Heuristic Evaluation of Booking.com
Report of the Usability Theory & Practice Class at Pratt Institute
The findings of this report came from an analysis of Booking. The study utilized a Heuristic Evaluation method, which was chosen to evaluate how effectively users of Booking might be able to perform specific tasks on the website. Three usability experts from Pratt Institute participated as the evaluators for this study. The evaluation is done by three usability experts using Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics. After reviewing, separating, and consolidating the data from the “Problem Description” handouts, 7 usability problems in the interface were exposed by the three evaluators. A table detailing the issues is available in the appendix. Three major usability problems rated here prompt 3 recommendations to improve the usability of the Booking.com.
Highlight booking details on the confirmation page to raise discoverability and avoid wrong results.
Add an option to search keywords in the booking history page to match users’ needs.
Reduce the times for reviews appearing on the page to avoid redundancy and make the access to reviews more visible to improve efficiency.
Booking.com has grown from a small start-up to one of the world’s leading digital travel companies. Booking.com’s mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. By investing in technology that takes the friction out of travel, Booking.com seamlessly connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, a variety of transportation options, and incredible places to stay — from homes to hotels, and much more.
The website is doing a decent job of helping all kinds of travelers find their desired stays. However, the user interface is somehow redundant that is not easy to use, and sometimes the information architecture and interaction flow are not intuitive in the advanced user’s perceptions.
The goal of this report is to identify and understand the usability problems when returning users try to search for hotels with special needs by conducting a Heuristic Evaluation. The efficiency and ease of use are the two most important evaluation criteria for the user flow of making decisions step by step. Applying different filters to find new hotels and booking a hotel that stayed before are two of the most commonly used features for regular users.
What is Heuristic Evaluation?
“Heuristic evaluation is a method for finding usability problems in a user interface design by having a small set of evaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the “heuristics”).” — Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics
H1 — Visibility of system status
H2 — Match between system and the real world
H3 — User control and freedom
H4 — Consistency and standards
H5 — Error prevention
H6 — Recognition rather than recall
H7 — Flexibility and efficiency of use
H8 — Aesthetic and minimalist design
H9 — Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
H10 — Help and documentation
The analyst would have to examine those obstacles while trying to complete the given tasks based on the guidelines. When encountering possible usability issues, the analysts would have to check what guidelines had been violated, then mark with descriptions, and determining the severity of each problem as the usability concerns. In this report, the severity rating is given from 1 to 4.
1 — Cosmetic Problem
2 — Minor Problem
3 — Major Problem
4 — Catastrophe
You traveled to Edinburgh before. This time, you plan to spend your holiday in Edinburgh from March 1st to March 5th with your partner. You want to stay in an apartment that is suitable for couples, and compare satisfied hotels you find this time with one that you lived before.
1 — Sign in to your account.
2 — Use the search feature to plan your stay in Edinburgh.
3 — Find out whether it is suitable for traveling in the couple.
4 — Find how much the stay will cost in total.
5 — View others’ reviews and vote for helpful or not.
6 — Check your past booking records and find the Eden Locke hotel.
7 — Search for a new date and compare it with the one you find this time.
FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS
Booking.com is a popular website among travelers. The site is serving well to the needs of its users. It is providing enough search filters to help users find their desired stays. Hotels and apartments listed on the website have ratings on different parameters, as well as reviews. The rating parameters include things like ‘Great for two travelers,’ types of reviewers, languages, topics that interested, and so on. These can help users shortlist places they want to stay.
While the Booking website is information-dense, it uses dark blue as primary color combined with other highlighting colors, which makes it look modern, professional, and aesthetically pleasing. However, the visual hierarchy and layout are not always consistent. Appropriate use of design elements to stress the importance helps to identify the priority information.
After reviewing, separating, and consolidating the data from the “Problem Description” handouts, 17 total descriptions yielded 8 unique usability problems: one “major problem,” 4 “minor problems,” and 2 “Cosmetic problems.” Due to their high severity rating, this report focuses on solving the two distinct usability issues evaluators rated a “major problem.” The 3 identified problems occur on 3 separate parts of the interface: the profile page, confirmation page, and the listing page.
Booking details confirmation is not apparent enough. It is placed on the left side and does not highlight the date. Users have to be careful and double check by themselves before enter the payment information. According to the analysis, this problem can be related to H5 (Error prevention) and H6 (Recognition rather than recall) of Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics. Therefore, the user is required to have high memory load.
Emphasize booking details on the confirmation page to raise discoverability and avoid wrong results.
For example, it could be moved to the right side on the top of the personal details area. Besides, we can use the special colors for date and price information. By doing so, the discoverability of the detailed information can be boosted without rearranging the whole layout.
Users cannot search for keywords in the booking history to find the hotels stayed before. Aligning with Nielsen, H6 (Recognition rather than recall) and H7 (Flexibility and efficiency of use) can be applied to understand this problem. The lack of searching keywords feature requires users to take extra time to figure out how to find a specific hotel they booked before, which decreases efficiency.
Add an option to search keywords in the booking history page to match users’ needs.
Besides, tabs for recording visited countries can also be helpful to assist users to find the particular hotel promptly. Increasing access to information can eliminate frustrations.
Listing Page — Reviews
Overall, the listing page contains too many repetitive elements, leading to a lack of visual hierarchy. The reviews on the sidebar are challenging to read and distracting with an overwhelming amount of information. Without a title or summary, presenting reviews on the sidebar communicates passively and creates tedious reading experiences for users. What is more, the review box is tough to find, especially for novice users. Because only when people are hovering on the right top corner of hotel pictures can the reading reviews pop-up window appear then. The pop-up individual most recent review is not valuable as travelers often want average scores.
A successful design in the pop-up window is that users can select reviewer types and multiple keywords as filters. However, users cannot sort reviews by “most helpful” or cancel once they click the “helpful” button by mistake, violating the H5 (Error prevention) principle of Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics that users should be able to recover from making mistake.
Delete the reviews appearing on the left side of the page to avoid redundancy and make the access to reviews more visible to improve efficiency.
The most feasible way to solve this problem is to get rid of unnecessary information.
To increase the discoverability of review access, we recommend moving the sub-menu under the listing name. We also suggest eliminating recent reviews block and enlarging the average score rectangle. Through this way, users will have two methods to click and activate the reviews pop-up window to discover reviews. The listing page will have a stronger visual hierarchy by gathering the optical center to the review menu and score area.
In conclusion, the Booking website is very informative while having a modern design with a relatively good visual hierarchy. As this report mainly focuses on the selecting hotel as returning users, there are several usability issues that even regular users may stumble over.
Booking.com is a multi-functional travel website that supports hotel and flight booking, car renting services. Therefore more goals-oriented design methods, especially instinct processes, are recommended to identify and meet the usability needs of all. By applying the suggested solutions, the travel planning users would have a better experience of hotel search optimization and organization while using Booking.com for hotels.