Mobile Apps

Travel on Mobile: Lessons in App Design

In the second instalment of my Travel on Mobile series, I’m going to look specifically at iOS and Android apps and how they can make your life easier when on the move with limited data access and what lessons you can learn from some of the top travel apps when designing your own mobile applications.
Trip Advisor

I’m an avid Trip Advisor user and contributor and though there are some things about their mobile app which are great, the main thing that is missing for me is the ability to use the app and write reviews offline. I found an amazing little restaurant in Venice that I was desperate to share with the world but was unable to because I didn’t take their name down correctly and when I returned to an area that had WiFi I couldn’t find their listing on Trip Advisor. I also had hours and hours flying where I could have been writing lots of Trip Advisor reviews in the app but instead I had to write them in Evernote because you can’t save a review locally in the app before submitting it to be published. For me, Trip Advisor is the essential app to have – giving you not only all the official information about Attractions, Hotels and Restaurants but also the real behind the scenes info that helps you determine whether a place is worth visiting or not. It’s the reviews that inform you about whether a 3 hour queue for Catacombes de Paris is worth the wait and what the local customs require when visiting a Thai Buddhist temple. It makes use of the device being mobile by being location aware in the “Near Me Now” section and with the ability to save attractions and hotels to your own device you’ll be able to organise your trip easily.
Lesson Learned: Establish what functionalities your users will need to use offline, and make the app compatible. Kayak

Kayak is a great mobile app for checking flight prices from multiple different airlines at once and it’s a good way to get a good deal. Designed both for iOS and Android and with a mobile site they make it easy to access their service on the go. The app itself is very easy to use and returns search results in a very timely manner. The main drawback is that with the flight prices from the USA the displayed results don’t include the taxes – meaning the flight is actually more expensive than you think, which you won’t discover until you reach the airline’s website to book your flight.
Lesson Learned: Do your utmost to display consistent and final pricing in whatever currency the user selects. Air BnB

I used Air BnB a number of times through my recent trip and I was thoroughly impressed with it on the whole. There is lots of press just now about their business and the booming sharing economy, including a woman in the USA who is having problems evicting former tenants and a possible ban on its use in NYC, but the sleekness of the actual application should not be forgotten. It allows you to save lists of rooms to a shortlist for easy browsing later and many of the apps functions are available offline – a great plus when travelling abroad and not wanting to return to Australia with a massive data bill. The messaging within the app, and the use of push notifications, means there is no need to ever exit the app to contact hosts and keeps track and trace of all messages sent between both parties.
Lesson Learned: When talking about property, visuals and image quality are king.

This is a good app to use for getting hotel deals and if you are signed up to the loyalty scheme you will get one free nights accommodation for every 10 paid nights accommodation. Within the app you can see the user ratings and reviews in addition to all the standard information that the hotel gives out. Helpfully, the iOS version of the app has Passbook integration allowing the user to save their reservation to be stored within Apple’s Passbook – making accessing the information quick and easy. However, it can be slow to load and the Android version of the app doesn’t allow you to save or shortlist hotels prior to booking. Lesson Learned: Use the particular functionalities of the device to further optimise your app and don’t have a “one app fits all” policy.

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