We just launched another travel agent website for a client who specializes in organizing trips to the Arctic and Antarctica. The project took much longer than we had planned on and there were particular challenges to creating a website of this type.
Travel agents offer trips or tours for their customers by handling all their booking requirements. Agents are paid a commission by the companies providing transportation and lodging. Usually customers pay the same amount whether they book directly through the airlines or ships as they do when working with an agent.
For this project the first challenge was creating a way to differentiate this client from the other companies running the same trips. The industry is clogged up with many providers because they all make the same commissions for doing the same work. To accomplish this goal we ran exercises to help us identify their value proposition and position their brand. This process can get time consuming and complicated so we run workshops with the client to brainstorm ideas. We start with the WHY and work through the HOW and then the WHAT. This follows Simon Sinek's book Start With Why and is a great way to find a great brand. People respond to WHY you do something. The HOW and the WHAT come later.
Once we had their value proposition and brand position identified, we needed to outline the features that would help them outshine the competition. Normally a new design will do this for us but we needed something more; we needed to have the experience be better than what others were offering.
In terms of web design, this is the UX or User Experience of navigating the website. Right off the bat it became obvious the challenge was to present a lot of complicated information in an easy way to understand. For an agent running trips to the Arctic and Antarctica there are different ships, different cabins, different prices, and it all got really complicated really fast. Our biggest challenge was presenting all this information in an easily navigable way.
Our other discovery was that we needed to make an easier, more seamless way to actually book a trip. The process required the agent to take the information given by the customer and book the trip for them. This experience can seem clunky if not done right and the lag can cause dissatisfaction. Usually when a buyer has made the decision to buy, the vendor needs to respond as quickly as possible. This is why companies like Amazon are so successful; they feed our desire for immediate gratification.
I'll be honest, this was a challenging project just from the design standpoint. The design actually evolved and morphed through many different formats until we found the one that was optimal. We design is a complex process underneath the surface. Making a website easy to navigate is our biggest challenge, every time.
Here's a summary of the design we used and how we distill it down for understanding:
Home Page: This is designed for the buyer journey which is awareness, consideration and decision. This flows from top to bottom so that any visitor will find the area of interest based on their position in the journey.
Location Pages: These are the topmost pages and needed an overview of the destination with links to specific tours.
Tours Pages: These needed to house a lot of information so we used an accordion format for the trip dates and prices for cabins.
Booking Page: This needed to be easy to use and flow with the correct information submitted. We had to have a preliminary form to select the individual dates and a second form for personal information.
The booking page is the most important page on the website because that's where our client gets their leads. Once a visitor has made the decision to buy we need to make it as simple as possible to complete the process.
Overall we are thrilled with the outcome. Our work will not stop there though, as internet marketing has made it necessary to continue to improve and add content to compete in today's market. In the old days when we launched a website our work was complete. These days after we launch a website our work is just beginning.