6 years ago

How to optimise the mobile travel experience today

NB: This is a guest article by Trenton Moss, director at UK-based Webcredible.

With the ever-increasing proliferation of smartphones and tablets, mobile internet access and apps, consumers are becoming much more comfortable with browsing and shopping through the mobile.

As a result, many business sectors are having to really push forward their multi-channel strategy and approach to mobile, and travel is one of these.

There is one area of importance potentially above all others when it comes to successful mobile engagement – the experience.

Consumers have very personal relationships with their mobile devices, so it becomes even more crucial than on other digital channels, that the user experience is right and that the recipient is engaged with on their terms.

At Webcredible, we have been doing a lot of consultancy around the mobile user experience and have recently been working a lot within the travel sector.

A recent customer was Hotels.com, which wanted to optimise its mobile offering in line with customer requirements with the further aim of producing results that would improve brand experience, customer satisfaction and loyalty through the mobile channel.

This is a common problem, for many travel brands when looking to make moves in mobile.

The approach to mobile will differ according to the brand itself, but there are some best practice tips that travel brands can follow when looking to optimise the mobile experience for their customers.

1. Reduce the amount of content

Not everything shown on a PC site can fit reasonably onto a mobile web page, where space is short and every pixel counts.

It’s important to reduce the amount of content shown on the mobile-optimised version. Only include the most important content or features.

2. Use single column layouts

Website pages are difficult to view on small mobile phone screens. Even on smartphones like the iPhone with their relatively large screens, standard web pages load up zoomed out so that they can fit on the screen.

Instead, create single column pages that use up the whole width of the screen.

To add additional content the page should expand downwards rather than across, as scrolling down is easier than scrolling across and users generally prefer it.

3. Present the navigation differently

It’s difficult to fit the navigation across the top of the screen on a mobile web page, therefore you must look for alternative options to display the navigation.

A few options include:

  • Place the navigation and site search at the top of the page and leave the content for later pages. This is suitable for users who want to navigate or search upon immediately finding the site – a common action with travel websites
  • Place the navigation at the bottom – still accessible but doesn’t get in the way of the content
  • Place the navigation in a dropdown link at the top of the page

4. Minimise text entry

Text entry on a mobile phone is much more difficult than when using a desktop or laptop keyboard, so mobile websites must take this into account.

Allowing users to store details in their “My Account” section is helpful, and if they already have an online account, then linking this to them as a mobile user will also avoid any unnecessary text entry.

5. Decide whether you need more than one mobile site

If your mobile website is only going to be seen by smartphone users with fast download speeds then one mobile version will be ok.

However, if you want a broader reach then you should consider creating a paired down version. Facebook goes as far as having three main mobile versions.

6. Take advantage of inbuilt functionality

Many mobile phones have an advantage over PCs – they come with lots of inbuilt functionality that most PCs don’t have.

You can make it easier for users to perform certain tasks by utilising a mobile’s inbuilt functionality and thereby remove the need for manual steps, for example; making calls, seeing an address on a map and finding the nearest.

However, although these kind of best practice guidelines can help with some ‘quick wins’ for your mobile proposition, travel brands must ensure that their mobile strategies are based on real insights into the behaviours and needs of their audiences and target markets through the customer lifecycle.

Live example

In the case of Hotels.com, Webcredible worked to gain more of an understanding of smartphone users’ use of mobile sites and applications (and any other activity) to guide the development of its mobile website and iPhone and Android apps.

The main objectives of the research was to learn:

How people use smartphones in relation to researching, planning and booking travel
How smartphones are used by travellers while they travel to their destination and how they’re used during holidays and business trips
What are the current barriers that prevent some users from travel-related smartphone use

We used diary study methods, interviews and expert analysis projects, along with its mobile industry knowledge and integrated research, to produce a set of guidelines and recommendations for Hotels.com to build its mobile strategy, which were detailed in a report which:

  • Mapped smartphone use against the travel lifecycle
  • Updated existing personas to include smartphone use
  • Highlighted current attitudes and behaviours towards arranging hotels, flights, meals entertainment and other activities across digital channels
  • Reported on how smartphones are being used to store travel-related information
  • Discussed current barriers to using smartphones for bookings
  • Offered ideas and suggestions for future smartphone opportunities

The importance of a mobile optimised website cannot be underestimated in the travel industry.

