5 years ago

The user experience revolution on mobile travel services: from mobile-first to mobile-only

NB: This is a guest article by Bill Loller, vice president of mobile product management at Tealeaf, an IBM Company.

Mobile devices are rapidly displacing the desktop as the primary means to access the web and interact with the world at large.

The penetration of these devices has surpassed all expectations and in fact, according to a May 2012 mobile research report from Google, 80% of people don’t leave home without their mobile device.

As widespread mobile adoption continues to skyrocket, so then do the expectations associated with the mobile experience.

The proliferation of smartphones and tablets across different mobile platforms, mobile web, native app and hybrid apps all add to the complexity companies’ face when it comes to delivering the mobile experience that consumers not only expect, but demand.

This becomes all the more important for travel-focused companies. Travel services really are the killer app for mobile devices. Consumers are using their smartphones and tablets to research and book travel services at a vastly increasing pace.


According to research Tealeaf just conducted, 15% of consumers are already using the mobile web for travel services, and another 13% are using mobile applications downloaded from one of the top app stores. Delivering a compelling experience in the mobile channel is critical for successfully engaging consumers.

A recent Harris Interactive survey revealed that 85% of consumers who had conducted a mobile transaction in the last year expected the experience on their mobile devices to be better than using a laptop or desktop computer.

There has never been a more crucial time to invest in mobile channels, as the mobile experience has now become far more critical than the desktop experience. Design, functionality and real-time insight all play an integral role in delivering a mobile experience that fosters brand loyalty and evangelism.

The same Harris Interactive survey also showed that only 41% of consumers thought the mobile experience lived up to their expectations. There is a huge gap between the expectation and the actual experience.

This provides an opportunity to create real competitive advantage by investing in the mobile experience and delighting your travel customers.


Designing for mobile is hard. Mobile consumers are task-oriented. They want the essentials of whatever they are looking for and they want them quickly.

Things that prolong their search or cause them to struggle will quickly lead to them abandoning your mobile service, and lead to an overall impact on your brand.

The Harris Interactive survey also revealed that 63% of all online adults would be less likely to buy from a company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

A simple, clean, easy-to-use site or app is required. But making something simple is hard. Some common mistakes in designing the mobile experience are:

  • Visual overload
  • Making the user fill out long forms
  • Not accounting for size/width of the finger
  • Not accounting for device width
  • Heavy or too many image files
  • Opaque design – user can’t figure out what is happening
  • Not setting a home screen icon
  • Making pages non-zoomable

The mobile experience is a very personal experience and when consumers are struggling with it, they are quick to talk about it. Not only on Twitter and Facebook but also in the app store reviews.

This is an excellent source for understanding what isn’t working with your mobile experience. Consumers will leave incredibly detailed feedback, down to the error codes they are getting.

And the good news is that when you do get it right, consumers are still quick to talk about it, and can really raise the goodwill around your brand.

The last year has seen the phrase “mobile first” become the new mantra for digital channel design. For the travel industry, given mobile growth rates, we are not too far from “mobile only” becoming a reality.

Maintaining a simple, consistent, easy-to-use experience in your mobile websites and applications will go a long way toward establishing a successful presence in the mobile channel.

NB: This is a guest article by Bill Loller, vice president of mobile product management at Tealeaf, an IBM Company.

NB2: Tnooz-Tealeaf webinar VIDEO: The mobile traveler experience.

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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. Edward - LoungeUp

    Superb article, Bill. I also firmly believe that the mobile experience is becoming increasingly make-or-break for institutions in many different industries.

    Our company works in the hospitality industry and we develop a solution for hotels that aims to take advantage of mobile devices in order to drive their guest satisfaction and revenue. We feel strongly that progressive generational change renders technology more important as younger guests are more accustomed to using their smartphones, tablets and laptops in many aspects of their life.

    Seeing technology as a complement to existing, traditional services provided in the hospitality sector is quite fundamental to adapting to the upcoming millennial generation.

  2. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Good article and great points.

    There is a dark side to all of this. The different User Experiences are being driven by different environments. We have a true emergence of walled gardens on the web. The True Open Internet is fast fading back to being “just a network”. The human brain is not capable of handling too many competing elements so having to learn new environments as well as the general data overload is creating a forced march to these walled gardens. What ever happened to write once deploy everywhere?

    For example consider the difference between Mobile and Full screen web. In today’s technology rich environment we should be able to detect the user coming in and serve up the appropriate screen type to him. How many websites STILL do not do that?

    But worse consider the relentless push to these special walled gardens of Facebook, Apple and Google. Each of them is different. In a way today I feel nostalgic to the good old days of a Mac UX vs a MS UX. Now we have applets coming out of our ears and different experiences on browser apps, native applications, mobile apps, Facebook apps…. etc etc.

    And don’t get me started on the quality (or distinct lack thereof) of these apps and the lack of responsibility by these walled gardens to manage the quality of the apps within the walls.

    Before too long we will have too many apps (I think we are there already) and our world will go darker and darker before there is any light. Perhaps then we will open the gates, tear down the walls and return to that more honest time of web openness.

    Fat chance



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