Case Study: Evaluating Travel Website’s Ability to Align with Mission Statement
Travel + Leisure: A trusted resource for affluent travelers
Improve the visibility and usability of Travel + Leisure's travel guides through information architecture and stronger visual cues.
ROLE: UX Researcher + Designer
Travel + Leisure is one of the top travel publications with a presence in print, online and on social media. The publication serves as a voice on all things travel. Travel + Leisure’s mission statement is “At Travel + Leisure we inspire and empower the world's most curious and passionate travelers to travel more—and travel better. We help to elevate their experience through content and tools that serve them across their entire journey, from dreaming to planning to booking to traveling.” The publication’s online site, TravelandLeisure.com is a widely-used site, with an audience of more than 7 million unique monthly visitors.
The brand’s print publication and social media channels are both beautiful products that reflect the brand ethos. However, the online site does not implement these same principles. User testing shows that the site’s online travel guides are one of the most helpful tools for users to plan travel, which is a large part of the brand’s mission statement. User testing also shows that 80% of users were unable to locate these guides on their own and did not understand how to effectively utilize them. Overall, tested users did not find the site useful for planning travel and 80% of users said they would not opt to use this site again as a travel resource.
When users were asked to use the site to plan their dream trip, only three out of five users found a destination that interested them. The remaining two users felt overwhelmed and ultimately did not select a city. Two of the three users who found a destination were unable to find more information about things to do or places to eat in that destination. Only the one user who could find the Travel Guides was able to successfully plan a trip.
“I would like a destinations button.”
“Nothing about using the site entices me to reuse this site ever.”
”Oh, this is confusing.”
“It’s a little hard to find what I’m actually looking for.”
Travel Guides are not listed anywhere on the Navigation Bar
Main story takes up almost the entire screen and users do not see the full title when they first arrive to the site
Side bar is not labeled and does not give any context as to why these stories are here
A user must click at least 2-3 times in order to access the Travel Guides and know where to find them within the menus
Reduce the size of the featured story, create a dedicated section on the homepage for Travel Guides that is visible when a user first sees the homepage, add a tab in the Navigation Bar for Travel Guides and add relevant labels for the untitled sections.
WHY IS THIS A SOLUTION?
Reorganizing the homepage will make key components of the site visible and more accessible to users. This will make the Travel Guides more apparent so users know they exist right away. This will help users easily locate the information they are seeking when planning a trip, thus enhancing the experience.
Travel Guides have a designated tab in the Navigation Bar
Feature story is much smaller, allowing the user to see the new Travel Guides section right away
Users can search destinations within the Travel Guide section, or select a featured city
All sections are properly labeled and have a color blocked background to help the user differentiate between them
PROBLEM 2: NAVIGATING THE TRAVEL GUIDE
Users found the travel guides to be the most helpful resources for trip planning once they were able to locate them and understand how to use them. A majority of users did not notice the Navigation Bar for the travel guides, which is the key to finding relevant information for these guides as they currently stand.
Users were asked to use the Iceland Travel Guide to plan a trip to Iceland, inclusive of restaurants, things to do and hotel accommodations. Four out of five users scrolled past the Navigation Bar and were only using the content further down on the page to try and plan. These users expressed frustration at the lack of organization and quality of content within the “Travel Ideas” section. Several users were also clicking on the green icons thinking it would lead them to more information.
“I think once you get to understand how it works, it would be easier to use”
“How is '39 Tourists rescue someone' travel? “
“A list of things would be helpful.”
“There’s too much print, it’s just not very inviting.”
“I don’t see a search key or something.”
80% of users scrolled right past the Navigation Bar, as they did not notice it
Users were clicking on these icons, thinking they would lead them to more information, but they are not buttons
Stories have no organization and are not properly categorized as travel ideas
Reorganize the Travel Guides to be more intuitive to users and make the Travel Guide Navigation Bar more apparent with design principles, such as color and size. All users were looking to find information about hotels, restaurants and activities to help plan their trip, but four out of five were not able to easily find this information.
WHY IS THIS A SOLUTION?
Having this pertinent information within the guide is not helpful to a user unless the user can easily locate it. Making the Navigation Bar more visible and including key information with buttons to expand content in the “Visit XX” section will communicate to users this content exists.
Navigation Bar is more prominent with larger font and boxed to distinguish it. The headings also change colors if a user mouses over to indicate they are clickable buttons.
The Visit Iceland Snapshot now also includes highlights for Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and Things To Do, which were important categories for users. All of these sections have less text upfront that can be expanded by clicking the icon or text.
The Quick Facts are differentiated, as they do not expand for more information.
The Iceland Travel Ideas section now has the function to search all travel ideas or find more stories within specific categories, in addition to highlighting four featured stories.
PROBLEM 3: ALL ROADS LEAD TO A GUIDE
The overarching goal of this site is to provide travel inspiration and entice users to travel more and explore new places. Users felt the site hinted at interesting places through select featured stories, but did not provide them an easy way to find more information about these places. Users would see a destination named in a listicle and try to click on the city name or image that interested them to find more information, but these were either not linked to anything or were linked to an external source. Users were asked to browse through the site to discover new places and select a city for a hypothetical dream vacation.
“I click on something that is about Australia, but there’s no way to get to other articles about Australia. It’s a single article that links to other websites.”
“I feel like I can’t do anything. They’re hinting at all these cool places, but I can’t find them.”
“I was hoping it would open up and tell me more about that, but it didn’t.”
Article highlights several cities with accompanying imagery. However, if an image or city interests a user, the user cannot click on the city name or image in order to be directed to additional information.
The links that are included in this article link to outside sources, not to internal travel guides, even when those guides exist on Travel + Leisure's website.
The site should aim to always lead users back to a travel guide since this is the type of information the users found helpful. City names and images should link to the city’s guide, or at least additional articles about the city if there is not a guide made for it yet.
WHY IS THIS A SOLUTION?
Users expressed frustration when they were not able to easily access more information about a destination that they saw in a listicle. Since the average time a user spends on a site is only 10-20 seconds, there is not much time to captivate the user.
A user can click on Iceland anywhere within this article, or on the images in order to be directed to the Iceland Travel Guide for more information.
Travel + Leisure’s website has the potential to reflect its mission statement, “to elevate [travelers’] experience through content and tools that serve them across their entire journey, from dreaming to planning to booking to traveling” due to the plethora of content the site contains. By adhering to users’ task flows and creating more visual cues to communicate to users how to effectively use the site, Travel + Leisure can improve the user experience. This will ultimately leave users with a positive impression of the brand, and entice users to return to the site in the future.
Following my user research and redesign, I would conduct A/B testing to evaluate each new feature of the redesign to ensure effectiveness.