Whether you've decided to enter the e-commerce game or not, travel agents need well-designed websites. If you've ever visited a clunky site, ask yourself how long you stayed on it and whether the experience endeared you to the brand.
Alex Cleanthous of Webprofits recently critiqued and compared the online booking systems of Virgin and Jetstar. His post dissected both desktop and mobile offerings, focusing on finding and using flight details pages and online checkouts.
To save you scrolling through the many, many screenshots in Cleanthous' post, Jetstar won.
Here's what they did right and what you should consider doing too:
According to Cleanthous, to save people calling up to use valuable consultant time to help with things that should be no-brainers and therefore suitable to a simple online transaction, the user experience needs to be as easy as possible with very few hiccups.
DON'T HIDE YOUR MONEY-MAKER
Obviously, for both Virgin and Jetstar, the main product they want to sell is flights. So it should be THE FIRST thing people see when they go to the website from desktop AND mobile devices.
While Cleanthous praised Virgin's use of contrasting colours and the highlighting of popular routes (he really liked that), Jetstar's placement, wording and use of full page date fields won the day.
DON'T USE JARGON
When I first started in the travel industry, I was given the task of calling to reconfirm flights (yep, it was that long ago). When I was offered a reloc, I took it not knowing what it meant and then wondered if the consultant was suddenly speaking in tongues. What the hell did the Quebec foxtrot have to do with golf, hotels and the tango? Go the phonetic alphabet.
Jetstar uses language such as, 'When would you like to depart?' and 'Who's going?'. By simulating conversation, it makes the process much smoother.
GO BIG OR GO HOME
I think my aunts are having a competition to see who can get their phones to use the biggest font. I also know my aunts are big online shoppers. Jetstar's use of full page calendars is praised by Cleanthous and most likely by people like my aunts.
Don't you hate having to pinch your screen to keep making fields bigger and then erasing mistakes made by your big clumsy fingers? Make fields big enough to be seen and used.
GIVE IT TO THEM CHEAP
You know what your clients want (and in case you were wondering, they generally want it all for nothing). Don't hide the cheap prices, because a bargain always wins. Virgin uses callouts for flights that are reduced and also shows the lowest fares on days prior and after the intended date of travel on the top of the page.
SCARE THEM WITH SCARCITY
Jetstar wins when it comes to flight details because they have integrated scarcity widgets into the page, says Cleanthous. Jetstar tells customers how many other are looking at the route and how many flights are left, which channels the it-must-be-a-bargain-if-everyone-else-is-booking-it fear in us all.
GIVE THEM FRIES WITH THAT
Jetstar apparently uses 'classic selection comparison design' when it comes to upgrading packages. This means that they give you three options, but make the third one really expensive so that the second one looks like a bargain. Jetstar's upgrade design also seems to push the second option at the user.
POP UP FOR A CHAT
People abandon online shopping carts even more than they do the real ones. So Cleanthous suggests, like both Jetstar and Virgin, to capture users' details early on in the piece. Then, use pop-ups (he suggests a timed live chat widget) to ask if people need a chat about their progress if it looks like they're abandoning the booking.
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