UX insight: Flight booking behaviours in Asia and three crucial lessons to help boost your conversion rate.
One of the things I love about my job is field research—the part that involves contextual enquiries, ethnographic studies, one-on-one interviews, usability testing, card sorting—not just because it involves interacting with users, but also because it appeals to my fascination with human behaviour. As designers who often start out with the hint of an idea and a heavy dose of intuition, field research becomes the guiding light that validates our approach. And it is a gold mine of insights on how people think and behave—and if you dig deeper—into the human psyche itself.
We recently did a comparative test of two airlines in Asia, MalaysiaAirlines.com and SingaporeAirlines.com, to understand the flight search and booking behaviour of travellers. We recruited participants aged between 25 – 40 to find, compare and book a trip using these two websites at the XM Consumer Experience Lab using a think aloud protocol. We used our shiny Tobii eye tracker to measure user attention, and also gathered qualitative feedback on the booking experience at the end of the session.
Banner blindness prevails on the homepage
Jakob Nielsen has tested and written much about banner blindness in the past, but what stood out very clearly with both the sites we tested was that users don’t just ignore ads; they have learnt over time, to ignore anything that looks like an advertisement.
The majority of the users we tested focused predominantly on content surrounding the key visual areas on both homepages, ignoring the large, very visual image that was featured in a prominent position. This was true for users, regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar they were with the two websites. Even an animated image carousel on the Malaysia Airlines homepage didn’t do much to engage these users.
The heatmaps below show concentration of participants’ attention as an average. Areas in red indicate areas that are the most looked at by users.
At left is the home page for Singapore Airlines and at right the home page for Malaysia Airlines. The key visual areas on the home pages of both Web sites go unnoticed by the majority of users due, we theorize, to a form of banner blindness.