Travel websites need to embrace Web 2.0'

A usability study into the online travel industry has revealed that some operators are still lacking some most basic customer usability functions. The report conducted by online usability and accessibility firm Webcredible examined the websites of 20 of the UK's online travel agents and airline carriers.

A usability study into the online travel industry has revealed that some operators are still lacking some most basic customer usability functions. The report conducted by online usability and accessibility firm Webcredible examined the websites of 20 of the UK's online travel agents and airline carriers.

Each of the websites were evaluated against 20 best-practice guidelines and assigned a score of zero to five for each guideline. This system was developed by Webcredible specifically for travel websites.

Webcredible found that only three companies - Opodo, British Airways, and Travelbag - scored over 60 per cent when measured against a set of specific criteria. Many of the top Internet brands performed very poorly only scoring around 50 per cent.

The travel industry average usability rating was 51.5 per cent, which identifies scope for travel sites to improve on their online offering in order to meet the demands of a European marketplace estimated to be worth ̈́4;49.4bn. Travel agent sites, Opodo and Travelbag, were found to offer users the best online experience, scoring 67 and 62 out of a potential 100 respectively; while airline carrier sites Monarch and Ryanair scored lowest at 38 and 40.

Interestingly, there was a significant difference between the performance of the travel agents who scored 55 per cent, and the airline carriers who scored 48 per cent. Carriers frequently let themselves down by failing to address areas such as poor transparency of pricing.

"Users need to have clear and accurate pricing displayed through-out their journey through a site," said Ismail Ismail, director at Webcredible. "It's not acceptable to add 'hidden' charges at the very end of a transaction process ̵1; this is something which a number of airline carriers are guilty of."

Many of the sites also suffered with inaccessible user information, Ismail added: "For example, with the growing number of airlines flying to new and mysterious-sounding airports many of the sites aren't being upfront about where they are based and how users will get there. Fifteen out of 20 travel sites scored 0 out of 5 on this guideline."

A failure to embrace Web 2.0 technologies was also an issue for many of the sites. They were not able to provide their users with such rudimentary sharing tool features as options to 'email a friend'. www.webcredible.co.uk

Image: Users need to have clear and accurate pricing displayed through-out their journey through a site, according to Webcredible

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