Expedia announces Usability Lab to watch people search and book travel

Expedia has unveiled its new London-based Usability Lab, which will enable its researchers to watch people shop for and book travel.

The online travel agent says it will help staff better understand the needs, frustrations and areas of engagement on Expedia’s websites and apps.

Findings will influence the design of the platforms and product decisions.

Gary Morrison, senior vice president, retail, said: “At Expedia, the customer is at the heart of our innovation, and we do everything we can to make the travel process from inspiration to booking easy. In order to deliver, we need to understand the needs of the customer, and our usability labs provide us real customer insights to improve our websites and test new ideas.”

An Expedia.co.uk survey found that 76% of Brits find booking a holiday as stressful as a bad day at the office, being stuck in traffic or arguing with a loved one.

More than a quarter (28%) of respondents said the internet has made travel booking more confusing due to the increased choice.

Expedia says its aim is to bring choice, comparison and convenience to travellers.

The lab will use eye-tracking and electromyography (EMG) technology – which involves placing small sensors on the cheek and eyebrow of test subjects to record tiny changes in the user’s facial muscles. Researchers track the changes in the EMG readings to understand the real-time impact that the experience is having on the subject as he or she navigates the booking process.

When paired with eye-tracking, researchers say they are able to get a sharp read on exactly where the user was looking and what actions they took as a result.

New products will also be tested, such as ‘Scratchpad’, designed to replace the manual notes holidaymakers make when researching their trip.

When customers login and search – on any device – their searches are saved and prices automatically updated.

Expedia plans to open a Singapore-based lab later in the year.

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