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Over the past decade, it’s plain to see the change in what users term ‘good’ websites. Often, websites of the past were not intuitive; a certain nous or understanding of their flaws was needed to extract information swiftly.
Now good websites are built with our gentlest sensibilities in mind. The beauty of a listings site like Timeout is that getting the architecture right, and the aesthetics, and every fillip of design, is directly linked to monetisation.
Here are a few of what I deem to be Timeout’s objectives, with some little snapshots of how they’ve been achieved.
1. Link all the listings together so they’re intuitively navigable
This is where the site excels, allowing the user to roam freely (increasing time on site, page views etc) without reducing the chance of a conversion.
If you search for a term or pick a date or a location from the options on the homepage filter, the page you’re served has a sidebar that allows you to narrow down your results. The sidebar itself can be expanded, revealing more specific areas, without navigation away from the page.
The menu on the left can be unfurled, giving the menu on the right.
This is a key tool as it allows the user to feel centred, and encourages browsing from this central point.
Narrowing down the search using this sidebar leaves you certain of what you’ve selected to view by displaying these handy stickers (below) that can be unchecked to broaden the search once again. These are the refinements that can be added to, or undone.
Features are also used, to promote specific listings, and to allow another serendipitous approach to navigation. I was browsing listings for ‘Lazy Sundays’ and was presented with this box for other great experiences.
Each of these categories, in partnership with Mastercard, is a great way of presenting listings to people who may not know what they want to find, and creates more content, more inventory and more keywords for Google to love.
And whilst I’m on the Lazy Sunday page I have many other escape routes as highlighted below. This sense of ‘never a dead end’ is great for increasing time on site and pages viewed.
Here’s another great example, my searched location being used to serve me a nice box with nearby restaurants, instead of a long list or a link to another page.
Each time something like this is served, the benefits of clicking away are shown. It’s not a link that says ‘show nearby restaurants’, rather a box that has pics, names and hyperlinks.
2. Add some of Timeout’s own content in good enough measure to attract casual visitors
Here’s a great example of Timeout content that adds value on the music landing page. A Timeout Spotify playlist.
This one was horse-themed, taken from the day a story broke of horse meat being found in beef burgers in UK supermarkets, so obviously displaying a sense of humour/topicality.
3. Allow prioritisation of deals when/where required
Once I’d signed up for ‘Timeout Deals’ this box followed me around, and was obviously designed to glow brighter than any other content on page.
All those things we are used to (price strikethrough, countdown, big CTA) working in harmony.
4. Encourage booking
Here, the option to book, the contact details, pricing and interactive map are all available together, without moving away, giving no uncertainty and no reason not to book.
5. Create as much inventory as possible without creating pages for pages sake, or making listings difficult to find.
The old Timeout had many options on the homepage and a filter/search bar with 4 fields – search term, date, location, category.
The new Timeout has removed ‘categories’ from the filter options adding them to a clearer top navigation bar.
This has created more clearly defined home, or landing, pages for each of these categories and sub-categories. These pages contain some nice content and listings, and allow the user to browse, then ‘drill down’ further.
Removing categories from the filter is partly a recognition that too much choice isn’t necessarily good to start. The path to a listing starts with fewer distracting side roads.
When you’re unsure what it is you’re looking for, search upon search (with the ability to ‘undo’ each refinement) is far more enjoyable than trying to find something in one pop. The user feels in control and like they haven’t missed anything.
Overall the site is great at ‘knowing’ whether you are a browser or have an intent to book one of a specific range of tickets. The site surely guides users to the right listings, and the navigation’s flexibility empowers the user to wander through offers and features, always confident of a safe return to the focus of their search.
And so, as ten years ago users learned how to decipher and navigate websites, now some web designers have in turn fully learned how to corral or, dare I say, caress the visitor.