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Oban International

SEO, Social Media, Testing

Flashy vs. Simplicity

What works best on travel websites?

New research shows that international travellers prefer eye-catching design over simplicity in travel websites. Interestingly, two-thirds of these same respondents reported using Google, renowned for its minimalist design, above all other search engines.

These findings, from multilingual search engine optimisation (SEO) company, which surveyed international travellers from over 40 countries, may leave some travel website providers wondering: which is better, eye-catching or simple design?

Let’s start with some definitions.

Simple: not elaborate or showy in appearance or style; can also be referred to as plain, unassuming, and unpretentious.

Eye-catching: readily attracting notice; can be also referred to as bold, outstanding and pronounced.

Websites often fall into one of these two camps (though they can also fall in between).

It must be kept in mind that website preferences vary according to culture. For travel sites looking to target particular international markets, it is key to understand what sort of design the culture is looking for before entering that market.

In China, for example, there is a preference for busy, flashy websites. For this reason, Google’s strategy to ‘delight the eye without distracting the mind’ may not go over as well in there as in other countries. Despite this, Google’s biggest Chinese competitor, Baidu, has a near identical template.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management looked at the preferences of online travel buyers and browsers at Hong Kong International Airport. Not surprisingly, the report found that browsers left e-commerce websites because of poor content and difficulty of use.

Interestingly, this study found that ease of navigation ranked higher in importance than layout and design.

In the world of search engine optimisation, a flashy website can be a disadvantage. Specifically, flash-based websites typically do not rank as well since the search engine crawlers cannot read flash, and therefore have trouble indexing them.

Another problem with graphic-heavy websites is that they can be clunky and users may become frustrated while they take ages to load.

The obvious drawback of overly modest websites is they can be lacklustre and unexciting, resulting in an uninspired user leaving the page.

Mohammad Heidari Far, search engine optimisation specialist at Oban, gives this advice to travel site designers: “In general, usability is always a plus point for every website and it is good practice to keep the site design simple but at the same time not boring.”

In addition to raising the flashy versus simplicity website design dilemma, Oban’s findings may reflect a market for a bold, eye-catching travel search portal to come in and whisk away faithful Googlers who may be ready for an exciting new search experience.