Luxurylink.com is an online destination for booking luxury travel with signature extras at insider prices. It’s business model was very complex and was in dire need of clarity, simplification and a visual brand overhaul. To further complicate things, the site had to serve three masters: The Consumer, The Hotel, and The Advertisers. The fact that each one was fighting for dominance, helped in the site’s gradual evolution into a chaotic and confusing mess.
Audit & Discovery
Legacy site usage metrics
Site usage was heavily investigated in order to maximize what people REALLY use and reduce what they don’t. Heatmaps provided a good look into peoples’ browsing habits and netted that the VAST majority of users go directly to the Search function rather than browsing.
Insight into just WHO we’re selling to was important and a comprehensive user breakdown was developed by direct audience polling. Age, sex, income, job, habits, desires; these all showed us exactly who - and HOW - we need to sell to the existing consumer base while also expanding to a younger audience.
Travel shoppers have a long gestation and go through 5 distinct phases before converting. Each phase has its own UX/UI needs from Imagery & Articles (1, 2, 3) Galleries & Breakdowns (2, 3) Information & Comparison Tools (3, 4) Numbers & CTAs (4) Clarity & Reassurance (5)
Low Fidelity, annotated wireframes were drawn out for every page, and process including details like module information loading processes, date selection, and search.
Clean and crisp, relying heavily on the seductive visual imagery of the destinations.
Above the fold, the nav is structured to give a strong callout to the in-house customer service team (which has a conversion rate of over 4%), a strong hero graphic with a tested headline and call to action, and a definitive place to start (search) which had the strongest tested path as far as conversions went.
Immediately visible is behaviorally-targeted content based on browsing habits, past purchases, location, etc... and the much-needed ad space.
Designs were fully responsive and adaptive, changing layout and strategy for mobile
Flexible Nav System
Prominent, Persistent Customer Service
Clear Calls To Action
Clean, Modular Design
Chic, but Accessible
Golden Ratio and Neurocommerce Design
Research shows that people respond to The Golden Ratio (above) because it activates specific cortical neurons in structures controlling emotions and is the basis for most proportions we consider “beautiful”. The Golden Ratio is the most pleasing ratio. Further research has proven that people naturally trust what they perceive as “beautiful” more than what they don’t. So great care was taken to use these neuro-tactics in design as part of the “manipulation” strategy.
Even though most customers may never see the homepage - as Google will usually usher you in via an interior page - it is important for the Dreamer and Explorer, as well as customers with high brand loyalty. It’s very common for consumers to return to a site many times in the life cycle of a purchase so the homepage was designed to be smart, serving up recommendations based upon your previous browsing history (cookies). If someone is looking for mainly tropical vacations, it makes no sense to merchandise a ski package to them. This maximized our ability to anticipate and be the most relevant we can be.
Customer Service Number top right. (Customer Service calls convert to sales 3-5 times more often than by email.)
Large imagery with clear CTAs
Search front and center for instant use
Obligatory ad modules (limited in number and placement)
Clear hotel modules
Location-Aware recommendations (for visits without signed in accounts)
Package touts including number of nights, cost, and description
Inspiration modules for Dreamers and Explorers
“Recently Visited” module allowing for easy link back to properties you checked out. (Users return to the site an average of 55 times prior to converting and often jump back and forth between properties comparing them)
Arguably the most important page on a site, the Search Results are often the most complex. A careful balance of information amounts is required to clearly usher people through. They need to be able to scan a bunch of results to find what’s best for them, as well as tools to narrow it down, or change the order of importance. Additionally, in hospitality, exact rates cannot be pulled without a date search, so this had to accommodate exact searches as well as non-date searches.
Prominent, persistent search fields provide easy access and confirmation of your search
Area for promotions related to this search
Quick Sort functionality aligned across the top
User-Friendly (and location aware) Filters on the side bar
Ad space providing valuable (and required) revenue
Module showing most recent pages you visited. (consumers like to bounce between properties to compare deals and amenities)
An on-brand way of showing discounts is to provide the list price in strikeout. (the word “discount” or “bargain” implies poor quality)
Engaging imagery with a “% off” flag
Short scannable summary of the property
Expandable rows of room grades showing room amenities, number of nights, and occupancy limit.
Cross-Promotion of tour packages
In case of non-date searches, to get exact prices, one must sometimes put in the date so adding that function inline allowed the user to remain in place rather than performing the search again at the top and having to find this property and room all over again.
Room images are key. It is also crucial to at least show what rooms are NOT available for that date and many peoples’ dates are flexible.
Product Details Pages
Property Details pages are the most common entry points for a hospitality website. Providing an engaging, on-brand experience without all the clutter was very difficult. In particular, Luxury Link sells two types of product: A traditional “buy now” type of room, and an “Auction” where people could bid on a vacation package (usually at below market rates). However people often confused the two and didn’t realize that just because you bid on an auction does not mean you have the room reserved. So a lot of clarity needed to happen here.
Prominent hotel name, location with links to categories, and “tags” to help find other hotels along the same emotional lines.
For Luxury Link users, it was important to see the discount straight off the bat in a classy way
Leading price showing list vs LL above the fold.
Short, scannable summary of the hotel
Scannable highlights that intrigue the user, as well as an amenities grid
Additional long-form copy was split into three expandable sections
Room grade modules with the basics
Expandable module with ALL the details and booking specifics. There were so many variables that it was a challenge to make it easy to configure guests, nights, dates, room grade, and sale type (booking or auction)
The necessary fine print
Hotel details like links and maps
Cross promoting hotels. If the consumer got all the way to the bottom of the page, they’re probably looking for something different.