Journal Entry #2

With the price of plane tickets skyrocketing, booking a flight online should provide the customer with as little aggravation as possible.  With several options available, travelers can easily find a site that fits their needs for online travel booking.

Expedia.com, based locally in Bellevue, is a popular site for finding flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel needs. Kayak.com offers the same services, but manages to present itself in a clutter-free, easily navigable way.  Expedia’s home page seems busy and overwhelming, while Kayak offers a clean and eye-pleasing interface with plenty of white space.  While Expedia’s home page is divided into three columns, only one of them is for actual search.  The other two appear to be advertising driven.  Kayak’s home page contains no advertising.  Let’s compare the two sites using some of Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics.

Visibility of system status

Both sites show an animated progress indicator while searching to let you know the site is “working.”  This is a common feature amongst travel sites.  Expedia’s progress indicator is a series of blinking dots, with no indication of when it will be finished searching, while Kayak’s is an actual green bar that fills up as the search nears completion.  Kayak gives the user a better visual representation of their search status.

Match between system and the real world

Each site uses appropriate and consumer-friendly language.

User control and freedom

Kayak let’s users manipulate their flight search results on the same screen using a series of sliding bars.  Expedia requires the user to perform a new search.

Consistency and standards

Each site maintains consistency throughout.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Each site is easy enough for a beginner to use, although Expedia’s home page throws too much information at the user.

Aesthetic and minimalist design

This is a category where Kayak clearly wins.  If I’d never seen another travel site, or was comparing Expedia to Travelocity or Orbitz, I’d most likely have few problems with the design. But when compared to Kayak’s minimal, aesthetically pleasing and clean interface, Expedia seems like a jumbled and confusing mess.  I picture an elderly couple, trying to book a flight to their granddaughter’s wedding, and being utterly baffled by the multitude of options and places to click.

Expedia does not currently offer an optimized-for-mobile site or a mobile application.  However, when I visit Kayak.com on my iPhone, I am taken to a clean “smartphone mode” page, with my flight search fields clearly laid out in front of me. Clicking on a tab switches me to the hotel search page, while another will switch me to the standard, non-mobile Kayak site.  Kayak does not offer a pop-up calendar for date selection, however, and forces users to enter in the duration of their trip manually.  This is the only inconvenience on the mobile site.  After selecting my trip dates, I am taken to a new page that lists all of my flight options from the various carriers.  Kayak is also sure to note that booking a flight from your mobile device, while possible, is not recommended.

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~ by cvellis on October 16, 2008.

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