Approach for an Internet Booking Engine

In this approach, we start with briefly describing a user journey, an important step to help us visualise the user requirements and utilize them on the wireframing process. Much effort has been put into studying the system’s potential users and their contexts of use. We shortly discuss our insights from competition analysis and user research and describe the domain in order for the reader to understand the thoughts behind our design and the relationships between the users and processes involved. Finally, after studying the user tasks and subtasks, we conclude with specifying the usability goals and continue with the design of the wireframes and the hi-fi prototypes. Invision was used to develop a high fidelity prototype.

View the hi-fi prototype

Domain Analysis

To gain a good understanding of the design’s business purpose we have examined several known B2C IBEs such as Booking.com, Expedia and Kayak. These are booking engines that operate globally with millions of everyday visitors (luxury seekers, empty nesters, family travelers, young professionals, international jetsetters) who use the system in order to reach their goal: To find the most suitable hotel, flight or travel deal for their individual needs. The context of the user experience is extremely important here. A high percentage of bookings tend to be on the go while traveling, meaning that the decision-making process is much quicker and with shorter lead time. The factors that influence consumer decisions are distinct and include last-minute decisions, the location of the user, social influences with friends and family and the convenience of the device size on the go.

Mobile bookings also tend to take place in close proximity to the hotel, meaning that it’s important for a good booking engine to return geographic-specific pricing based on the user’s location. Understanding the motives behind consumer behavior is very important in order to provide a better customer service. For instance, many users tend to research for months on mobile devices and finally book on a desktop device to be absolutely sure of the booking details. Some mobile apps integrate social media with their personalization strategy to reassure users that their application is trustworthy. Personalization is also used for weather targeting, which is a fine example that we will incorporate to our designs, as you will see later on.

The user journey

Natasha is a 35 year old woman, living in Greece, thirsty of creativity and style. You can tell by the elegant but simple way she dresses or by her opinion about how iPhone devices add to social status. The recent economic crisis has been for Natasha a long time of acute suffering. Her work doesn’t pay as it used to be and she has cut her monthly expenses on expensive brands. Deep inside she feels that life is unfair for ‘luxury seekers’ like her who dream of taking the first plane to New York just to have coffee on a posh hotel and view the ‘Rothkos’ at the MOMA. No, not view. Breath. She feels so creative, she will tell you she breathes ‘aesthetics’. And right now, there’s not an element of excitement in her life - at least that is what she thinks while she browses hotels on Booking.com. Booking a New York hotel will be her little indulgence. And that should be fast, because she’s so excited right now, she fears she may change her mind later. “If only booking.com made me excited”, “That yellow reminds me of Lidl, a bit more of that and I’ll leave”, ‘’ “Simplicity.. Mmm… I miss simple things in life, there are so many filters and staff I don’t care about here...”. And then, there’s this point when she just wants some depth in her decisions. She needs to feel important. No, finding a cheap deal does not satisfy this woman. “What’s with the cheap deals? I never shop from Lidl anyway...” She downloads a new app. Well, “simplicity is me, really”, “Oh such nice photos!”. There are tags for every hotel. “Is there a JENNIFER ANISTON tag? I LOVE Jen. Oh! Here it is! Wow, that’s brilliant!”. She will travel to New York now. There’s so much beauty in this city and you can tell by the amazing exteriors that feed her need for self- expression and personal discovery. She doesn’t have to use filters at all, it seems. Yes, that’s my hotel, view, and book now. The app will scan her card and wow, she’s booked! She’s happy.

Usability goals

  1. The mobile app or hosted web page that links to the booking engine should be appealing, look professional, and function properly to meet all user needs.
  2. The system should reduce confusion and friction for the user’s booking process.
  3. The system should provide a safe, quick and easy way for the users to pay for services.
  4. The system should be able to accommodate the user's needs for booking online flights, hotels and other services while “on the go”.
  5. The system should automatically adjust availability every time a hotel, flight or other service is booked, in order to avoid the risk of overbooking (credibility).
  6. The system should appeal to a global audience, so it is important to accommodate different languages and also different currencies. This is a matter of findability and discoverability, as well as trust and credibility.
  7. The important information has to be readily available in the navigation, and the navigation must be easy to find: “The more space you give to your important content, the more visible it becomes”.

Low-Fi prototypes

Late research findings show that mobile has the potential to significantly impact channel share. To remain competitive, suppliers must continue working to win travelers’ trust by adding value to their mobile websites and apps. Mobile must be treated as a unique channel with its own distinct design and distribution strategy. An example of a seamless mobile booking experience is the Hotel Tonight app. By organising the contents in a consistent, understandable manner, “Hotel Tonight” does a great job at maintaining a singular and easy-to-follow flow. In our low-fi prototypes we also direct the user quickly and efficiently by minimizing “call to action” buttons and offers and by adding default options that are more likely to reduce stress and simplify the task at hand.