Travel website Roadtest – Content and Rich Media

There is more to a travel website than a search and booking engine, so how do eight top sites measure up in terms of content and rich media?


Firstchoice.co.uk


Content
There is plenty of information about First Choice’s properties for users to read, but unfortunately it is typical brochure copy. It ticks all the boxes, but there was nothing to really inspire me. Information on the actual resorts on offer is quite limited. There’s sufficient copy on countries for holidaymakers to get stuck into, but I got the sense I had read it all before. Flight times and climate information are both useful and a nice added extra. PH
Rating: 3


Presentation
‘Memorable Moments’ and ‘Things To Do’ are good ways of presenting the content. However, the chunky paragraphs are not suited to the Internet and it makes finding items of interest quite difficult. PH
Rating: 3


Finding Information
I found it difficult to get to the information I required. The links are not obvious and there is no clear location structure. Looking for a specific resort is difficult and it requires a level of geographic knowledge that not all users will possess. PH
Rating: 2


Rich Media Choice
Still images are used at both resort and accommodation level and these are accompanied with customary static maps being used throughout the website – although these can be hard to find. However, holidaymakers looking for truly rich media such as interactive maps, 360-degree virtual tours or video, will be disappointed as the operator doesn’t appear to offer any. Other destination information is featured, such as graphical climate charts for selected destinations and handy (albeit non-interactive) piste maps for winter ski resorts. PB
Rating: 2


Media Usability
First Choice has kept its site simple to use from a technical point of view. Dial-up users will not be frustrated and the only content requiring a plug-in are the piste maps – using the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat Reader, so no problems there. PB
Rating: 4


TOTAL: 14/25



Kuoni.co.uk


Content
Property description is limited and uninspiring but all the basic factual information is available. The distance to various points at a resort is a good feature and particularly helpful for city breaks. The information on individual countries is solid. At resort level there is a large quantity of varied and usual content, including a history and things to see. The practical information for each resort is also a good value-added feature, which should help keep users on the site. PH
Rating: 4


Presentation
Some paragraphs are long, which is not ideal for the Internet, but highlighting keywords helps quickly identify the useful information. By breaking resort information into sections Kuoni has done a good job of presenting the information for the web. PH
Rating: 3


Finding information
It is very quick and easy to get to resort or country information and it is not hidden behind a search function. PH
Rating: 4


Rich Media Choice
Aneasy-to-find interactive world map is a nice way to start your holiday search. Clicking on different regions brings up more detailed interactive continent maps, though this is where the rich media experience ends. From here on, the user is presented with the usual still images and static maps of their chosen destinations. The ‘What To See’ sections for each destination sound promising, but they contain a text-only guide (often lengthy) with no visual content at all – still or otherwise. Electronic versions of Kuoni’s brochures are available for download but no doubt many users will still prefer to order the pre-printed versions. PB
Rating: 2


Media Usability
An easy-to-use site with only Adobe Acrobat Reader being required for users wishing to download the electronic brochures. Understandably, Kuoni wants you to enter your name and address before e-mailing out brochure selections. This is a quick process but users who want to anonymously research their holidays may be turned off by this requirement. PB
Rating: 4


Total: 17/25



Lastminute.com


Content
The property information is inconsistent – with a range of quality, quantity and styles. The local attractions, restaurants and nightlife sections are useful to get a sense of what is around, but they lack actual distances. The resort and destination content is strong with ‘While You’re There’ and an ‘Events’ section, however, they are difficult to find. PH
Rating: 3


Presentation
I found the presentation a little cluttered and confusing. But the bullet points and short paragraphs help make the content more Internet friendly. PH
Rating: 2


Finding Information
It was almost impossible to find any information – looking for a resort description of Rome took me an absolute age and I was ready to throw the keyboard out the window! PH
Rating: 1


Rich Media Choice
This is a great-looking website and the people at Lastminute.com are obviously thinking outside the box when it comes to the variety of content they offer on their site. Users can see the latest TV advert in full, play the Lastminute.com ‘Living Quiz’ and even send ‘i-postcards’ – real postcards made using pictures sent in from users’ mobiles – they will even physically post them to the address supplied by the user. ‘Holiday TV’ is a neat little feature showing region-specific video clips – although it took me a while to find them in the ‘Inspire Me’ section. Beyond this, the usual text-based travel guides are available with static maps and still images a-plenty. PB
Rating: 4


