Booking.com: The best global travel website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 24 travel websites:

  • Air France
  • Airbnb
  • American Airlines
  • Avis
  • Booking.com
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Enterprise
  • Expedia
  • Four Seasons
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Hotels.com
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Marriott
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Sixt
  • TripAdvisor
  • Uber
  • United Airlines

This is the third year that we’ve combined web-based travel services companies with the travel companies they represent. And while OTAs (online travel agencies) have long dominated this category, we’re seeing airlines and hotels become much more competitive in the fight for customer relationships, and not just in developed markets.

Booking.com emerging number one overall. It leads all other websites with support for 41 languages and  leverages global templates across all local websites. The mobile website is also lighter (in kilobytes) than most competitive websites giving Booking.com a potential performance advantage. Following close behind in score is Hotels.com.

The travel industry is by definition a global industry. When your customer may be located anywhere in the world and traveling to any other place in the world, you need to support not only a significant number of languages but also currencies, time zones, and mobile devices. A number of the companies in this sector have been aggressive in using geolocation and content negotiation to greet visitors with the right language, region and currency. But they also provide a great deal of flexibility. For instance, Booking.com and Hotels.com allow you to change your currency using what I call the currency gateway:

But Booking.com is far from perfect. It buries its global gateway on its mobile website, which is not ideal for visitors who need to quickly change settings. Instead, I recommend including the global gateway link in the header, as shown here with Emirates:

I recommend a more generic globe icon than the one used by Emirates, but this is far better than most other mobile travel websites.

American Airlines does not use a globe icon, but does at least make its global gateway available in the header, as shown here:

I do not recommend using flags for navigational purposes and many travel websites continue to use them today. Flags do not scale well and flags convey meaning that often goes far beyond mere navigation — a reason why a number of websites intentionally leave the Taiwan flag off of the global gateway, even though it includes all others.

A number of companies have been quite busy expanding their linguistic reach; websites that added languages over the past year include:

  • Emirates
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Uber

KLM, by the way, leads all airlines with support for 28 languages. And Hilton leads all hotels with support for 23 languages (though if you include Airbnb as a hotel brand, it emerges on top).

Websites that scored on the negative end of this list include Four Seasons, Enterprise and Avis.

To learn more, check out the Web Globalization Report CardTravel and travel services is the largest sector covered by the Report Card, a section more than 50 pages long.

The slowly evolving airline website

I enjoyed this vision of the future of an airline website (by Fantasy Interactive), particularly this map of fares and destinations:

airline website mockup

Why haven’t other airlines embraced this vision yet?

Probably because most haven’t even figured out how to make their booking engines as user friendly as Kayak.com.

KLM appears to be headed in this direction with its new design (currently in beta in Oman).

Here’s a screen grab of the booking engine:

klm_oman

It’s a clean, functional design that gives you a nice view of fares across a period of time.

Amazing how something so simple remains so elusive across so many airline websites.

KLM came out on top as the best global airline website in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card.

It leads the airline category with support for 27 languages (Delta, American, Emirates all support fewer than 20 languages).

And yet KLM still trails travel websites such as Hotels.com, Kayak, and Booking.com.

These virtual websites have exerted pressure on airlines and hotels and rental car companies to focus more on user experience.

It’s ironic that airline websites are finally becoming more user friendly just as the airplanes themselves have never been less user friendly (for those of us in coach).

The best global travel websites

lionbridge_travel_2013

I’m pleased to announce a new (and free) report focused on the globalization of travel websites.

From American Airlines to Kayak to Wyndham, this report highlights those websites that have the widest global reach and are the most user friendly — regardless of the user’s language or nationality.

Lionbridge sponsored the production of this report and is making the report available for free (registration required).

Lionbridge suggested the websites they wanted to see included but they did not play any role in the analysis of these sites. I’ve been studying many of these companies for years now through the Web Globalization Report Card.

Even if your company is not a member of this industry, you may find this report valuable. Included are a number of general web globalization best practices.

Furthermore, the travel industry includes a handful of companies that have really innovated in regards to the globalization of websites and mobile apps, companies like Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Kayak.

In all, this report scores 71 companies across a seven segments, including hotels, airlines, rental cars, cruise lines, and online travel agencies. Companies include Starwood Hotels, Delta, United, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Avis, Sixt, among others.

You can download your copy for free by registering here.

Emirates: Best global airline web site of 2011

Sometimes a web redesign is a big step forward; sometimes it is a step in reverse.

In the case of American Airlines (when viewed from a web globalization perspective) a recent web redesign resulted in a significant step backwards.

American Airlines came out on top in last year’s Web Globalization Report Card.

But in this year’s Report Card the company slipped several places. Emirates took over the top spot.

Here is the 2011 American Airlines home page:

The new design does feel more user friendly to me. But when you evaluate the web site from a global perspective, there are flaws, such as with global navigation. American Airlines uses a new global gateway that is more cumbersome to use than the previous gateway. It is a two-step menu, shown in detail below.

Imagine you don’t speak English and you were trying to get to the German web site. Would the warning text highlighted in yellow concern or confuse you? It certainly appears ominous to me.

American Airlines also gave up using language negotiation, which is more important than ever before.

To its credit, the new American Airlines web design uses considerably fewer images with embedded text. And though the localized sites still largely support the legacy design, I’m optimistic that by this time next year, global consistency and localizability will have improved.

Now let’s look at Emirates.

Emirates employs one of the best global gateways around. It is easy to use and, by grouping countries by region, presents more manageable lists.

Emirates also supports excellent global consistency across all of its localized sites. And Emirates does not even lead this category in languages. KLM leads with support for 26 languages, followed by Air France at 19.

Airlines in general have much work left to do in expanding breadth of languages. But should Emirates invest in additional languages, it is well positioned to lead this category in the years ahead.

Here are the nine airline sites included in the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Continental
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • KLM
  • Ryanair
  • United Airlines