Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Poor Usability Drives Down Bookings on Hospitality Websites

Over 40% of would-be bookers on hospitality websites failed to complete the booking process because of a usability problem with the booking engine or because of a technical or navigation issue, revealed the “Hospitality Industry Report Q2 2009” by iPerceptions.

The report analyses user-generated content from more than 123,000 visitors to websites of leading hospitality brands. Out of the 33% of the visitors who navigated to a hotel website with the intention to make a reservation (see chart below), 4 in 10 abandoned the transaction.

Whereas some visitors might have not proceeded with the booking because they simply wanted to compare the room rates or were only interested in further hotel information, the data suggests that the reasons for not making a reservation were more related to usability and technical obstacles.

The major barriers were problems with the booking flow and the site navigation (see chart below, click on chart to enlarge).

The report further gives evidence that 47% of the website visitors were onsite for the first time and thus not accustomed to the website navigation, information architecture and functionality.

The message is clear: hotel website designers and content managers should put more emphasis on usability issues. The term “usability” refers to both the ease-of-use as well as the usefulness of a website from the user’s (!) point of view, or in other words the visitor’s perception of the effectiveness (fit for purpose) and efficiency (effort and time required to use) of the website.

The American usability guru, Jacob Nielsen (Usability Engineering, 1994), has developed a usability framework which is composed of:

  • Learnability: how easy is it for first time visitors to accomplish tasks, e.g. making a booking?
  • Efficiency: once users have learned the navigation, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: when users return to the website after some time, how easily can they re-establish proficiency?
  • Errors: how many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: how pleasant and entertaining is it to use the website?
The findings of the iPerceptions report are corroborated by a survey carried out by Forrester Consulting, according to which a poorly performing website has an effect beyond any online transaction. Almost half (46%) of the survey respondents said they would develop a negative perception of a company following a dissatisfying online-shopping experience (source: www.newmediatrendwatch.com).

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