You would think that travel sector websites, given that they are designed to present attractive destinations and exciting holiday experiences, would excel in the user experience they offer for visitors using mobile devices.
Yet a recent survey shows otherwise. Out of 14 sector websites examined, travel came second from the bottom in rankings, only just above telecommunications for offering the worst mobile UX to website visitors.
So what are the communication challenges faced by the travel industry and do other businesses face similar issues, given that the latest Google mobile algorithm update is launched this month?
Research conducted by iProspect was highlighted in a recently published Econsultancy titled “Travel and telco the worst performing industries for UX ahead of Google’s mobile update”.
This comprehensive research, which analysed 401 websites of 307 brands across 14 industry sectors, was undertaken in advance of the July 2018 launch of Google’s new mobile algorithm update.
This is described in the Google Webmaster Blog as the “Speeding Update” and will use loading speed on mobiles as a factor in page ranking. Although the speed of web page loading has been taken into account before, this has been confined to desktop searches.
Google has added that “a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content” and many travel industry websites could rightly be claimed to deliver quality content that is of specific interest to their visitors. However, page ranking is not the only issue, because mobile users in particular may be carrying out their search during a lull in work, while commuting or between leisure activities.
With a limited window of opportunity, they will be impatient to access the information they require in the shortest possible time. Having researched 15 travel brands, the iProspect research team calculated that “the travel industry is losing out on an estimated £900 million a year in potential revenue due to poor mobile performance.”
Imagery and Content Overload
According to Sophie Wooller of iProspect, one of the issues in page loading speeds was due to the use of high res imagery. She explained that: “Websites in the travel industry tend to be very creative-heavy; they often have big, beautiful, rich imagery in order to tempt consumers to spend a week of their hard-earned holiday on a beach, or in an exotic location. The “shop window” for travel is that beautiful creative.
“As a result, we found that travel websites are being held back by load time and page size. There needs to be a balance between that beautiful imagery and the user experience; it’s no good having a fantastic shop window if no-one can see it because it takes too long to load."
Although she did not mention the fashion industry, it is interesting to note that fashion websites only performed slightly better on mobile UX than travel and this sector, in common with other creative businesses, is highly focused on visual presentation.
In our experience, another challenge faced by the travel industry websites, including those of tourist destinations, tour operators and travel agents, is the large quantity of information they may need to incorporate. This can consist of details about hotels, tourist attractions, sporting and leisure activities, excursions, local events and a host of other material.
Leaving out items on such an extensive list can lead to friction with the facilities concerned, but covering every single one of them in equal depth so as not to ruffle feathers can lead to an overload of website content and negatively impact UX, particularly for mobile users. A lack of focus can also lead to a confused message in marketing and social media programmes.
Getting the Right Balance
Well-structured responsive website design incorporating search optimised content is essential for presenting the exciting opportunities and experiences that the travel industry has to offer. Attractive visual impact can also be achieved without leading to slow page load times.
DyNNamite, our DNN specialist team, has produced a demonstration theme specifically for the travel sector using the DNN CMS platform. This gives an idea of how a mobile-friendly responsive travel website can also be informative, visually attractive and easy to navigate.
If you are in the travel business, or if you believe you may have similar challenges in meeting Google’s latest page ranking update, please contact BBI Brandboost for our advice and support.