Media Usability
The website uses Macromedia Flash to enable all those nice-looking bits – and with well over 90% global penetration of the player, most users will not have a problem using the site. The Holiday TV feature uses Narrowstep technology and as such requires a plug-in. However, this downloads and installs quickly and easily. Viewing the latest TV ad is simplicity itself as it plays almost instantly right on the web page – no pop-ups or plug-ins required. PB
Rating: 4


Total: 14/25



Opodo.co.uk


Content
Once again, the property information on this site is inconsistent. When included, the distance to a city centre is a good piece of information, but it should make it clear what is the centre of the city. Data on different countries is limited, with only basic resort/city information displayed. It gives a feel for the city but does nothing to engage the user. PH
Rating: 3


Presentation
The presentation of the data is neat and ordered. Although the paragraphs are fairly lengthy, bold words highlight key information and attractions, creating a more web-friendly appearance. PH
Rating: 4


Finding Information
It is fairly straightforward, although the inconsistencies in the information could cause some annoyance if the user tries to find a section specifically for a city or resort which doesn’t exist. PH
Rating: 3


Rich Media Choice
It is nice to see Opodo has added links to both maps and travel guides at the top of all pages in the site. The destination content it features is therefore quick and easy to find, with no need to search for a specific flight or holiday first. The ‘Travel Guides’ section features a nice-looking Macromedia Flash interactive world map, which further drills down to region maps. From here on though it is a familiar tale of specific destination content featuring only text-based information. The ‘Maps’ section gives users point-and-click access to maps of the whole world powered by Multimap, so these will be of varying use depending on where you are looking. City destinations have their own maps with hotels marked, although these are perhaps a little small. PB
Rating: 3


Media Usability
The media on offer to holidaymakers is quick and easy to use with Macromedia’s Flash Player being the only plug-in required. Even dial-up connections should be able to move quickly between regions and end destinations in the ‘Travel Guides’ section. PB
Rating: 4


Total: 17/25


 


EasyJet.com


Content
Unfortunately, content is clearly not EasyJet’s forte, however it does cover most of the basics. Both the property and the resort information is standard and covers most requirements, but
little more. The magazine section provides a greater level of information, but is disjointed from the main site. Obviously, there is good airport information. PH
Rating: 3


Presentation
The resort information consists of long paragraphs and even with keywords being displayed in bold it is a task to plough through all the text. The property information is helpfully divided into sections, but could be improved through the use of bold headings. PH
Rating: 3


Finding Information
It is very easy to get to information on resorts or properties, although to get from one to the other is a long process. While the hotel and flight section are two separate sites, in the users’ experience they appear as one and the inability to look at resort information when looking at a hotel could prove to be frustrating. PH
Rating: 3


Rich Media Choice
The only way to get destination information in the hotels section is to search in a specific location first. Users can then see a selection of still images for each hotel together with a map powered by ViaMichelin, although I found no city-specific content at all. Moving on to the main event, the ‘Where We Fly’ sub-section of ‘Low-cost Flights’ presents a very useful interactive route map showing all routes to and from every city in EasyJet’s schedule. Clicking on any city brings up brief text-based destination content only – albeit with a link to more detailed text content from EasyJet’s online In Flight magazine. PB
Rating: 3


Media Usability
EasyJet has steered clear of using Flash, no doubt in an attempt to make the site as accessible to as many people as possible. The result is that the site should present no problems to the average user and the limited destination content is easily accessible. PB
Rating: 4


Total: 16/25


Hilton.co.uk


Content
The hotel chain has clearly made an investment in the content on its site – and it shows. The quality, quantity and variety of its resort and city information is outstanding. These guides have been created to give a feel for the city and the events section makes each of the cities come alive – they should easily inspire the user. The content is fresh and the various sections, including Dining, Entertainment, Shopping and Did You Know, add extra snippets of information and will engage most holidaymakers. PH
Rating: 5


Presentation
This is a clean and easy-to-read website, which is well presented to the user and laid out with a good mix of pictures and text. It is evident the content has been created for web use. PH
Rating: 5


Finding Information
From the home page it is simple to navigate to any destination. Once at the destination the different sections make it easy to locate information. PH
Rating: 5


Rich Media Choice
The easy-to-find ‘Destination Guides’ section links to a superb 3-D bespoke interactive map of London. This begs to be explored and is both fun and informative, highlighting London’s key attractions. The map is extremely well thought out, with London being divided clearly into neighbourhoods and attractions broken down into sub-categories such as ‘Sightseeing’ and ‘Shopping’. The usual text information is also available to users with a higher-than-average smattering of still images to spice up the offering. Other cities being given the London treatment should surely follow soon, along with rich media of the hotels themselves such as 360-degree virtual tours or video clips. PB
Rating: 4


