I have “free spirit” roots that began in the middle 1970’s when I would just take off. It didn’t matter where I ended up, as long as I was having an adventure. My fellow flower children left-over friends and I never had enough money and we didn’t fuss over the details.
Nothing was planned. Most things I did were spontaneous. Today, my kids love my stories because I’m so different (and boring). They can’t imagine me with a crew cut during the punk rock days, or dancing at clubs wearing telephone cords, or hosting Grateful Dead concert parties because I lived near a popular place where they had played. My son, not long ago, asked me what “tie dyed shirts” were.
So why is it that when it comes to web site usability, I suddenly see the kinds of things only a fussy person would think of. Surely no programmer for travel site design would ever consider the following user needs and requirements because, frankly, there may be only two of us on the planet who are this nuts.
My dream travel site would have:
1. Lots of pet information, such as can you bring your pet, board it close by, bring a bunch of them and are there a vet or groomer nearby?
2. Say I’ve had my nails done for a luxury trip to a sunny resort, and break a nail on the flight out. Is there a nail salon on or near the resort that can save me from this tragic experience? (No, I would NEVER do this. But my daughter definitely would.)
3. If your bookings application has a check box for “hot tub”, please tell me how many people it holds. I don’t want to fly 3000 miles to a pretty condo, only to find the hot tub fits one person at a time. Related: Where is it? Is it private? Is it maintained? Will I be able to see the stars in the sky or is there, like, a hundred lights or tall buildings in the way?
4. When your site covers nearby events, be sure to add directions to them. I easily get lost.
5. I LOVE to imagine myself in your hotel, townhouse, condo or rental house on the beach, mountains or smack dab in the middle of a noisy city. Please show rotating pictures with speed control. Put some people in pictures to help me get an idea of how big the bed is, how many steps from the bed to the TV and how far I have to reach to pick up a phone for room service. You don’t expect me to move a muscle, do you?
6. For beach rentals, there are always those crazy details such as beach tags, beach umbrellas to rent and beach parking. Make sure your web page has all this extra information because I’m a worry wart and will have nightmares wondering if I can park my rental car at the beach.
7. About the rental car. Make sure your booking application has a number I can call before I select to reserve a car. I have questions about how many people it seats, how much extra I owe if my dog pukes in it, if your driver will come and get me and what time it has to be dropped off. I need everything perfect when I arrive. You advertised a stress free vacation, right?
8. What do I need to bring? Some web sites are very good at understanding that some people like to plan ahead and be prepared. Other sites are not. The ones that tell you what linens to bring, if you need to bring mustard and salad dressing for the fridge and towels for showers, is the site that gets more business. What are check in and check out times? How much cleaning is expected by us? Is there a washer and dryer? This is a MUST for traveling with children. Is there a place for Buster to go potty outside? For white noise addicts, is there a fan or something handy? Are there enough outlets for laptops, Portable Playstation, cell phone chargers, blow dryer, flattening iron, curing iron and the extra TV we brought so the boys don’t fight over what to watch?
9. Accessibility is another area programmers aren’t considering, and I’m not just talking about on page accessibility. Are there check boxes for those who need ramp access, lower cupboards and rails in the shower for wheelchair bound guests? Are there stairs? I once rented a cabin that had a 1/4 mile of steps to the front door, all up hill, from the driveway, which was also uphill. This, and the “Warning Bears” signs were so much fun!
10. When I hit “Submit”, will you send me an itemized list of all the teeny tiny details I want for my trip and promise to make my dream trip come true or have I spent an hour filling out a 7 page application, only to get to the end of it and the instructions say “Call us to book your trip”?
I’m not sure where or when I got so fussy. Some of it comes from being a responsible mom. Most of it comes from bad experiences and lessons learned over time. If the web site travel, vacation rental and hotel industries intend on selling their services online that people are used to doing through friends, newspapers and travel agencies, they may need to take the time to get into their visitors heads on a much deeper level.
It was so much easier to bum a ride from friends and crash on someone’s couch.