For my User Research course, we were responsible for conducting and evaluating user research for the redesign of all digital properties for a major hotel chain.
The participants completed the task of booking a hotel room with ease. For the most part, it was straight-forward – maintaining standard conventions that are used across travel related sites (Location, Check-In/Check-Out Interactive Calendar). The results were automatically populated in a very clear and concise list with high level details and sorted by distance from desired location as a typical accommodations site lists its results. The users were impressed by the ease of use.
"I would've booked online if I knew it was this simple." - User #1
The only task that was a slight issue, but not necessarily a problem was finding a way back to the results page after viewing a selection without hitting the back button. Other than this minor navigational issue, the experience of searching, selecting and checking out a hotel room was a reasonably seamless process.
"The experience wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated." - User #2
As far as suggestions for additional user research questions, there were plenty of topics untouched by test users. For instance, no one covered why they would be motivated to use the online reservation system, how they typically go about booking hotel reservations and who they are.
Even the most brief usability test, such as this nano test, can provide invaluable insight on the existing condition of the user experience. We conduct user research in order to identify issues that could drive potential customers away from the site and to figure out what, if anything, we're actually doing right. User research aims to provide the optimal experience for the user by attempting to represent all perspectives thus eliminating confusion and frustration. The rationale of user research is to capture a representative sample from the target audience which identifies the major issue.
Our team feels strongly about incorporating user research within the redesign project. We want you to know why we feel so strongly and why it could be the most beneficial course of action during this phase of the redesign process.
Standard knowledge is that the fundamental purpose behind creating any product, whether it be a site or an umbrella, is to make money. The hotel’s business model adheres to the same principles as anyone else, but somewhere along the process – the business model trumps the end users’ wants and needs and they are often neglected. The goals of making money in business and of providing an optimal experience to end user don’t always harmonize. User research is vital in the development process because it mediates a compromise between what the user wants and the organization wants making everyone happy.
Some might believe that demographics is adequate user research, but the valuable information is only based on part of the equation. Demographics can provide a small glimpse of the target audience in terms of research. This small sample provides us with what the customers do and when they do it, not answering the questions we’re really seeking – why they do it and how we can design more effective solutions to their problems.
User research not only provides a common ground between the users’ wants and the company’s business model, but gives us a better understanding of why users do what they do and how we can approach fixing the site’s issues more accurately. User research provides us with a deeper look into how we can provide the optimal experience to our end users, through improved efficiency, functionality and desirability, which will reflect in profits aligning with the business model.
Iterative development and user research work hand in hand and would be quite beneficial to the redesign of the hotel’s digital services. Problems need to be identified early on by real users in real time – in order for designers to gather feedback and to provide continual refinement through trial and error. Researching users throughout the development process is the preferred method. It would be much more beneficial to the hotel over realizing the problem past the point of return leading to wasted time, money and labor trying to correct these issues when they should’ve been done right the first time.
The hotel can improve their user experience by better understanding their users’ changing needs, attitudes and behaviors through user research. The user research can also provide insight for innovation and provide a distinct advantage over competition.
Several ways the hotel could improve their digital properties through user research:
- Generate customer insight to identify current and potential site problems before they’re at the point of no return – leading to waste in time and resources
- Highlight and remove unnecessary features to simplify the end user process and create a more intuitive user experience
- Achieve a greater fit between the product and the user – aligning customer wants and needs
- Identify emerging needs to keep up with the latest trends in the market
Rather than investing a great deal of time and money in the wrong direction, user research will provide an accurate picture rather than shooting blanks in the dark. To provide an effective and efficient initiative, harmonizing the users’ needs, attitudes and behavior with the company’s business model is key to providing the optimal user experience and to reaching bottom line.
The national hotel chain can improve their user experience by better understanding their users’ changing needs, attitudes and behaviors through user research. This report outlines goals and recommendations for the hotel chain to conduct user research for the redesign project.
Highlights of the research plan aligning with the hotel chain’s business goals and user experience questions:
Hi, ________. My name is Gabrielle and I’m going to be asking you some questions today.
Before we get started, there are a few things to review.
We’re asking people to answer questions regarding booking hotel accommodations to inform the team for the national hotel chain Digital Properties Redesign Project.
I’m here to ask questions about you; that’s why we chose you. You may be tempted to answer questions based on what your friends or family do. But we’re really interested in your opinions and experiences.
Therefore, there is nothing you can say that is wrong. All answers are welcome!
If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to express them. We may not have much time for them, but we will try to hear as much of what you have to say as possible.
You’ll see there is a video camera there. With your permission, we would like to record the session for research purposes only. Your feedback will be kept anonymous.
If you don’t have any questions, please sign this form. Please take your time to look it over.
That’s the last of my questions for you. Do you have any for me?
Then, I guess that’s it. Thanks for volunteering your time to provide us with more insights for our project. I really appreciate it.
Age Range: 25-34
Job: QA Analyst
Frequency of hotel stays: 1-2x year
Stayed at the national hotel chain brand within past 6 months: No
Vijay is an occasional vacationer who typically books his room over the phone versus digital properties. He goes on vacation with his wife every 6 months. The major deciding factor for him booking a room is approximately to his vacation location (if it’s in walking distance to a beach, etc). Next, value for his money is the next most important feature. He prefers the desktop version of hotel sites to apps when he’s booking a room as he finds them easier to use and to read. Also, he chooses a brand first and then reads over the reviews to finalize his decision.
Age Range: 25-34
Job: Financial Analyst
Frequency of hotel stays: 1x every 2-3 Months
Stayed at the national hotel chain brand within past 6 months: Yes
Sagar is a frequent traveler for work and vacation. He’s often traveling on the go and has used a hotel app before to make reservations. He doesn’t mind an economy hotel for business, but opts for luxury as far as leisure is concerned. His top priorities when booking a room are the loyalty membership perks – he wants to earn rewards with the frequency of his stays. He prefers the desktop version of the hotel sites and choosing brand first – reviews second – in finalizing his decision just as Vijay had.
To view the final project report, see the User Research Project .