Online travel agency ebookers.com launched a mobile website this week, which allows customers to browse and book flights and hotels from their phones.
The company claims to be the first online travel firm to offer this functionality via mobile (and I can't think of any others), but does ebookers provide a good user experience on mobile?
The mobile homepage is stripped down and basic, which this is a good idea, as it makes it easier to use and quicker to load across a range of mobile devices.
There are just three options for booking: hotels, flights and car hire, and the other links allow users to review their booking and access their ebookers account. A prominent telephone number for bookings is a useful addition.
Searching for flights and hotels
The search function has also been stripped down, and users simply need to select a city or region, or else search by address.
The search results are generated quickly for a mobile site, and presented well, with the original search parameters displayed at the top of the page, followed by sort options and the hotels with price and review score.
However, while users can sort by star rating, price and distance, the lack of options to filter out unwanted results is a drawback.
In the above search for hotels in Paris, I get more than 500 results, far too many to look through. This makes finding the right hotel much more difficult.
The desktop version of the ebookers site has some good filtering options which allow users to choose by review score, locations, and the types of amenities offered by the hotel, some of these would be useful here.
The pages for each hotel are good though, with a range of room prices on offer, details of amenities, a map showing the location of the hotel, as well as various images:
The reviews are also a valuable addition, very useful if you are having to make a quick decision about where to stay. A quick summary of each review is provided, and users can see more details of reviews further down the page.
The travel booking process can be a lengthy one, especially for flights, and it is a challenge to convert this to a mobile device.
Given the amount of information that needs to be inputted, ebookers has made it about as painless as it could. There is no required registration, fields are clear, and little details such as switching to the phone keypad on iPhone makes inputting phone numbers easier:
During beta testing of the new mobile site, 70% of hotel bookings made were for same-day check-in, compared to 15% on the desktop version. I can see it being a useful resource for people on the move, especially if they need to book a flight or hotel quickly due to weather problems, flight cancellations, and other problems.
It does most of the basics well, and ebookers has made a usable mobile site despite the challenges of converting a lengthy booking process to a mobile device.
I suspect that users wanting to browse without a specific destination and date in mind wouldn't necessarily go for this mobile site, but for people on the move it certainly beats accessing a desktop version of a travel site from your phone.