It was 1995 when Alaska Airlines first introduced online ticket sales. Throughout the past decade all the major players have come to offer similar functionality, including Continental. The airlines have developed this utility to the point where “best practices” have been established and user drop-off should be limited to seat availability or price.
However, It seems that nearly every time I see a new version of a booking engine it has more options up-front? Is research showing us that users have become savvy enough to weed through options that don’t pertain to their trip? Are all these options necessary up front? Or, perhaps it is just a simply a case of feature creep. In any case, these systems seem to put the burden on the users by presenting them with irrelevant options. what I’m referring to isn’t a usability issue, it’s an experience design issue.
What if the system had a logical default – something simplified like the example to the right. Then, when a user interacts with “more options” those options could be added to the default view on the next visit i.e. anticipate my needs. For example, when I buy tickets from work I buy single return tickets, so my view may stay relatively the same. My wife on the other hand, is constantly looking for family vacations and needs to account for 2 adults and 2 children – her view would have “number of adults” and “children” defaulted.
JetBlue, who neglected to put a booking engine on their homepage seems to have redesigned – thankfully this new design includes one worth checking out.