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Let’s take a vacation (from a designer’s point of view) – part 2 of 2

(source: laszlo-photo)

This is a continuation of yesterday's blog post - reviewing travel sites. Today we’re going to look at some travel sites that need a little help.

1. AffordableTours.com

This site offers an excellent service. As a user I was able to find and compare special travel offers from a very wide breadth of sites, ranging from Viking River Cruises to Contiki. The problems, however, are many: endless lists, seizure-inducing color combinations and an excessive number of sections leaves the user feeling dizzied. There are a couple of hidden  diamonds in the rough elements (for example, their phone number and hours are found on the top of every page – excellent!), but the feelings of claustrophobia are practically unavoidable when trying to navigate this labyrinth of a website. It’s amazing that you can browse tours, cruises, river cruises and resorts, but the way it’s laid out is overwhelming!

Layout/Navigation: Everything is everywhere. The home page contains multiple links to the same sections, which can be confusing and it also adds to the clutter. Bold red text is sprinkled liberally throughout the site, meant to grab the user’s attention. It ultimately backfires, however, because it’s overused. The point, of course, of using highlighting styles is to make only certain elements stand out. When overused it defeats the point.

cluttered_menu

The navigation suffers from the same problem that the entire layout suffers from – the choice paralysis. When the user is confronted with too many choices, paradoxically, the user is more likely to just give up and go elsewhere without choosing. There needs to be some serious simplification.

Colors: Not only are way too many colors needed, almost none of them are nice colors. Furthermore, they don’t work well together. Orange and green and dark blue and lighter blue and neon blue . . . it’s all too much. Deciding on a sensible color palette is a very important step in design which doesn’t seem to have been taken with this site.

Colors

Photography: The only photographs that seem to be present (and not taken from featured outside sites) are tiny employee profile pictures with a 90s-tastic background gradient. There’s just way too much text.

Tiny Picture

2. EuropeanDestinations

This site is nowhere near as difficult to manage as AffordableTours, but I find that it’s still a bit overwhelming. There are dozens of links on every page and they all look practically the same, blending into a blur of color.

Layout/Navigation: The Layout and navigation is actually not that bad – it’s well-organized. This site also has its number and hours on the top of every page, which is great. Additionally, there’s a convenient albeit unruly Destinations dropdown in the top right which lists dozens of possible destinations throughout the world. There’s also a nice use of AJAX drop-downs in the middle column of every page to save space and expands specific offers with more detailed information while everything is collapsed.

Desintations Dropdown

Colors: The color palette used is almost entirely a monochromatic collection of blues, making everything blend together. Fortunately, the sparingly-used highlight colors are well-chosen: prices are in orange, which makes them stand out nicely, and the search module on the home page is a bright yellow. It doesn’t exactly match, but serves its purpose.

Links

Photography: There is very little photography to be found on this site. The photos that are present are nice, but the excessive text tends to drown the pictures.

Photo Thumb

Let’s review the primary rules designers should keep in mind when working with travel sites:

Quality Over Quantity – Make sure not to overwhelm your users!
Organization and Consistency – Users should be able to find what they’re looking for easily. Don’t make drastic layout changes from page to page.
Communicate Visually – Give the user a taste of their potential destination through photography they can’t resist.

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