Usability of travel sites has evolved over the years. Sites such as Expedia or airline websites have come a long way from offering online brochures in the mid 1990’s rather than being and becoming the next great website in travel. These sites have long been forgotten and consumers today would often laugh about these quite “basic” sites of the past. The usability of websites in travel have come a long way and today, it is the consumer that is at the core of travel site usability in terms of responding to consumer wants and needs. In the following some key areas of site usability will be looked at in more detail, reflecting on how much has changed over the years (Skift 2013).
Web design is certainly one of the areas that have changed the most, as sites have improved a lot in terms of their looks, feel and overall usability. Travel sites are a lot clearer about why consumers are actually visiting their sites and consumers also have a much bigger understanding of what individual travel brands are offering. This means that over the years, travel companies moved away from having to explain what it is they are doing and selling towards offering what their consumers’ want and need within the site. Information about the actual company is actually of minor importance to consumers but the products and services are highlighted and are most important in terms of presenting and representing an organisation in tourism.
With mobile becoming increasingly important, travel sites’ web design also needs to be mobile optimised to guarantee consumers being able to use travel sites on their Smartphones and tablets. On all devices, the user experience should be the same and be satisfactory for consumers’ needs.
NEEDS OF CONSUMERS
The needs of consumers are at the core of travel websites. Often, travel sites such as Expedia are very focused and sometimes “minimalistic” in terms of what is shown within their site in comparison to previous versions of the sites. The consumer experience and the ease to use the sites are very important. Rich media are also important, as travel sites use much more imaginary within their sites than before. Videos and user-generated reviews can also enhance the visitor experience on travel sites and are also in line with what consumers want and expect from travel sites in today’s highly visual and experience driven world.
The social factor is also another area that was not considered as important 10 years ago. Although every travel site would offer a help line to a call centre, this is not something consumers are looking for in today’s digital landscape. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are now taking over and serve as, direct links between travel sites and end consumers. Travel brands engage and communicate with consumers through social media sites which is often happening in real time and consumers can take advantage of communicating through different devices. Social is therefore also increasingly important for the overall usability of travel sites.
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