You are super excited, as you are finally planning a much-needed vacation. You have a few ideas for where you want to go, but you haven’t nailed down your plans yet. You head for your preferred device—laptop, phone, tablet, TV, and even the refrigerator, if you’re the type who likes to peruse the Internet while checking what’s left in the icebox.
As soon as your preferred site comes up—wait, it’s still loading.… Here we see the first usability problem with any site, but one that is especially troublesome on travel sites: page load speed. The faster a page loads, the more you feel that you can trust the site. Across the industry you will see different metrics, but the average is that for about every additional second a page takes to load, a site loses lose about 5 percent of its visitors, a figure that goes up exponentially after about 3 seconds.
After you have waited for the page to load, you look around for the options. You want to look at packages but can’t seem to locate that section. You can’t seem to find the nav, or the site has so many options you aren’t sure where to go. Quickly we’ve run into another travel website design issue that can stop people from staying on a site: way-finding, which refers to how users navigate a site. Think if you were driving around a city with no street signs or, possibly worse, there were 10 or even 15 signs with different names for every street; navigating would be almost impossible. The more a site’s architects can hone and simplify the wayfinding, the more users will be able to find what they are looking for and have trust in the site.
When you finally find the packages you’re looking for, you just can’t get excited about any of the options. You notice the writing on the site is rather bland, and nothing is drawing your attention. When it comes to usability, this is a lesser known but extremely important aspect: copywriting. Writing quality can make or break a travel site. Using action verbs and carefully crafted language will allow users to feel more engaged and excited about the options presented to them.
Once you finally make your decision on a package to your intended destination, you get curious about what you can do there. Your chosen package includes a few events, but you will be at your destination for a full week and want to know what the other options are. This is where two more usability features can pay dividends. First is related products. The site now knows where you are going and when you are going to be there, and should be more than happy to serve up some interesting activities. The other important feature is reviews.
As you are deciding on which events or experiences you want to partake in, it is great to have reviews from people who have actually done them—it helps you connect on a personal level to the place you are going. This type of immersive experience is invaluable when deciding where to go and what to do when you travel.
When it comes down to it, usability on a travel site is about trust. If there is no trust, there is no conversion. When people purchase from a travel site, they feel that they are putting their lives in the hands of that site. They are hoping that this digital travel agent has their best interests in mind and is sending them off for the time of their lives.