre, so the dummest dummy can't miss it.
Okay, good luck with it!

almost 8 years ago

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Nick

SkyScanner - old and new - is brilliant; just the sort of site that makes the web really useful, rather than a plain information or gimmick provider. Yes, the map is slower than selecting from the drop-downs, but its value is in finding nearby alternatives. A small problem I've found is that the map sometimes fails to draw the "from-to" arrow and the page needs to be reloaded. anyway, thanks to the SkyScanner team. (I'm from Edinburgh, but I'm not biased!)

almost 7 years ago

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bilgicity

tehank you very good

over 6 years ago

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