Hi! I recently had a bummer experience on your site that cost me $300. I think it wouldn’t be a hard thing to fix, but first here’s my story.
Several weeks ago, I booked a $200 flight from San Jose, CA to Seattle. I found available flight times, put in my personal and payment info, and clicked this big yellow confirmation button:
It seemed to go through – Mission accomplished!
The night before my flight, I went to Expedia to check my flight details.
O NOES – my flight wasn’t booked!
Now I’ll admit, it’s possible I messed something up. I have two kids and a full time job, and tend to do too much at once. I didn’t check my email for confirmation after I booked (probably because I get about 1,000 emails a day and think email is a broken communications channel, but that’s another post). I just trusted things were good and moved on, since the Complete Booking button went through.
So now I had two options: not take my trip (important for business reasons) or book it for $500. I cringed and took the second option, repeating these steps:
- Find available flight times
- Put in my personal and payment information
- Click big yellow confirmation button.
Everything seemed good – button went through again and the screen returned to the top of the page. But wait—even though the Complete Booking button clicked through successfully, there was some small font at the top of the next screen:
Oh crap—I’d missed some critical information I guess! Maybe I didn’t put my credit card info in correctly. (If so the error should have been more obvious, but OK—my bad.) I read down the page a bit…
“Please select a travel protection option.”
Now, I don’t really even know what travel insurance is. Selling me this is something important to Expedia, but I don’t care about it at all. It’s not really surprising I overlooked this because:
- It’s irrelevant to me, and I didn’t expect it as a required step in booking a trip.
- The UI did not clearly warn me that my failure to “select a travel protection option” meant I wouldn’t be taking my trip.
Well, OK then. Sadder but wiser, I selected a travel protection option –no– and I’ll be paying $500 to fly to Seattle tomorrow.
Some may argue that I should have payed closer attention during the original transaction. Hey- I wish I had! But I think the whole thing could have been prevented with just a few UI improvements that would make fast and confident booking easier for busy people. Here’s some guidelines from 37 Signals’ excellent book, Defensive Design for the Web, that I hope Expedia will consider:
- Eliminate obstacles to conversion. Think about the typical flyer’s core booking goals- flight times, price, payment, confirmation. It’s not buying insurance. That’s an option, and should be optional.
- Create bulletproof forms. Don’t let me get to and successfully click the confirmation button if I skip a required field – stop me at the required field.
- Display obvious error messages. The Complete Booking button should behave differently if I can’t book the trip – I shouldn’t be able to click it, say. It should turn red. There should be an error right on the button. As it stands, if you make a fatal error in the form, you can still appear to complete your booking.