When online, if a user struggles to complete a task on your website, they are very likely to simply “drop-off” and go to a competitor’s site.

With the increase in speed of mobile devices and connections, this type of behaviour will become increasingly prevalent on mobile devices as well and travel brands need to ensure they’re providing a mobile user experience that seamlessly matches the online experience, making it easy for consumers to complete the tasks they want, when they want, through whichever platform they want.

NB: This is a guest article by Trenton Moss, director at UK-based Webcredible.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



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  1. Karl

    I like this advice and I agree that content does need to be condensed (where possible). However I think the most important consideration is figuring out what type of experience you want to offer when it comes to mobile devices. If you know that smart phone users are mainly using their devices to book last minute and those that visit your site via a tablet are spending more time gathering information before booking then you might wish to offer different mobile device experiences depending on user metrics.

    • Robert Gilmour

      This is chicken and egg. this is part of a much wider problem for travel technology.if we are going to build a different device for every conceivable user eventuality we can give up now.

      We took the view from all our research that both user and supplier (hotel)wanted an utterly commercial kick ass booking device in the palms of their hands, and that’s what they got, and its working.

      We’ll let someone else worry about all the other user scenarios, (other than tablets which we do take on board re rendering/display, but not use)

  2. Online Reputation and Social Media Management for Hotels: Recommended Readings of the week– February 17th | ReviewPro

    […] apps, consumers are becoming much more comfortable with browsing and shopping through the mobile. How to optimise the mobile travel experience by Trenton […]

  3. Trenton Moss

    Some really great discussion on this article, thanks for the comments. Just wanted to respond on a couple of points.

    Robert, we have been involved with quite a few mobile sites in the travel sector and I’m not surprised that you sussed out the advice when you built a site, as you say, you had to. Some companies are still trying to work out how to make a successful move into mobile and hopefully this article can help offer some best practice tips, but as you’ll know there’s a lot more to it than we could cover in this piece.

    Mark, agree with your point entirely. Sites need to be scaled down for mobile devices but users should absolutely be offered access to the full site if they require it. You’re also right about considering devices and their evolution. Developing a mobile site is an ongoing process of optimisation and tweaking to ensure you continue to offer consumers the best experience possible whatever device they’re using.

  4. Mark Dauner

    Great tips! I agree with #1 Reduce the amount of content, but I would simply add that if you’re going to reduce content or eliminate features in the mobile version, then please give the user the option of easily switching to the full web site. Nothing frustrates me more than going to a web site on my phone or iPad and not being able to get to the feature I want, and not being able to easily figure out how to get to the main site.

    I’ll also say that we’re starting to see a trend towards bigger devices again – look at the Samsung Galaxy Note and many of the increasingly high resolution 4.5″+ Android phones on the market. There are also rumors that the iPhone 5 screen will be slightly bigger because they’ll now be able to take the glass all the way to the edge of the phone. So as devices and resolutions go up, you don’t want to end up with a mobile site that is too bare bones. It’s going to be an ongoing struggle to make sure that mobile sites remain optimized as technologies and trends change.

    • Robert Gilmour

      Mark, absolutely right, visible link to PC website is standard on our mobile sites, as is our focus on tablets &c – you’re spot on

  5. Holidays Asturias

    Mobiles are getting more and more necessary on everyone’s life. In fact, mobiles are not just mobiles…now are like our legs or arms….We cannot live without them…great post!

  6. Christy

    Recent surveys says 79% of respondents used their smartphones for shopping, or finding nearest shop.

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    […] Visit link: How to optimise the mobile travel experience | Tnooz […]

  8. Robert Gilmour

    Have you guys built a successful mobile website for hotels/travel companies – we have, and its working a dream, and we sussed out all your advices ages ago, we had to

  9. Ciaran - Meetingsbooker.com

    Very good advice, clearly it requires a very different strategy and functionality to deliver


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