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Travel search engine Travelocity has redesigned the homepage on the .com version of the site, aiming to provide more inspiration for users with more deal and offers.
According to Travelocity, the aim was to achieve a balance between a simple page design and providing ideas for customers who may arrive at the site without a fixed destination in mind. I've been talking a look at the redesign...
This aim is similar to the thinking behind Lastminute.com's recent relaunch. While Lastminute.com achieved this by shrinking the search box and moving it to one side to leave more room for deals and offers, Travelocity.com has kept the search box in the centre and used tabs to provide other options.
It's a good solution to the problem, and the different options on the tabs (search, deals, destinations and My Travelocity) load very quickly. It's a good effort, and a big improvement on the look of the previous version, though the UK site has yet to be updated.
It certainly makes sense to provide some attractive deals and holiday ideas for casual visitors to the site, and appeal to people who perhaps have the holiday time but no fixed idea of how to spend it.
There are a few usability issues with the Travelocity site though, which detract from the overall experience:
Slow loading results
Flight search engines and travel websites are often slow to load up results, and considering the amount of data involved, few such sites can deliver near instant search results.
Even taking this into account though, Travelocity.com is particularly slow and takes up to 30 seconds to load results. By comparison, Skyscanner managed to give me results within 3 seconds.
Most travel sites will suggest cities and airports when you begin to enter text in the search box, this helps to speed up the process for the user and avoids the problem of users misspelling place names and ending up with errors or no results.
Perhaps this is an oversight in the redesign process, as the UK version of the site offers this function:
Let users specify the airport before they press search
This is annoying, having entered a departure and destination city and pressed search, I then have another page where I'm asked to select the specific airport:
This slows the process down by adding an extra step when this information could have been dealt with on the search page. Also, as in the example above from the UK site, it could let me search for flights from all airports in one city if I want to, to help find the best possible deal.
Only show available flights
A number of the flights I attempted to select from the search results page turned out to be unavailable, or at least I think that's why I got this error message:
The error message doesn't explain why I reached this page, and it means have to start the search again from scratch. Very frustrating.
Online travel is a competitive market, and good usability can make the difference when customers are deciding which website to book their holidays on. If customers encounter problems with data entry, or cannot easily find the results they are looking for, or have a frustrating experience, they can easily seek out a competitor's website.