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About Pacarama Peru
“Pacarama.com is the ultimate hotel directory for South America. With nearly 2,000 hotels in our database, our site features the most comprehensive listing of Peruvian and Chilean hotels anywhere on the internet and more are being added all the time.”
For these critiques, I’m pretty selective about the sites that I choose to let participate. They don’t have to be design related, they simply have to represent an interesting challenge. After all, as professional web designers, I’m sure you spend your time on all kinds of client projects and we’d like our content to reflect that. We’ve never had a travel site before so this should make a great case study!
Here is a screenshot of the site:
What Are The Goals Here?
Given that this is a new site genre for us, let’s consider some possible goals for the site so we can analyze whether or not the design is meeting those goals.
Obviously, these guys are looking to make some money, who isn’t? The way they’re going about it is by selling you hotel stays in Peru. With that in mind, I would imagine that the goals would be something like the following: educate, entice, present a clear and unique value proposition, and make the sale.
Here we have not only a basic set of goals but an actual process to lead the user through. I’m sure they have some more specific ideas about what they want, but I think it’s safe to assume that they would ascribe a high level of importance to each of these. Let’s weigh the site against each of them individually.
The first thing you need to do if I stumble on your site is to tell me a little about Peru. Odds are, someone ready to book a trip already knows a little about where they’re going, but if I’m still in the research stage, you need to help boost my knowledge.
One very basic question that needs answering here is, “where the heck is Peru?” Never assume your visitors are well informed, it’s your job to make them that way when they leave though. This site actually hits on this one pretty well with a very attractive little map that shows “Peru” written in nice, 3D block letters.
My only issue with this is that the map seems a little zoomed in. It’s a very attractive graphic, so I’m not sure I’d scratch this one, but maybe a hover state could depict a zoomed out view so I can get my bearings as to where we are in the world.
Digging around, I was able to find a map like this on another page, we could drop this map in here like so:
We can take this further and highlight the specific area of Peru so that it’s easy to spot without too much scanning and eye strain.
Let’s push further with this concept of education. A map is nice, but it’s no sales pitch. We see some more of this though in the sections regarding the Amazon Rain Forest, which is no doubt a popular point of interest for travelers.
Following this link takes you to a page with a big Wikipedia like discussion on this location, above some links to book your trip of course.
If you’re still in need of more more information after reading this blurb, you can go one level further in and find an entire page dedicated to educating you on this topic!
I have to say, I expected the site to be a little weak in this area but they’re knocking it out of the park. If you’re not interested in the education aspect of the site, it doesn’t get in the way. However, if you do want more information, you can gradually wade into it in a nicely staggered manner. Very well done!
Perhaps even more important than the education aspect, is the goal of enticing the visitor. Not everyone wants to embark on an academic quest for knowledge about their vacation spot, but everyone certainly wants to see pictures of where they’re going.
If you’re selling me a trip, show me what I’m getting and how it’s so incredibly different than what I’m used to (in a good way). The site is currently doing that with this image of Arequipa.
This is great, but it’s simply not enough. This should be a slideshow that cycles through beautiful imagery of sprawling landscapes and fascinating culture. Don’t only show me the culture, show me pictures of people like myself, smiling and enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes that Peru has to offer. Make me jealous of the people in those pictures. That’s what makes someone reach for their credit card.
Present a Clear and Unique Value Proposition
This one is massively important. Even if you convince me that I do indeed want to see all of these places that you’re telling me to visit, you still have the challenge of getting me to believe that you’re the one to get me there. There are tons of travel sites on the web, why would I choose this one?
Here’s the answer that the site gives:
Admittedly, these are solid answers. Unfortunately, they’re sort of lost on the page amidst a bunch of other stuff. This is a message that needs to be given priority through space and visual prominence. Tell me loud and proud that you know Peru better than anyone else around, that you have more hotels than the competition with prices that they can’t touch and that I’ll have my trip booked in minutes flat.
Given space constraints, perhaps just one of these should be pulled out to become a big headline. You could even construct several messages, one of which is randomly chosen each time the page loads (A/B testing will help you decide which works best).
Where’s the Value?
That covers the unique aspect, but value goes further than that. Obviously, a big part of this is how much I’m going to spend. As far as I understand them, travel sites make a huge deal about all of the money they’re going to save you. I simply don’t see that idea being pushed on this site.
Consider this example from the Priceline.com home page.
Save, new, deal, 45% off; it may seem like cheesy marketing stuff, but as long as you don’t overdue it, these words catch my attention. The big sites pour them on like butter and make a fortune as a result. The designer in me would never encourage a website to go crazy with lame sales tactics but the marketer in me says that Pacarama could do a better job in this area.
Seal the Deal
Now we’ve convinced visitors that Peru is the place to be and that we’re the site to get them there, now it’s time to get them into a hotel. When I’m ready for this step, there’s a giant orange box that I can’t miss, ready to help me out:
This is great, it stands out on the page well and demands my attention. Whatever you do with making other things more prominent on the site, make sure you don’t compete too much with the unique attention given to this item.
The process here is easy and familiar, type in a date and location, get some options. Unfortunately, I tried this several times and every single time, as I walked through the process, this box effectively narrowed down my location, but the dates had to be entered again at a later step. This is frustrating and redundant. The best way to kill your user experience is to make visitors repeat the same steps over and over again.
Visually, this process stays clean and attractive, just like the rest of the site. I love all of the large pictures of each hotel. Many of them, though perfectly good, are not quite professional quality, which actually somehow makes them more believable than other travel sites where the room in the picture is never the one that you actually get.
One thing I don’t see here is user reviews for each hotel. There is a generic star rating with no explanation, but no real reviews. These seem like a big deal in the travel site world and I think they could go a long way towards helping the decision making process.
Overall, Pacarama has a great looking site. If we assume a basic set of goals for the design, it performs fairly well against those goals. There are definitely some areas that could use improving, especially in the “entice” and “value proposition” goals, but advancement shouldn’t be too difficult.
The lesson here for you as a reader is how we went about analyzing this site’s design. What are the goals for the project that you’re working on? When you analyze your design against those goals, how are you doing?
Now that you’ve read my comments, pitch in and help out by giving the designer some further advice. Let us know what you think is great about the design and what you think could be stronger. As always, we ask that you also be respectful of the site’s designer and offer clear constructive advice void of any harsh insults.