If you’ve ever installed a new app on your smartphone, only to open it and stare blankly at the screen, wondering what on earth you’re supposed to do next, you’ve likely experienced poor user interface design.
User experience (or ‘UX’, as we’ll refer to it from now) is a facet of everyday life that passes by almost unnoticed. Thanks to the rise of smartphones and apps we rely on to help us with everything from the weekly shop to hailing a taxi, UX is something from which we unwitting benefit on a daily basis.
The UX offered by a piece of software can make or break a product’s success. We’re an impatient bunch, and if something doesn’t feel intrinsically familiar and usable instantly, we’re likely to move onto the alternatives without so much as a backwards glance.
In fact, UX is such a key part of our lives that it’s no longer the sole domain of software design. To fully appreciate its influence beyond bits and bytes, look no further than the influence of user experience in business travel:
1) More choice
There are so many options when it comes to business travel. Multiple routes, endless hotel configurations and decisions to be made over destination location have made UX more important than ever.
Travellers and travel arrangers need to be guided succinctly to the best, most cost-effective option without being overwhelmed by the sheer choice available. The ability to filter and narrow down the multitude of options to suits one’s taste and budget is therefore vital, and that can only be achieved with great UX design.
2) The booking experience
Remember when booking a hotel online used to be a frustrating, time-sapping endeavour? Not any more. And that’s impressive, because online booking systems have never had to contend with so much choice or consumer preference.
The fact that booking procedures like those found with Booking.com for Business can be boiled down to just a few fields, filters and a single search button is nothing short of remarkable, but great UX is again at the heart of this revolution.
On the Booking.com website, we’re testing more than 1000 new ideas every day to try and help travellers. It never stands still. This is because the team behind it are motivated to constantly improve the customer experience.
Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com, recently said: “We test everything we do. If it’s not good for customers, it’s not on Booking.com”.
Booking travel should be fast, familiar and addictive. It’s why there’s also a growing trend to ‘gamify’ such experiences by introducing graphical elements, animations and point scoring typically found in video games.
According to studies, the number of smartphones in use on the planet by 2020 will hit a staggering 6.1 billion. That means roughly seventy percent of the world’s population will be actively using pocket computers capable of achieving practically any digital task.
The smartphone revolution has had a profound effect on UX design. Complex menus, tiny buttons and cavernous working areas have been swapped for compact apps that demand exploration via simple design and addictive UX elements.
Because of this, most people are more inclined to reach for their smartphone than their bulky laptop when they need to complete a task. If that task happens to be arranging business travel, the constituent elements of the trip had better be ready to serve the user just as efficiently.
Every task, from hotel booking to flight reservation and car hire, needs to be designed with a mobile-first mindset. Smartphones are fast offering the default user experience which is why every element of business travel needs to cater for small touch screens.
4) Retiring old travel policies
The millennial generation are particularly attuned to great UX. And with this being the largest generation on the planet, there are inevitably a huge number of millennials conducting business travel, thus placing significant pressure on the UX they encounter.
As a result, old travel policies are gradually being retired and replaced by far more visual affairs. The rise of the Emoji and social networks such as Instagram have highlighted the benefits of visual communication, forcing travel policies to abandon long-winded written rules and instead focus on a UX-driven approach.
Humans respond well to imagery which is why UX depends so heavily on symbols and graphics. Travel policies that feature such content are therefore far more likely to be engaged with in the modern age.
Wrapping up – the future
User experience is moving as fast as the technology that underpins it. Now an intrinsic part of the business travel experience, UX will continue to evolve and take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and digital assistants.
That means we can look forward to travel that is increasingly personalised and booking processes that require nothing more than spoken instructions by the traveller.
One thing’s for sure – we have an incredibly exciting time ahead.