Why Travel Brands Should Focus on the Search Field
In a recent article examining user experience on hotel websites, one commenter observed that airline sites were much more task-oriented than their hotel counterparts, despite both being in the same industry. .
I think travel sites, hotels, or airlines should focus on the primary goals of users when they land on the homepage, which normally encourages them to search for the product in question.
To this end, a clear and prominent search tool is needed, with a minimum of distractions.
While there is an obvious temptation to cram a lot of stuff onto a homepage, resisting that urge helps more users begin their search.
I have looked at airline and hotel chain websites to see how they approach this problem.
Finding suitable flights is the main objective of the majority of visitors, and even more so of new users.
The main goal should be to get users to search as quickly as possible, so that sites should make the search tool visible and easy to use.
At the same time, however, existing users should also be taken into account, so clear links to areas such as flight status and online check-in are also important.
In addition, in the search box, features like autocomplete and flexible date options help the searcher.
This home page is nice and simple. Although the search box is lower on the page than on some sites, the rest of the page does not distract from it.
Delta’s home page highlights the search tool using the red bar, while leaving other user tasks (flight status, check-in, etc.) easy to find.
The flexible date option is very useful for searchers who may not need specific dates, but want to know what is available over a certain period of time.
Another good example from JetBlue, who thought they chose to put the connection box more forward than the others.
This is a busier page than the others, although the flight search box is still very important.
I wonder why Southwest bothered with the “book now” link in the photo when users can just search right away on the left.
It is interesting to see the promo code box there. This is a potential distraction as users without codes can simply head to Google to see if they can find one.
This page uses smaller fonts and elements and tries to fit a lot more into the page, even home insurance ads.
As a result, it’s not as clean as some of the other examples here, and the individual items are harder to find.
Like airlines, the primary purpose of most user visits to hotel sites is to check room availability and prices.
For this reason, it is best to focus the design on helping customers get there quickly and easily.
The search tool, while prominently placed at the top of the page, blends into the background and is not the most visible part of the page.
As with airlines, tools that allow flexibility on dates can be useful.
The Hilton homepage is well designed, but the search box may be less noticeable with some background images.
This one is a case of finding the search box. It could hardly be less visible. Choice seems more interested in promoting sister brands, mobile apps and loyalty programs than in enticing people to search.
This is a better example of AmericInn. The search box is clearly defined with background colors and calls to action.
The map option in the search box is also a good idea, giving users another way to search.
Here the search tool is put aside by the changing hero image, which doesn’t add much to the page.
On the more positive side, this is the only hotel here to offer a flexible date option.
Most of the sites here make the search box reasonably visible, but often choose to include as many other features as possible.
While some features are essential, too many can simply distract from the primary goal of involving as many users as possible in the research and purchase process.
Of course, different designs should be tested to see what effect these changes have, but the approaches I like here are from American Airlines and Delta, while AmericaInn seems to be the best of hotel sites.