Travel as a category has been a leader when it comes to adopting new technology. As a budding traveler and a curator of www.ghumakkar.com, I would hazard a guess that it might have to do with them being more liberal and risk-taking about new things. May be you have to be ready to face the uncertain, that makes them a traveler and in-turn an ‘early adopter’ of new technology. Over last 6 years, if we look at the interest level in ’Travel Apps’, it has constantly grown. Here’s is some data from ‘Google Trends’
I was looking more into this and realized that as many as 87 % of all global travellers carry a smart phone. 45 % have used their phones to plan their trips and almost 70% of people post photos, notes while or after the trip. Please click this info-graphic for a better read.
So a new travel app hits the stores and a request for review comes along. So here’s my short review on ‘ClearTrip’ iOS app. I tried this on an iPhone 6 for a few hours, switching between making notes, trying new features and getting a sense of what it is. My intent was to look at this app from the usability, experience as well as functional angle and whether I would recommend this or not. And after my review, my answer is that it is indeed something which must be tried. There is more work to be done but I could sense the promise. If you do not want to read my detailed review, you can click here and download it for the Apple App store.
Lets take a deep dive to understand it more.
The app is divided into into five tabs viz. Flights, Hotels, Trains, Trips and then a bunch of other things. The clear division between Flight/Trains/Hotels is really good because that keeps one focused on one activity. It helps a person to get done quickly on what he wants to do. On Mobile, there is a value in keeping things simple, to the point and functional. While it needs to be functional, it still need to be inspiring or a compelling design. Here is what the ClearTrip app looks like,
And here is what TripAdvisor App looks like. The first UI has three scrolls.
And even if you manage to find ‘Flights’ amid all the numerous options, the ‘Flights UI’ is not inspiring at all.
While the first few seconds experience was refreshing, this is not to say that Cleartrip app doesn’t have fluff. It has and quite a lot of things. I am not sure on why would they want to do it. I still earn for a day when we have more apps which look like ‘Uber’ than these feature-rich, cluttered apps. But the good thing is that all the other fluff is tucked separately under ‘More Options’ and hence it doesn’t distract you. I did’t venture much there because to do a good job of reviewing it, it would have taken a lot of time.
Now, lets double click on the initial experience. After going through the download and the usual messages where the app wants to know your location and wants to send you notifications, you finally get to see the ‘Landing Page’. It is really really clean, plush i.e. a lot of white and sans-seriff font, understated and classy, and a clutter free UI. The first screen is indeed gives one a refreshing, light feel and that would go a long way in ensuring that users stick to it and not move to other tabs.
The other tabs viz. Hotels, Trains are in the same scheme but interestingly the treatment is not same.
In Flights, all the input fields are prominently displayed and then there is big ‘Red – Call to Action’ button i.e. ’Search Flights’. When you go to ‘Hotels’ page, you see a different thing.
That was quite a surprise. It looked as if two different UX personalities are working on these two screens. You would not want to do that.
So enough of experience talk, lets get down to some real work. I tried looking for a return flight ticket from New Delhi to Kolkata on the Oct 2nd weekend. It was a breeze to select dates, airports, number of travellers etc. But even on a Airtel 3G connection, the system timed-out. Thats a bummer.
So I tried again and with-in a minute, I was able to select a flight, enter all my details, and move to last step. It allows one to skip registration, as long as one is able to provide an email address which is good. On the last step (step 4), when I finally clicked ‘Continue Booking’, the app got stuck.
So I went back and made some changes and again the button wont budge. Since I could go back and change a few things, it occurred to me that it is waiting for me to input the mobile number. I would have appreciated some subtle feedback, may be a highlighted edit box, but once I figured that out, it was a matter of just a couple of more clicks and one is done. I am truly impressed by this fluid/clean workflow. Bravo.
The first tab is the most polished. I would guess that most time was spent on this tab and it is visible. Great job indeed.
Now lets move forward and do one more test, this time lets try to book a Hotel. The search was nifty and the Auto-Suggest works very well. I was able to get a list of hotels for the destination I searched.
For each hotel, I could easily access the TripAdvisor reviews and ratings, price, photos, location. Since it is a mobile app, I would have preferred more options like (Near you) as well as some connect with my social-landscape (your x friend has visited this hotel) but I guess these features would come up soon. Overall, I was satisfied with the hotel booking workflow though I didn’t spend as much time as I did on the flights screen.
Moving on, the train thing looked similar to Flights. So it was hard to understand on why Hotel tab looks and feel different.
The initial screen loads faster, one can enter the search criteria, look for trains they want to, and to book it they would need to sign-in. My guess is that IRCTC must be forcing ClearTrip to have more user-data but just like flights, it would be convenient if one can just enter their mobile number and email address and book a train ticket.
Finally, the 4th tab talks about ‘Trips’ which you have booked via Cleartrip. And then there is a whole lot of options under ‘More’ having tools for currency conversion, something called waytogo and so on. I think this flab can be cut and app can be made more focused.
So all in all, the flights experience was refreshing, clean, un-cluttered, easy to interact, large icons and worked well. Same is true for Trains. Hotel booking is pretty comprehensive with all the details easily available though the experience is different than flights and Trains. And then a whole lot of goodies to kill your time while your waiting for the boarding call.
Good job Cleartrip. Go ahead and download now – Apple – http://bit.ly/11uEicM
I haven’t tried the Andriod, Windows Phone and Blackberry flavours but the app is available for those platforms as well.
Hope you liked the review and I do get more requests for more such reviews.