by anthony on 10/23/13 at 10:18 am
Booking airline tickets is one of the most common tasks online. Every time users book a flight they have to use the awkward, outdated calendar widget to select their depart and return date. For the past few years, these calendar widgets have looked and functioned the same way on travel websites. The user clicks a text field, a bi-monthly calendar appears, user selects a date and the date appears in the selected text field. Users have to do this process twice for both the depart and return dates. This approach isn’t a usability disaster, but it’s not the fastest and easiest approach for selecting dates.
A Unified Calendar
A more efficient approach is to unify the depart and return text fields and calendars into one. A unified calendar requires less mental and visual processing from users than the old calendar. This is because users only need to look at one fixated area to select their dates. Also, the user selects the depart and return dates on the same calendar, making it easier for users to see the spread of days in between the dates. Once selected, the dates appear near each other allowing users to quickly and mentally confirm their selection.
Kayak’s flight calendar is the perfect example of a unified calendar. It has one text field and two buttons that separate the depart date to one side and the return date to the other. When the user clicks the depart button, they get a bi-monthly calendar to select their depart date. After the users selects one, it takes the user to select the return date on the same bi-monthly calendar. The user can see the spread of days and weeks highlighted between their dates in a single calendar. After the user selects a return date, the text field shows the exact day and date the user is departing and returning. Unifying the calendar and the dates makes the information clearer and more coherent when the user reads it.
The old calendars on travel websites are inefficient and need improvement. The new unified calendar decreases the mental and visual processing users need to pick dates for their flight, making it faster and easier to use than the old calendar. Many users use travel websites everyday. If a new design approach can make booking airline tickets easier for a large amount of users, it’s time to change.