Today a very sharp friend said that even though he uses Yahoo mail and some of their default screen navigation, he always uses Google to search. Why? Because Google is not cluttered and makes it very easy to leave Google to visit external sites. Yahoo, especially Yahoo News, he felt, tries to keep the user at Yahoo too aggressively.
A similar point about the ease of navigating to external sites was recently made by Mike Arrington when talking about Web 2.0, noting that it’s important to let folks feel they can easily leave the site for other web locations if you want return visits and credibility.
Relevancy, conspicuously, was not the concern of my friend. He just didn’t like the Yahoo search user experience. I agree and realize that for me it’s the fact that with Google I can get and visually scan *a lot more results* much faster than with normal Yahoo search. Like my friend it’s not the relevancy as much as the navigation that keeps me at Google despite the fact I own Yahoo (well, actually I own about one two-millionth of Yahoo). I don’t trust either engine to give me great results, but I know that I’ll usually find what I need somewhere in the first few pages of sites. Google makes it easier to preview a lot of sites fast.
I have stronger negative feelings about most of the travel sites. Online Travel 1.0 is a nightmarish blend of booking screens, pitches for Hawaii and cruise packages, and tourism sites all trying to convince you they are the only destination both offline and online.
It’s particulary frustrating when sites expect me to learn their navigation and nomenclature just to use their damn site, especially if I’m trying to preview dozens of websites for a trip! Most of the worst offenders are overproduced by expensive print media firms using the pretense they know about “online marketing”. In fact most big firms have about as much web savvy as an inebriated, obnoxious, and arrogant tourist and appear to be designing the sites for …..themselves.
Like most users I’d prefer a Craigslist format so I can easily jump to the information I need rather than wading through popups, pictures, video, and other nonsense when I’m trying to plan a trip. With some exceptions the mantra “just the facts please” would serve online travel promotion better than the foolish extravagances that confuse users and also search engines which struggle to find meaning in garrish flash and pages filled with 100k high resolution photos.
What will Travel sites look like as Web 2.0 shakes out? I’m optimistic that they’ll be much, much better, and hoping to figure out how before it’s obvious to everybody.