The first experience
I just wanted to discuss two different sites that left me quite different feelings. The first looked like a user forum from about 10 years ago. The search on race number takes you to page dominated by the search tool and other screen furniture about the gallery. This is followed by thumbnails of the matching photos.
Similar event, different photo experience
The second site that I looked at had a much cleaner design straight away. Although again it was presenting me with a gallery of relevant thumbnails. The page was much easier to read.
ComparisonsOne thought that was noticeable from comparing these two is the close proximity between adverts and content, and the impression it gives in relation to your brand, application and content - in one page view it actually completely distracted attention from the content.
Second thought is that I preferred the photography on the first site, but got a much more professional experience from the second site. Details matter and being best at your core competency might not be enough for a good first impression.
Another is thought was "why are people there in the first place?" and does this change with experience? About four years ago I used to go and look through all my photos, but buy none. Now I have a skim through the thumbnails and buy all as a package, since I've learnt that it's more cost effective than buying individual images, there is also a time cost in paging through photos on the internet and finally if you don't order the photos will be archived off and the opportunity gone to purchase forever. I found both of these behaviours are much easier on the second site. Indeed, I nearly missed buying any from the first until I noticed where buy all was.
Lesson for the travel industry?
Picking up on the last point, it's important to remember that why people are there - in your app on your site - might not be the focus of your business. Taking an example from my own industry - and airlines specifically - if I'm going skiing to Val d'Isere then that's the "job" I'm doing, the flight is just a component that helps achieves this. Although there are a couple of exceptions to this, for example last Concorde flight, the first A380 flight or more regular enthusiast flights, there is potential for an airline to take a different approach to the marketing/booking journey.Here it might actually be worth putting the ancillaries front and centre with the actual flights taking a back seat. It's possible to know that the route is used as key ski route and the dates selected are in the height of ski season, so a better booking journey could work backwards from the resort and ski passes to home via a flight bundle that includes transfers, winter sports insurance and an extra ski baggage allowance.
How could issues be prevented?
Finally, going back to the two sites that I compared, it could be unfair as one is much older than the other. It's a pure guess on my part but it could be down to solution being written as part of the requirements or the requirements being handed over as features to deliver in a checklist fashion. I've written before how I like Job Stories and I think that helps with both issues. Although you still need some kind product management activity to keep the focus and ensure that the capability helps the job get done rather than blindly building features. I also like the approach Nina Mehta talks about in What to do with a bullet-pointed list of features - and you are really going to need to do something between a list of features and the delivery activity.
That's all from me today, since we live in the age of the quantified self time to look at my Nike+ stats :-)