The following project was undertaken as part of the Professional Diploma in UX Design issued by the UX Design Institute in Dublin and accredited by Glasgow Caledonian University.
The client was Ambassador Hotels – a fictitious company that owns a series of hotels across Europe.
Despite being of paramount importance to both hotels and their guests, the process of booking a hotel room online is often confusing, frustrating and poorly designed.
For these reasons, the main focus of the project was to examine existing booking processes before designing a new process that is significantly simpler and smoother than those currently in use.
The task was to design a new desktop website for the client focussing on the entire booking process from the home page through to booking confirmation.
The end goal was to produce a high fidelity interactive prototype illustrating the newly designed booking process with accompanying annotations for developers.
UX Design Process
I began the project by analysing a series of existing websites in order to discover any industry best practices and conventions that should be followed as well as any pain points or difficulties users may have when trying to book a hotel room online.
Analysis was carried out on three websites which all allow users to book online – 2 hotel chains (Citizen M and Radisson Hotel Group) and one hotel aggregator website (booking.com).
- Hero section should be entirely focussed on booking widget.
- Map view should be available and show hotels in the area as well as relevant points of interest
- Hotel card should include images, a succinct description, third party reviews, highlight key features and have a clear call-to-action.
- Room card should show plenty of images including wide angle shots of each room.
- Users shouldn’t have to scroll a long time to see each available room, add on et cetera.
To gain a deeper understanding of the hotel booking experience, I observed 2 users completing a usability test on existing hotel websites and conducted a third usability test myself.
All 3 users each went through the booking process on 2 different sites. A total of 4 websites were tested overall; namely the sites for Barcelo Hotel Group, The Doyle Collection, NH Hotels and IHG Hotels.
- Booking widget should list destinations before hotels and allow users to change months/years quickly
- Hotel/room amenities should be grouped with icons for each category
- Rates calendar should be available to show prices for each given night for a certain room
- Wording around Add Ons should be unambiguous
- Reservation details should remain prominent during booking process and user should have the ability to go back a step
By creating an Affinity Diagram, I was able to gather all of the insights and observations made throughout the research phase of the project in one place. From there, insights were grouped in order to see common frustrations as well as best practices and possible opportunities for improvement.
Customer Journey Map
The data from the Affinity Diagram was then used to create a single, common journey that a customer would take through a typical existing site.
This journey details all of the steps a user would take from planning their trip all the way through to payment. At each stage I noted their goals, behaviours, any pain points they experience, industry best practices and also potential opportunities for improvement.
The aim of a Flow Diagram is to take what I had learned from the Customer Journey Map and use it plot out an ideal route a user might take through a new hotel booking website.
This route will have resolved any pain points users experienced on other sites as well as implementing some of the opportunities I have identified previously while also adhering to industry best practices.
Low Fidelity Wireframe Sketches
Having defined a user path through our website, I could now begin to design the interaction and interface that will facilitate this journey. I did this by sketching the pages the user will visit at each stage, paying special attention to the interactive components that will move them through the booking process.
Mid Fidelity Interactive Wireframe
With the low fidelity sketches complete, I then moved on to creating a medium fidelity interactive wireframe. This basic representation of the initial design contained all the pages and screen states required for a user to complete a booking using the previously identified user flow.
Usability Test On Mid Fidelity Interactive Wireframe
A usability test was then carried out on version 1 of the wireframe to identify any issues before moving on to the handover stage of the project.
- Key Amenities heading in hotel/room card should be changed to Top 3 Amenities
- Greyed out Members Rates should show a tooltip on hover/click urging users to login or sign up
- Add Ons which don’t require a quantity to be specified should be selected with a radio button and not an on/off slider
Improved Mid Fidelity Interactive Wireframe
The feedback from this test was subsequently used to further improve and refine the design before being finalised.
With the prototype having been tested and refined, it was time to consider what information developers would need to begin the build phase of the process. This included notes on links, buttons and input fields as well as details of any error messages the user may encounter.
High Fidelity Interactive Wireframe
With the design finalised, I created an interactive high fidelity prototype. This final work shows the website as fully intended with images, brand colours & fonts, icons and all other aspects of the user interface included. From this, the site’s developers could create all the necessary styles to give the website the look and feel that I’m after.
Given how common online hotel booking is, I was quite surprised by how difficult and frustrating the process can be for users. For me, it really underlined the importance of the UX design process especially around research and user testing. Hopefully the design I’ve created here shows that there are better ways for hotels to accept booking online while also highlighting the value of UX design as a discipline.