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Thing I hate about booking.com

March 26, 2017

Travel, Design

Booking.com is without any doubts a great website that helps thousands of people find best deals for their travel needs. Or is it? Although booking.com is one of the largest hotel booking platforms in the world some things just seems kind of annoying and strange if not worse.

I'm a regular traveller and have been using booking.com website for many years now. Not that often but from time to time I return to this website in search of some interesting hotel deals. And every time I come across same issues over and over again. It's been only a week since I last reserved a hotel in London and this time I've decided to write a short summary of what I think is wrong with the website or at least some things in my opinion they should definitely improve.



Design issues

The design. Given that I work as a front-end developer and also used to work as a professional UI/UX web designer I can't help it to notice all the problems. In general there's nothing wrong with it but there's also nothing right. In short the design is deprecated. If you compare it to design 5 or 10 years ago it hasn't changed much.

www.booking.com in 2007
www.booking.com in 2007 (10 years ago)


www.booking.com in 2012
www.booking.com in 2012 (5 years ago)
www.booking.com in 2017
www.booking.com in 2017

As you can see not much has changed. There's just so much information, everything is so small and packed. It's a mess. These days the design standards have evolved, technologies and mobile devices people use are totally different yet the design hasn't changed much. Of course I can understand that the company is afraid of global changes since users are used to the old design and of course they might even need to support such old browsers as IE6 and IE7 but there are many workarounds these days. Including implementing a separate exceptional design for deprecated browsers. Also this hasn't stopped other websites like airbnb.com. They also have to support all kind of users and browsers and yet their design is a whole level up comparing to booking.com

airbnb webdesign
www.airbnb.com landing page design


Why?!?

Ok, forget about the design. It's still quite usable and probably won't change for another 10 years or so. So lets get straight to the topic why people use booking.com. To quickly find and book a hotel they like. So ok, I go to the website, search for some random hotel in London and these are the results I get:

booking.com useless hotel list

Are you kidding me? First of all no one cares about the hotels that have been reserved in the past. Second of all why are you telling me this? What are you expecting me to do with this information? Just trying to make me feel like a looser probably. Maybe booking.com thinks that users might panic that they have just missed a hotel and quickly try to book another one. Kind of makes sense but again, only if they told me that I have JUST missed it. In some cases they tell me that the last room in my hotel has been booked three days ago. Now this information doesn't make any sense at all to me. It's just irritating. And the bottom line is that users don't care about these closed deals.



Fees

The website strongly suggests that it doesn't take any charges or fees up until the day I arrive to the hotel or make a check-in etc. But no payments in advanced.

www.booking.com fees www.booking.com fees

And yet, literally every time when I make a booking I get charged the full amount. Now I do realise that this probably is the hotel, that they need to secure the booking and the money will be transferred back but this doesn't change the fact. As a customer I am told that no money will get charged from me and I really don't care by whom. I suppose it should be by anybody. I might not even have the exact money amount during hotel reservation period on my credit card. So as a customer I end up hoping for one and getting completely something else. There are lots of complaints regarding this issue on trip-advisor as well.



Fake prices

Booking.com probably isn't the only company to do that but I always wondered where do they get those magical crossed prices? Usually you choose a hotel and you get of course todays BEST DEAL. By the way I wonder if anyone has EVER managed NOT to get todays best deal?? Anyway. You get a beautiful old price crossed and a new price which, of course, is the best deal only for you and only today!

www.booking.com fake prices
It all seems pretty good. It used to be 129 Eur and ONLY today the price is 86 Eur. Great! Well not exactly. The price isn't special at all. In fact if you go to other booking websites you get the EXACT special deal.
www.hotels.com fake prices

Here is the same hotel for the same dates on the hotels.com website. So this price isn't special at all. It's just a regular price and all these JACK POT titles are nothing more than fancy annoying adds.
But it gets even worse. If you go to official hotels webpage you are likely to find even better prices.

www.hotelavalon.eu hotel prices

Here you can see that the original hotels website for the same conditions offers even better prices than those super amazing deals of the day offers. The only thing I always wondered is where booking.com and others get those huge crossed prices from? Are they like randomly generated? My personal record was to find a four star hotel in Barcelona that costed 1085 Eur per night and the special deal was only 85 Eur. Of course when I went to the official website the regular price was 85 Eur. So what's with all these 1085 Eur? Ok you can lie a little bit but raising crossed price more than ten times is too much.



Useless information and notifications

Apart from the bad design and UI there is just too many information displayed and most of it is useless. For instance why are you asking me my travel purpose, most people select it randomly and during any of my tests I didn't find any differences in the search results. Prices and conditions usually are the same. And the information tooltip doesn't help much either. Of course there might be something hidden under it but for most of the users this is simply misleading question.

useless questions

And then there's a mess. So much information, that it makes me want to close the website and forget about it.

terrible booking.com design

So there is breakfast (breakfast is good) but then there's breakfast again, then jackpot which we now know is most likely fake, then we have red error kind of warning that "Someone just booked this" which means hurry up you looser and if that is not enough there is also "5 people are looking at this moment" message. Just to make you feel even more nervous in case you're still holding up somehow. And of course all kind of "warning" messages all over the website like:

warning message on booking.com
warning message on booking.com

So the website looks more like a time bomb that can go off any second if you don't make this f#$@#$ reservation.

And then there's "Don’t worry – if you find it cheaper later, we’ll refund the difference." message. Now that sounds kind of nice. So in case you find a cheaper deal the booking.com will refund you the difference. Cool! But then you click it and what you see are some kind of boring instructions from what looks like a missile launching scheme into space.

booking.com get a refund

I'm already all in panic from those warning messages all over the website. Another 100 people or so most likely will book my hotel while I'm reading this. And then they say that you should contact them for the refund BUT they didn't bother to put at least a contact link or a button to send them a message. In a normal use case you should find a filling form here instead of this documentation stuff. So you read it through and now you close it and have to find where on earth do you contact them. Deep down under "Contact Us" there is only FAQ section. Why?! But no, they said I need to contact customer care, so you find "Customer Service Help" which again brings you to useless FAQ section under which there is another button "Still need help?" Still?!?! And finally you get some kind of a contact form.

booking.com customer care form

I wonder if they could've hidden it better than it is at the moment. Such a nice feature and such poor implementation. This special form should have been there in the pop up in the very first step.



Conclusion

So there you go. The website is still quite usable and does its job pretty well but there is room for improvements. Separately each of the problems I've described is nothing really special. After all every website has its flaws. But putting all these things together quite often makes you really frustrated or just lost. And in the end you find yourself thinking that maybe next time it would be just easier to use another service. Anyway I do hope booking.com will continue to develop and create more user friendly service that will make us all happy travellers.