UX in Travel

So I’m here in sunny Austin, Texas, awaiting the start of SXSWi, and it got me thinking about a large untapped UX world out there – the travel landscape.  I think this, because in the past few days, having had issues with my previous hotel booking (if you can call it a hotel, we won’t go there ;) ), I found myself in the predicament of trying to book last minute hotels at a time where there are absolutely no hotels left.  What I found was that it was much easier, and more reassuring, to converse with someone over the phone.  I visited countless Online travel sites, only to find them difficult, misleading, and confusing (and I’m a tech savvy kind of girl).

I’ve asked my husband many times, who has long been in the travel industry (blatant plug: ProjectWander.com :) ) about why the UX of travel sites, in particular flight, hotels and attractions booking sites are so typically overcomplex, and in my honest opinion, provide a poor user experience.  I’m generally speaking of course. Hipmunk, for example has been the one breath of fresh air, in this stagnant pool of bad UX.

In fact, in his experience, much of the US market feel more comfortable calling a customer service representative – which is a sad reality. But for Online travel services to truly take off, we need the customer to feel empowered, and confident that their booking is correct, confirmed, and trustworthy.  I’m told, it’s partially to do with having to integrate with very old, archaic, booking systems. But also the fact that there isn’t a global standard for hotels, or attractions to abide by – and basically booking systems are all over the place.

But all in all, I think it’s a space that really needs the guiding hand of good UX, as online travel becomes more commonplace to the typical consumer. I can only hope that more startups like Hipmunk can show others what the experience really can be, and should be like.