A while back I posted about hotel search and booking sites and why I think they are a natural for WAP.
It seems that Hotels.com agrees as they have launched a WAP site which comes in both WAP1 (wml) and WAP2 (xhtml) versions.
The UI is well optimized for mobile devices in some areas but breaks down badly in several critical areas. As you can see in the first image, numeric accelerators are used and there are a number of ways to search, both of which are good things. Search By City/State lets you drill down by first letter of state, first letter of city which works well except if you are looking for a city starting with ‘S’ in California which has so many cities starting with “San”. There is also a Spell City option which should work well in the case of “San Lius Obisbo”, for example. Sadly , there is a problem with Spell City , you type the first few letters of the city name and it immediately takes you to the page where you choose dates, number of rooms, etc. without confirming the city selected or offering you a selection if your search string was not unique. So if I type “San” it gives me hotels in San Francisco, if I type “San L” it gives me rooms in San Luis Obisbo, but suppose I was looking for San Leandro, I’d have to back up several screens and enter “San Le”! This is not good UI design, in the case of something with an unknown result like a substring search, the user needs to know the result before rather than after additional wasted input.
Another issue is that when you get a list of hotels meeting your seaarch criteria, the default listing is in some sort of undefined order with budget and luxury properties and sites in the city center as well as much as 30 miles away intermingled. If you scroll to the bottom of the list you can sort by price, proximity to well know tourist venues, rating, alpha and distance. An improvement would be to put the sort selection at the top of the page and to default the sort to something reasonable like price or distance. Sorting by distance lets you enter a base address to calculate the distance from. Thoughtfully, default values of the city and state that you originally searched for are pre-entered so all you have to do is hit the Submit button at the bottom of the page.
Once you choose a hotel, you are presented with a page with address, description, price of the cheapest room and for some hotels, a picture. Also on this page are links to pages offering a more detailed description, more pictures, directions to the hotel, check-in and check-out times and a list of hotel amenities.
It is not possible to book a hotel online and you are not given the hotel’s own phone number. To book you must call Hotels.com.
The WAP1 version of the site is almost identical to the WAP2 version. The only differences are that the WAP1 version has no hotel photos and that it lists hotel prices with each entry on the list of hotels rather than forcing you to select each hotel to find it’s rate. The WAP1 version also has several bugs. You are forced you to scroll horizontally to read the hotel’s full name and price in the list of hotels, this only works well for Openwave browsers which continually scroll the selected item marquee style. On many Nokia browsers the text is simply cut off with no way to scroll sideways. Other bugs are that all the sort options actually sort by price and search by city name doesn’t seem to work. Even worse, if search fails you don’t get an error message until you have entered your dates and number of rooms and guests – that is inexcusable and the sort of thing that will discourage users from trying to use the site (or WAP) ever again.
Content: Usability: xhtml wml