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
I booked a hotel room with Hotels.com after seeing your commercials on television. One of your advertisements shows a couple in a room with constructions outside of their window. Your advisement states that if they booked with you, this would not happen.
Well it did!
I also had that similar situation, but with the hotel room I booked with you.
We were disturbed by the construction at 8:04am (7/9/08), after going to bed only 4 hours earlier. I contacted your company (on 7/9/08); they placed me on hold and contacted the manager of the hotel. He stated that it was minor reconstruction next door and my situation was not resolved.
I call again on the following day (7/10/08), and the best your organization could do was provide me with an $80 discount off my next room booked through your company.
ARE THEY KIDDING!
AFTER THIS EXPERIENCE I WILL NEVER BOOK A ROOM WITH YOUR COMPANY AGAIN!
This is false advertising and I plan to upload the attach photos on the web so others do not experience the same problem as me. As you can see from the attached photos, the construction was right outside of my window.
Hello Stan Leverett,
It’s always interesting to meet another Stan Leverett. Where are you from? I live in Stryker, Ohio with my beautiful Northern Belle, Mary. I grew up in Georgia!
Love to hear from ya!
The other Stan Leverett
I am in absolute and total agreement with the previous writer as to the horrible experience I had with Hotels.com . I booked a reservation with them for a hotel in CHicao -the day before I was to arrive , I called Hotels.com and they told me the reservation was made etc. I ended up calling my supposedly booked hotel directly-the Hilton Garden Suite in CHicago-and was told there was no reservation made for me by Hotels.com. I called back Hotels.com[- three different times-got operators who had hard to understand foreign accents-who alternately assured me my reservation was made correctly. One such operator even toled me that she would call the hotel herself directly -put me on hold for 30 minutes and then disconnected me. End uo of story-my credit card company reimbursed my card for the bogus Hotel.com fees >Further more I was lucky enough to still get a room at the Hilton for the days that I needed even though I was calling the day before my inteneded arrival-and get this-the direct hotel rate was $100 a night CHEAPER than my supposed great deal from Hotlels.com.
If your idea of adequate service includes the following, I recommend Hotels.com
1. Booking a stay in New York via an operator in Texas who
a. promises to send an email confirming your deal, but does not
b. is unreachable by you ever again, due to her inability to identify herself
2. Calling back later to get an email confirmation, and spending about 2 hours contacting:
a. the Philippines, where an operator tells you she cannot email or fax you directly, but must put requests in ‘the System”
b. Canada, where you get the same treatment
c. a supervisor, whom you are on hold for for over 15 minutes, and you give up
d. the NY hotel manager, who tells you nothing can be done except by going through Expedia, which is what her record of the transaction shows
e. Expedia, who tells you nothing can be done because you booked thru Hotels.com
f. an Expedia manager who tells you Expedia and Hotels.com are the same thing. H
He helps you,. but tells you if there are further problems, he cannot be reached for TWO WEEKS, as he is.. GOING TO THE PHILLIPINES! (See Step 2a, above)
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