Media Usability
Most surfers should find this website easy to navigate, it’s not complex or confusing and requires nothing more than the expected Flash Player for the London interactive map. PB
Rating: 4


Total: 23/25



Ba.com


Content
British Airways has done a good job on its resort and city content, featuring very detailed information such as key attractions, business issues, cost of living, day tours and shopping.  The events section also gives a good taste of what is on in the city during your visit. PH
Rating: 4


Presentation
Unfortunately, the site’s presentation lets British Airways down in so much as the content appears to have been taken from a book and not designed specifically for the Internet, which is a shame. This makes the paragraphs difficult for users to digest. The style is also inconsistent with some sections having bolded key words and headings and others not – this might put some users off. PH
Rating: 3


Finding Information
It is very simple to locate the information required, although some sections could be a little clearer as to what data they contain – ‘Planning My Trip’ is an example. PH
Rating: 4


Rich Media Choice
The airline offers a nicely rendered interactive route map, which works well in showing its entire global flight network. However, I think it misses a trick here in not linking city click-spots into the ‘Destination Guides’ section. The Destination Guides section is found easily under the ‘Planning My Trip’ button, and offers a wealth of text-based content covering the flag carrier’s huge portfolio of global destinations. However, there is actually very little in the way of rich visual content, although the airport guides sub-section (which seemingly covers every single airport the airline flies to) does feature terminal maps – which are of a consistent style and quality – as well as live weather information. PB
Rating: 2


Media Usability
The interactive global route map requires surfers to have Macromedia Flash, although the airline has thoughtfully offered a slightly fiddly text version for those without the plug-in. PB
Rating: 4


Total: 17/25



TravelCare.co.uk


Content
Accommodation information is unfortunately pretty standard on Travelcare’s site and currently only offers the basic facilities list and descriptions. Information on individual resorts is virtually non-existent, which won’t encourage bookings. Some of the cities have descriptions and the ski resorts have a relevant ski-related description. PH
Rating: 2


Presentation
The presentation is clumsy and awkward and where there are descriptions for hotels these are often long textual paragraphs that don’t have any space, headings or bold key words. PH
Rating: 2


Finding Information
I found it very difficult to actually get at any detailed information. The ski guides are the easiest to locate but beyond that it is a frustrating experience for a user looking for
information. PH
Rating: 2


Rich Media Choice
The operator is currently using interactive maps for its UK and European short-breaks pages. Unfortunately, the maps are fairly basic and their style and functionality do tend to vary depending on the destination you are looking at. Most of the maps link to further ViaMichelin maps depicting large numbers of clickable hotel locations – these culminate in detailed information about individual hotels, which includes still images. For the European cities, Travelcare does offer reasonably brief text-based destination information, albeit with little or no accompanying visual content – which is a shame as it would enable users to visualise the offerings PB
Rating: 2


Media Usability
The destination content on offer is all easily usable and potential holidaymakers should have no difficulty viewing the content on offer. However, the organisation of the site might mean some surfers miss what they are looking for, for example European city breaks are found in the Superbreaks sub-section of UK Breaks. This could be easily rectified and would aid usability PB
Rating: 4


Total: 12/25



The reviewers:


Paul Hobden (PH) is head of content for DG&G Travel Information and was responsible for the migration of all DG&G’s products to Gazetteers.com. Paul has a background in web publishing and prior to his role with DG&G has experience in the development of numerous B2B and B2C websites with a special interest in usability, functional design and search.


Paul Baderman (PB) is the co-founder of 360TravelGuide.com, suppliers of rich and interactive visual content to the travel industry. The company is based in London, and since 2000, Paul and his team have created a unique library of 360-degree virtual tour images from the top tourist destinations around the world. The company’s latest product, the 360TravelPack, combines virtual tours with interactive maps and original descriptions.



Criteria:


Content
What kind of information is on offer? Is it useful or interesting, gimmicky or pointless? Does the user gain more by accessing it?


Presentation
How easy is the content to read or view? Has it been created with online in mind, or lifted from existing brochures?


Ease of Use
Is content easy to find from the homepage or from search results? What links are there between various pages?


Rich Media Choice
Availability and variety of innovative and engaging rich media destination content on offer, including interactive maps, 360-degree virtual tours, video etc.


Media Usability
How easy to use is the media on offer? Is it intuitive, dial-up friendly, resource-hungry, plug-in needy or crash-inducing?



Ratings:


1 Bad
2 Mediocre
3 Fair
4 Good
5 Excellent


 


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