Inspirator or Inspiroscope?

October 16, 2007

I got a bit confused when I hit the Expedia homepage this morning…

I don’t visit Expedia very often, I usually find better prices elsewhere and book my flights on industry rates so don’t find a great deal of use for the online travel agent. However, it is a great site and one which all in online travel could learn something from. They merchandise products like no-one else and have some great usability features that make it easy to find good prices and products.

Over a year ago they built the Inspirator, a tool which allowed users a more human friendly way to get some inspiration into their holiday research process. It allowed users to choose two themes (eg. romantic, beaches, nightlife) and then choose a desired type of weather (warm, hot or ‘I don’t mind) and then how far they want to fly and where from. The Inspirator then presents the user with some information on matching destinations along with some relevant offers. It’s not the most inspiring piece of functionality and anyone with a good command of a Google search will find they can research better there, but for the majority of web users it serves a good purpose.

Now, Expedia have launched another take on this kind of guided navigation/research, the Inspiroscope. The Inspiroscope is similar but it’s basically a homage to Web 2.0, travel style. This is essentially a tag cloud presented in Flash format which users can click on a word from and be presented with five matching destinations. It works, it looks quite nice and again, for someone not proficient in using the internet or really inexperienced at travel it’s probably fine. But for anyone more experienced it’s really limiting! Google presents far better results if you have any skill in web searching at all, or maybe try Tripadvisor

Maybe I’m being a little harsh, theses types of functionality serve a purpose for Expedia. They’re more engaging than a normal availability search, provide insight into destinations and are a value add for users. They also provide opportunities to build the brand and engage users while acquiring new CRM opportunities. So it’s not all bad!

They could be done better though! For example, merge this functionality with Opodo’s Escape Map and you make it even more engaging, allow users to explore as well as guiding them and you will engage them further. Link the results to Google Earth to allow users to view the area more closely. Allow users to add in restrictions on price & dates and they become much more valuable. Integrate hotel ratings and allow the process to proceed beyond the destinations to the selection of a property and you will really turn these tools into conversion enhancers (rather than just nice features).

As an aside, it’s been brought to my attention that Expedia and Opodo have left some of this functionality rather open. Expedia have left access open to an XML file which contains all the tag words in their Inspiroscope and also contains the number of votes for each word. Great if you want to get an idea of how to tag your own content… Opodo meanwhile have left a backdoor in their Escape Map which allows users to pass a query string which will return XML data of the offers that can be displayed on the map. Great for anybody wanting to scrape a load of offers from their site (or compare prices)…

Edit: To link to Alex Bainbridge’s original article


2 Responses to “Inspirator or Inspiroscope?”

  1. Alex Bainbridge Says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thats quite a coincidence that you happened to post an article rather similar to mine…..

    Original article

    A hat tip would have been appreciated.

    There are very few UK travel industry bloggers and really we should just all get along collaboratively – which means linking to articles where appropriate.

    best wishes. Alex

  2. Steve E Says:

    Hi Alex,

    Just read your very good article. On this occasion I was sent the info about the XML data being exposed by an industry pal and hadn’t seen your article. Have linked to it at the foot of my post.



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