Monday, September 14, 2009

The Secret Ingredient to Web Site Loyalty




















Here's the Answer: I'll state right up front -- The Secret Ingredient is .... FUN!

The Scenario: Recently I was researching a trip for my son. He's in Cairo for a semester abroad, but rather than coming straight home from there for the Christmas holidays, he's decided he wants to go to London for two weeks (ok, I can't blame him). But he's a poor college student, so he has to do this as cheaply as possible. I was on video chat with him, and we're discussing possible dates, itineraries, etc. I had to be able to search all these different options quickly. First I used Expedia, and then I used Travelocity. They were so slow, and ponderous, and had numerous usability issues. Why is it so hard to choose one-way or multi-destination? Why are the date pickers so hard to use? I was getting more and more frustrated and then somehow (I don't even remember how or why), I ended up at Kayak.com.

Is it Usability or is it Fun?: Now Kayak is much more USABLE than the other sites. And that was wonderful, but that's not what made me stay at Kayak for the rest of the research. And that's not what made me go to Kayak since then to look up all other kinds of travel. Kayak is FUN. If you don't know Kayak, then go try it out right now and then come back and finish reading the blog. Really. Go now and then come back.

So What's So Fun?: When you enter your search criteria into Kayak and press the Search button things happen... you don't just go to a screen with a progress bar, or an hourglass, or a funny picture of William Shatner... you stay on the same screen, but there are things happening... there is some kind of word unscrambler that is scrolling through word combinations. I don't even know what that thing is, but I swear I can feel excitement mounting as it is cycling through until a word or phrase appears. And the results! The results of your search, with cities, and prices starts populating right away. It starts at the bottom of the screen and works up. So first you see a bunch of flights for $775, and then the price dips and you see a bunch of entries scrolling by of $585, then $356, and WOW, it stops at $272... I WON! Now I'm not a gambler, I don't play slot machines, or even the lottery, but I"m telling you, this gets me every time. I find this website fun. Instead of dreading checking out flights I look forward to it. After I find the flight I want I am just one click away from Expedia or Travelocity or whomever else I want to use to actually BUY the flight. It will come up immediately with my flight info right there and I can purchase right away. This is great.

Fun + Usable = Trust?: There's another subtle psychological shift: I trust the info at this site. I used to go to Northwest or Travelocity or Priceline, or all of those, because I didn't trust that I was getting ALL the flights. But because Kayak.com is EASY and it's FUN... I trust it.

The secret ingredient: FUN.

9 comments:

Nick Black said...

Hi Susan,

Enjoyed your post on Trust. Thought you may appreciate a recent presentation we developed on trust (and how it forms in businesses and brands): http://nickblackonblack.blogspot.com/2009/09/brand-trust-six-drivers-of-trust.html

The trust drivers discussed in this model were uncovered using Morphological Psychology (a complete psychological theory developed by Prof. Wilhelm Salber in the 1960’s, and based on psychological tensions in everyday human behaviour).

Hope you enjoy it.

Regards,

Nick Black.

Anonymous said...

What about in a corporate web site, where the goal is to be almost entirely professional and not necessarily fun? Kayak is fun because it's a travel site, and traveling is the epitome of fun (for vacation purposes any way)

Susan Weinschenk said...

Nick,

I liked your slideshow on trust...sounds like interesting research.

Susan Weinschenk said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm sure that there are some websites where fun would not be appropriate, but I would think that many web sites could add one or two interactions, even if small, that are fun and still stay "professional". Maybe readers can send in any examples they find...

Nick Black said...

Hi Anon,

I would agree with Susan. Even in the case of a corporate website, fun can be relevant.
Pleasure is a powerful pre-curser to repetition. When something makes you feel good, you do it again. Or click there again, as the case may be.

Here are some studies exploring the importance of emotion in experience design: http://www.ijdesign.org/ojs/index.php/IJDesign/index

And here’s an example combining finance and fun (have a play with the island in the middle of the site, or try calling their hotline…fun!!): https://www.coastcapitalsavings.com

Cosmin said...

I've tried Kayak and well, I will stick with skyscanner.net for now :)

It seems to me that they index more flights.

Otherwise, nicely put!

Susan Weinschenk said...

Dear Cosmin,

Maybe I"ll have to review Skyscanner next?!

Warren said...

I'm working on a travel industry project right now and you would not believe how outdated the inventory systems are behind the scenes - there's a lot of technical reasons why even the big boys still use the interstitial "WAIT FOR IT" page while they retrieve your results - and it's a lot to do with the fact that they let you book real content from that point onwards.

Kayak is purely for travel search/select, that's all - you'll find you get dumped back to those other horrible sites to continue soon enough, making all that fun for nought - and often not showing you the price that Kayak quoted.

We love Kayak here too, and it's not an excuse to deliver a crap UX because the systems are hard to work with, but it sure is hard!

The nifty caching which enables the UI tricks of Kayak aren't so easy to do when you have to make sure your prices are bang up to the minute.

Warren said...

I'm working on a travel industry project right now and you would not believe how outdated the inventory systems are behind the scenes - there's a lot of technical reasons why even the big boys still use the interstitial "WAIT FOR IT" page while they retrieve your results - and it's a lot to do with the fact that they let you book real content from that point onwards.

Kayak is purely for travel search/select, that's all - you'll find you get dumped back to those other horrible sites to continue soon enough, making all that fun for nought - and often not showing you the price that Kayak quoted.

We love Kayak here too, and it's not an excuse to deliver a crap UX because the systems are hard to work with, but it sure is hard!

The nifty caching which enables the UI tricks of Kayak aren't so easy to do when you have to make sure your prices are bang up to the minute.