Everyone knows how easy trip-planning has become via the Internet. From flights, to hotels and touristic visits, everything can be planned and sorted out online. Many of us, however, forget the horrors of the earlier versions of flight and vacation-searching websites, and how difficult they were to use.
Remember when you had to write the name of the city, and then go to the following screen where it says that there is more than one airport that matches your criteria, and then you’d have to select from the list? Remember how complicated the questions were, and how you needed lots of detailed information just to get an idea of the pricing range? It’s probably difficult to remember, because we have become so quickly used to a much improved service. In short, thanks to websites such as kayak.com, planning your trip has become incredibly easy, efficient, and some might even say, enjoyable. It consists of a gigantic database of airlines and their flights, and by searching, you wouldn’t be purchasing anything from Kayak itself, you would be comparing the prices of all the airlines/websites, and then you’d be directed to them for purchase – you never pay anything to Kayak.
First of all, when you access the website, even if on a dial-up connection, it loads up instantaneously. There are no images, except for the logo and the rounded corners. At the same time, the look and feel isn’t a boring, dull one. For example, CraigsList.com using zero graphics to make it as simple and straight-forward as possible. But at the same time, it’s not a very pleasant site to work with. On the other hand, kayak is attractive, but in a very simple way – ideal.
The search form immediately changes upon selection using AJAX, giving you access to all kinds of searches, without having to wait on anything. Not to mention that everything is easy to find. So going from Flights, to Weekend is a click away and intuitive. When entering any destination, it fills out the rest for you (something that has become vital in any travel website, but Kayak was one of the first major sites to implement), asks you the basic questions, and off you go.
The search results page is where Kayak really stands out. The results are displayed in a very organized fashion, with all of the filters that you can apply found on the left. Just by changing any of the values of the filters (for example, how many stops, the airline, the max price, departure or arrival time), the results are immediately updated. Besides the fact that this saves a lot of time, it actually gives you the freedom to experiment with filters that you wouldn’t otherwise consider, which in turn means you have total control.
Many developers and Web 2.0 companies think having lots of graphical elements is essential. Others think the website has to be extremely simple, and the look and feel doesn’t matter. Kayak realized that both are not getting anywhere, and found the perfect mix. One of the easiest, most intuitive websites out there.