The Travel Boom
The travel industry is worth over €6.5 trillion annually and is set for dramatic growth as travellers from India, China, and Africa come online for the first time ever. All of this is taking place against a background of elevated customer expectations and the threat of increased commoditization.
Providing the software platform for well-known travel brands to take advantage of this boom is OpenJaw Technologies, founded in 2002 with the vision of giving travel brands complete control over the customer’s journey. OpenJaw has a strong presence in the Chinese market, with customers including Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, and China United Airlines. Openjaw believes that airlines which understand China today can get a real insight into what is going to happen in Western travel over the coming years; which would include trends in user experience and digital consumer behaviours.
OpenJaw came to Frontend.com with the objective of not only being able to furnish a capable backend platform, but also to be able to offer a fully-customisable frontend design that exhibited best-in-class usability, considered personalisation, and unparalleled online conversion. A design system that would work on any device and anywhere in the world.
A Holistic Viewpoint
When it comes to the industries that our clients operate in, we always maintain that Frontend.com are “experts at becoming experts”. Therefore, we immersed ourselves in all things Travel and everything to do with OpenJaw. It became clear to us that their customers were incredibly diverse, with different business models, audiences, and technical infrastructures. They ranged from a European airline selling holiday packages to a Canadian loyalty programme that allows customers to redeem car hire and hotel rooms against points or miles earned.
Needless to say, it was critical for us to understand why and how people travel. We analysed and documented every step in the modern traveller’s digital user journey. We considered and profiled all types of traveller, from the solo business traveller to the family holidaymaker. Additionally, examining and understanding how OpenJaw’s competitors dealt with similar challenges also informed our thinking around the ideal flow through the interface for the user – from their initial search through to checkout and booking management. In parallel to this insight and analysis phase, we began work on a digital Style Guide that would record the design philosophy, patterns, and visual language that we developed, and which would be adopted by OpenJaw in their future design outputs. This Style Guide will facilitate quicker and more consistent designs across a broad range of digital outputs.
Moving on, we then sketched each component of the user flow and validated those with users and internal stakeholders. For example, a unique challenge was how to convey pricing that might be available in a dollar amount, miles only, or in several combinations of dollars and miles. We produced a series of design iterations that incorporated feedback from user testing with real loyalty programme members in order to create a design that resolved the issue.
Over the course of twelve months, we created final prototypes that represented all of the learning and best practice for each of OpenJaw’s channels: Flights, Hotels, Car Hire, Holidays, and Activities. These designs are currently being built and rolled-out to OpenJaw’s enterprise customers across the globe.
A True Partnership
Frontend.com and OpenJaw have established a truly collaborative partnership. Together we have created an innovative consumer experience for OpenJaw’s core products, primed for online conversion and increased basket size. We have incorporated advanced thinking around Progressive Disclosure into the design, helping to guide users through what can otherwise be overwhelming detail relating to their travel plans. The system innately thinks about the psychology of buying online, and we have incorporated Persuasion techniques such as Scarcity and Social Proof in order to facilitate cross-sell, switch-sell, and dynamic packaging. Our in-depth understanding of these techniques has allowed OpenJaw to anticipate the demand for inventive sales strategies and nuanced personalisation from their travel brand clients.
In order for design-led creativity to result in real Innovation, the designers involved need to be knowledgeable about the business of travel, have a deep understanding of the users they are designing for, and also be informed about the technologies they are working with.
Macdara Butler, Product Manager, OpenJaw Technologies
Furthermore, OpenJaw now has a comprehensive documented Style Guide that will ensure the consistency of their future designs and maintain the integrity of their design philosophy. This guide remains a living document that is used every day and which evolves as circumstances change.
All of the new designs work seamlessly across all devices and can be easily themed and customised for OpenJaw’s clients without impacting the core functionality or the design framework.
Ultimately, the work Frontend.com has completed with OpenJaw will make their travel industry clients more commercially successful, and in turn make their end-customers, passengers, and guests, happier and less likely to switch to competing travel providers.