Travel Website Benchmarking Report

.. e to page and window to window, as well as using hyperlinks, scroll bars, and shortcuts. Specifically, we used our previous definition of usability, including its five characteristics: ease of learning, efficiency of use, memorability, error frequency and severity, and subjective satisfaction. For the site map, the first thing we investigated was whether or not the website had one, and if so, was it clear and did it have hyperlinks to each part of the website. Our second group of attributes included Information Content/ Pricing Information/ Updates. We described information content as including destinations, dates, prices, details of packages, as well as complimentary information such as trip highlights, options and itineraries.

Also, pricing information had to be exact, and include alternatives to compare to. Updates meant that the website had to demonstrate that all information is current and that the website were constantly updated. Third, we chose Appearance/ Layout/ Structure/ Consistency/ Graphics. These visual characteristics are very subjective in opinion when evaluated, but uniformly had to demonstrate a visual pleasing, captivating, and well structured/ layed-out website. Once again, the presence of scroll bars, buttons, and neatly organized windows were expected for these criteria.

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Fourth, we chose Buying Online/ Simplicity of Purchase/ Security. This was perhaps most difficult to test because we never were going to make an actual purchase. However, we attempted to simulate an actual purchase as closely as we could, which oftentimes required becoming a member of the website. We also checked privacy statements that indicated how secure the website was. Our fifth group of attributes included Site Speed/ Download Time/ Reliability. These quality assurance-type issues were difficult to distinguish because speed issues are sometimes related to the specific website and sometimes related to the computer hardware you are using to test the website. We attempted to distinguish the two by inputting as many options into interface question boxes, and then getting a response, and then attempting to crash the website by performing tasks quickly as well as simultaneously.

Our sixth group of attributes was whether or not the websites had Site Support/ Help Desk. We defined site support as whether or not you could use the website to ask any questions a user may have about anything on the website. Also, the presence of a help desk would indicate that questions about the website could be answered, and if they could not, was there contact information that would point a user in the right direction. Finally, our last group of attributes included Products/ Selection/ Ability to Compare. Products and selection needed to be ample, including many alternatives to evaluate, including different airlines and lodging accommodations. C4.

Weighting Scheme Reasons for specific weights can be understood from our preceeding description of the attributes. Attribute Weight Ease of Use/ Usability/ Navigability/ Site Map .2 Information Content/ Pricing Information/ Updates .2 Appearance/ Layout/ Structure/ Consistency/ Graphics .15 Buying Online/ Simplicity of Purchase/ Security .15 Site Speed/ Download Time/ Reliability .1 Site Support/ Help Desk .1 Products/ Selection/ Ability to Compare .1 C5. Description of Benchmarked Sites Expedia.com is one of the market leading travel and hospitality sites on the web. The site allows reservation booking and online payments methods for members, yet you do not have to purchase anything to become a member. The site is well designed structurally with page tabs telling the customer which portion of the site they are in at all times. Graphics and other flashy multimedia are used sparingly, increasing the reliability and decreasing the download time for pages.

Packages are automatically ranked by price once the member selects the destination and times of travel, information content is average due to a small amount of info about particular hotels, airlines etc. When evaluating the site an actual purchase could not be made so there was no way to tell whether a detailed itinerary was provided or how the online buying process and site support should be ranked. Overall the site was well organized, attractive, provided an adequate amount of information, was easy to navigate and responded quickly to queries. Travelocity.com does a great job in creating a website that offers the customer its service. This website is very easy to use and navigable as the links are clearly defined, there are site shortcuts, and the customer can easily go back to previous sections.

Also, by clicking on the site guide link, a new customer can learn all of the details about the features of travelocity.com. As far as the information content of the site goes, the packages are fully detailed with certain options in bold and specific pricing. It can also be assumed that the site is frequently updated with the newest information. The appearance, layout, and structure of the website is organized, but there is a lot of information presented to the customer on the homepage that may make it appear a little cluttered. The speed of the site is fast going from link to link and selecting various options. It can also be considered reliable too because it does not get overloaded with options or crash when navigating. Travelocity.com allows navigation of the site and offers membership advantages.

