What Chinese travel sites taught me about UI

Dorking on the travel sites is my strange little soothing and time-consuming extravagance. I do not know how the airline ticket lists are so exciting, I like them. I like them as I like cheesecake and pearl jam.

I have already written a jovial mail to Adioso because I thought their human-centered approach to ticket search was hotter than . Jorah Mormont in the middle of a mail board.

My first experience with Chinese travel sites was to book tickets on eLong a few months ago – 2007, I think? They had an English interface and, although they did not use any international means of payment at the time, I could go to their office and deposit cash.

Since then, I have booked or followed most of the major Chinese travel aggregators, these being cTrip (English Customer Service transcendent), Qunar and to a lesser extent AliTrip the recent incursion of Alibaba into the area. The notable differences between these and most Western countries abound:

Customer contact points for aggregators

The responsibility of Western travel agglomerators (except you, Agoda ) has become an accepted standard, with the understanding that sites are available to facilitate search, and that if you you need help with your reservation, you call the airline or hotel directly. The direct customer service hotline for Expedia is pressed in five clicks:


Assistance (drop-down list)> Customer assistance

Button Contact Us

Choose a topic> Choose a category

And finally, a last and terrible last phone number

And then there is this agoraphobic customer service landing page of Orbitz :

The message is crystalline: These people would rather do something earthly than receive a call from you. They prefer to have a kernel of popcorn stuck in their teeth forever. They prefer to feel their own farts.

The best travel companies in China do not behave this way. They do not throw an e-mail address to the plebe, have access to a knowledge base and do not call it one day.

Customer contact points are immediate and accessible. Look at these Chinese interfaces. Look where the phone number is. It is there, generally above the fold (if we can say that such a thing exists):


Qunar (ooh, 24 hours service)


Epsilon's latest study on the behavior of Chinese consumers supports me in this idea, concluding that brand loyalty is the highest when a seamless online and offline customer service experience can be provided by digital brands. :

SHANGHAI, Feb. 26, 2015 / PRNewswire / Epsilon World leader in creating connections between people and brands, has completed its study on the habits of Chinese consumers.

The report reveals that 61% of Chinese respondents to the study are loyal to e-commerce players such as Taobao, JD and Tmall, the highest rate of all sectors surveyed …


Epsilon's research report revealed several other loyalty trends in China: companies that are best able to integrate online and offline touchpoints to deliver a seamless customer service experience henceforth the loyalty of Chinese consumers.

Apple earned the highest score for the loyalty of all the brands cited, recording 17% of responses to these brands and cited in all categories. Lifestyle brands having a direct impact on the health of consumers, including grocery and restaurant chains, and financial services, have also achieved high loyalty scores.

Important separation concerning research and labeling at the national and international levels

One-for-one, Chinese travel sites require users to actively choose whether they travel in Canada or abroad, switching between different search functions for each, a distinction we do not see in American travel interfaces.

International and domestic flights even have their own landing pages, offers and calls separated by type of destination. Let's be honest: I searched a few piles of research and I do not understand why, and I do not see an answer to this question online. From the point of view of the user experience, this seems redundant.

There are slightly different form fields for each type of search, but nothing that can be consolidated in a single interface with a slightly clever thought. So, either there is a problem of copying going on here (everyone is doing it, so I have to), a technical problem, or – I suppose – a problem of user behavior that may be evoking the possibility that Chinese consumers view domestic and international travel as two separate things. things.

I am looking for answers, fingers crossed.

One way home mode is the default mode

Assuming that these front choices are data driven, the default settings can tell us a little about the most popular features. The default settings for searching for airline tickets are "domestic, one way". ("Roundtrip" is the default setting for the international tab).

Again, I'm still looking for definitive answers, but I can think of several reasons:

Trains are very convenient and cheap, so Chinese consumers are more inclined to buy a plane ticket and a train ticket
Chinese consumers are more likely to make domestic trips where the return date is set at the arrival
Chinese consumers prefer to buy two one-way tickets, rather than a round trip.

Some screenshots of the Big Four:

Spotlight on travel as a gift

Most Chinese and Western travel aggregators offer similar services in main navigation. The focus is on flights and hotels, there are secondary booking services for activities, car rentals and some cruises here and there.

But the main browsing areas on Chinese travel sites also include gift cards and payment cards, a goal that is clearly minimized in the West of UI.

Alitrip is an exception to this rule, probably because their payment platforms and account management systems are integrated with Taobao, and Taobao offers its own donation systems.

Ctrip Gift Cards

Qunar's "Camel Cards"

eLong Gift Cards

We are legitimized

Lastly, although not universal, Qunar and Alitrip both take care to place product warranties in relatively large positions in the field of on-screen real estate.

I do not think there is much mystery as to why. Alizila, a site offering information on electronic commerce and comments from the group Alibaba quotes recent discoveries suggesting that Chinese consumers need more secure than consumers in other countries:

"Not surprisingly, Chinese consumers need more manpower and insurance during the buying process. They are comparatively demanding, they want a lot more information about products and suppliers than buyers elsewhere. "

Kendra Schaefer writes about the Chinese user interface in The Pixellary and holds the post of Creative Technical Director at Trivium China a store of political, economic and technology. She has been hiding on the technology scene in Beijing since 2004.

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