BestWestern.com detects mobile browsers and redirects to a mobile site where you can find and book hotels in the Best Western chain, which operates in the United States, Canada and Australia. Like just about every mobile hotel booking site I’ve every seen, this one has some pretty horrendous usability problems.
Things start fairly well with a search form where you enter the city and dates you want to book and then choose the state and country from a drop down. The date fields expect input as MM/DD/YYYY (the slashes are required) and are pre-populated for a one night stay starting two weeks from today. A better design for mobile would be separate numeric-only fields for day, month and year. I also think users booking from a phone are more likely to want a room for tonight, not weeks in the future.
The search brings up a list of ALL hotels in or near the selected city including ones with no rooms available. At least the ones with no vacancies have a message indicating that they are full, but why list them at all?
The list of hotels does include a price but it’s not necessarily the price of any available room, you have to click a “Check Availability” button and then another labeled “View Available Rooms” to actually see the prices available for your dates. There seems to be a bug where the “View Available Rooms” button does not do anything on some pages. When it works, it brings up a list of all available rooms and rates for the selected dates.
At this point you can book easy if you are a member of Best Western’s rewards program and have a credit card linked to your profile. If you don’t meet those criteria you can still book with a credit card by filling out a form with 14 fields, not something I’d want to attempt on a non-QWERTY phone. Why don’t hotels accept PayPal? This page really should have a click to call phone number so that once you know what’s available you can just call and book it. Phone numbers are available on the site but you have to go back three screens to the hotel list and click a “More >” button to find them.
I feel hotel search and booking could be a very popular mobile web application but only if it is fast and easy to use. My idea of how it should work is actually pretty simple. The site should open on a search form with five fields; a free form address field where you can enter any or all of city, state, province, country, airport code or postal code. The site’s back end should be able to parse that and offer a list of choices if the input is ambiguous. Also on the form are separate two digit fields for the day, month and year of the arrival date (defaulted to today) and another 2 digit field for the number of nights, defaulting to one. Submitting that form should bring up a list of hotels. For each hotel the listing should include the price of the cheapest available room and a click to call number that connects directly to someone who can complete the booking for me. There can be additional links to maps, driving directions, etc. but the site’s core function should be to find and book a hotel rooms as quickly and in as few steps as possible.
Mobile Link: mobile.usablenet.com/mt/www.bestwestern.com
Ratings: Content: Usability:
Filed in: Travel/Hotels