The purchasing process is simple and straightforward. The website guarantees the safety of online purchases through their Shop Safe Guarantee. Site support and help desk is amply provided for the customers as there are FAQ links, and option to e-mail, and phone numbers to call with questions. This particular website offers a wide selection and takes into consideration the customers specifications. There is great ability for the user to compare the packages offered.

Lowestfare.com sells discounted tickets and published fares on all major airlines and provides reservations for hotels, car rentals, and discounted cruise and tour packages. These products are available through the company’s three distribution channels: the company’s Web site www.lowestfare.com; 1-800-Lowestfare, toll-free reservation and customer service center; and more than 10,000 travel agencies. Lowestfare.com is consistently ranked, by Media Metrix in the top five most visited sites in the travel and tourism category. The company, owned by financier Carl Icahn, recently acquired Jetset Tours, an international airline ticket consolidator and tour operator, and Maupintour, a luxury escorted tour provider. Within the site itself you always know where you are, and can go to almost any other page pretty easily, with options at the top and bottom of screen for the main sections.

The site does not have a site map. There is a lot of information on the packages they sell and there is also a useful Travel Guide section, which highlights places to visit in some of the top world cities. Not the fanciest site, but it is consistent. Does have an amateurish feel. Its minimalist look helps with the overall speed of the site.

You buy using a secure server, takes you through booking the flight, hotel or car rental step by step. Only members can purchase. The site is also personalized for members and has a 24/7 customer service number and an email address. They have two separate calling centers, so they have plenty of people for customer support. Just not as many options as other related web sites. Cheaptickets.com is a relatively simple travel site.

It is very easy to navigate through despite it not having a site map, but the appearance of the site is not very appealing. It is very simple with the use of primary colors and not much graphical detail at all. Even the logo, Cheap Tickets is not eye-catching. The information on the site is somewhat thorough. A lot of their flights and hotels and overall packages have for example, from $79 as opposed to exact prices, but there is a great ability to compare many different hotels and flights in a designated area which do state exact prices and fares.

Yet, it does stay consistent in this layout and it is very easy to go back and forth between the sections of the website without getting lost. As for the site speed and download time, Cheap Tickets is not very fast and it takes a while for all the information on each page to download. The biggest and best feature about the Cheap Tickets website is their site support. Help features are available at every single step of the site along with frequently asked questions that any consumer might ask. This is probably why each page takes so long to download in that this help option is so readily available.

The other main feature of the site is its focus on low prices. It could be the reason for the cheap look of the site and its simplicity and that itself may appeal to many consumers. C6. Design Insights In the first section we discussed the Benchmarking Reports purpose to help us better understand what makes an outstanding travel and hospitality website. We then went on to describe our methodologies, findings and advice in the Executive Summary. The last main section dealt with our comparisons of the four sites we chose to benchmark.

In this section, titled Design Insights, we will expand on what we discovered at these four sites, what that teaches us about a first class travel and hospitality website, and how we will choose to apply this in our own development of a travel and hospitality site with a particular focus in Atlanta. All four sites did there job in the broadest sense. All four offered the consumer some specialized product and/or service in the sites particular niche. Expedia and Travelocity encompassed the most products and services and are extremely well-developed, coherent websites. Cheaptickets and Lowestfare did as their name suggests provide a much more discounted product.

At the latter two sites service was cut as well as site development in an attempt to pass savings on to the consumer. These two categories of travel and hospitality sites are indeed extreme opposites, the customer focused sites with a broad range of products as well as services and the cut-rate, discount provider with a product focus and an eye on the bottom-line. Our attempt in developing a travel and hospitality site is to bring these two different aspects together and blend them into a low-cost full-service website. While some aspects of our site may be limited by our timeframe and hardware constraints we will build a site that is attractive as well as cost and time efficient. The site will include, similar to Expedia and Travelocity, a customer feedback interface in which previous customers can post their experiences and dealings with us for potential new customers to review.

We will provide as much information and pricing content as is feasible given our constraints. In addition we will use graphics that load quickly so even customers with slow internet access can view our site without delay. In order to build a repeat business with customers we will be providing a member login iterface that will record to our shared database the specifics about our customers and their travel habits and any rewards points, similar to frequent flyer miles, that they may have earned. This benchmark report has greatly helped our understanding of the different features and aspects of a quality travel and hospitality website. This knowledge gathered will now be applied to our own site development.

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