To book or not to book?

Jan

24

With all of the holiday booking going on lately I’ve been on a lot of hotel and apartment rental websites.  This got me thinking: what elements make a booking system easy to use? What information am I looking for when booking and how do various companies present it?

Let’s jump right into this one with some small London-based short term accommodation providers before looking at one of the industry giants:

Flying Butler Serviced Apartments

Flying Butler offers its clients a number of locations in and around London.  The site gives consumers a view of the product instantly through rotating images on the front page advertising their lavish residences.  Right below this is the search function, which leads to property listings.  The first issue can be found in the listing section where there is no map, so location becomes difficult to determine.  To access a map you have to go back to the homepage thereby annulling your search.  The map feature is also not obvious as it lies below the fold – overall this site is not making booking accommodation very easy.

The Apartment Network

This site offers accommodation globally, first asking customers for the location they would like to stay at London and the dates of their stay.  Thankfully this leads straight to a map that makes it easy to decide where you would like to stay.  Below this is a filtering option to narrow your search and refine any specific requests you might have e.g a pet policy!  Clicking on the properties leads to a full list of the features and pictures.  There is a lot of information but also a clear customer journey: from the homepage, to refining the search, to the finer details of the stay.  This is much easier to use than the previous example.

Expedia

We are now all experienced with the format of hotel booking websites.  Think about Expedia: You choose dates for your stay and the number of people staying before you’re presented with a sortable list that matches your parameters.  Next to this list you’ll find a map with all of the properties’ locations detailed for those who are looking to stay in a certain area.  Furthermore, if you were to click on a listing that caught your eye you’d then get to have a look at some photos and more room options. 

This careful segmentation of all of the aspects of booking a hotel presents the user with all of the information they need as they look for it.  This is crucial, consumers can be overwhelmed by lists of features or seemingly arbitrarily ranked results pages.  What the goal of such websites should be then is to present the information in a way that is easily digestible – after all the user must feel informed to get their wallet out!

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