New Booking Interface - Request for Ideas

JasonJason CEOCheckfront
edited July 2011 in News and Updates
If you're using any of our cms plugins, eg Wordpress, Joomla, our dropbox, or just booking through the back-office, you're interacting with our central booking widget in one way or another.

Although the back-office application has seen continued development since we released version 1 last year, the general booking interface has not. It's been the least spectacular feature of the system for better or worse.  For the most part, it's served everybody well, but we're ready to move on.

We are now turning much of our efforts into the front-end integrations and booking interface, and would like to hear any suggestions you may have.

To date, here have been the some feedback on our widget(s):

PROs
  • Dead easy to install, pretty much anywhere.
  • Fully integrated into your website - adapts your branding, style and colors, and can be further customized via CSS.
  • Minimal steps to complete booking.
CONS
  • Tabbed navigation gets clumsy after it spans the page.
  • Loading all of the inventory at once can lag in the case of hundreds of inventory items.
  • Requesting the number of people / days etc at the top can be confusing, more-so with large categories.
Here's what we are looking at for our new interface(s):
  • Replace the tabs with an interactive list of available categories.
  • Support for sub-categories.
  • Include a search option and widget.
  • Request the booking parameters when an item is booked (instead of the header).
  • Allow more pictures, and the ability to zoom in.
  • Provide an expanded calendar view that shows availability and events and can initiate a booking.
  • (More) native integration with content management systems, including better session handling.
  • Provide more options to developers looking to extend or replace the booking process.
Please help us refine this list.  Suggestions are welcome here, or via a support ticket.

As always - thanks!

Comments

  • Based on our experience with the product and the WP plugin, I have two suggestions:

    1. The AJAX one-page checkout process, where a user must:

    - select a date
    - select a ticket quantity
    - select a tour

    is not very intuitive. In fact, we get a significant number of calls from people who just don't get it. You can see our process here:


    A more traditional checkout process - where each selection is on it's own page - isn't as elegant programming wise but is MUCH more similar to the rest of the checkout processes you find on the web. I think this is a critically needed enhancement.

    2. For some tour operators, it's probably nice to have a "reserved" status, but for us it's a nightmare. Our tickets are available until they are sold - we don't have any sort of "reserved" status and we don't want it. However, under the current system, when there is a problem with booking the default status is "reserved." It's caused us lots of headaches because when a consumer sees "reserved" they think they have a ticket.

    We can not shut off this feature.

    3. GA e-Commerce tracking doesn't work. Not sure why, but every sale we've tracked is listed as "direct" website traffic. Somewhere the GA cookie is getting reset.
  • JasonJason CEO Checkfront
    My guess is that your tickets are being set to reserved when a customer doesn't input the amount of people, this creating a zero dollar order and by-passing your payment processor. 

    A quick fix to that is to set at rule that forces a default quality of 1.  This wont allow customers to checkout without specifying the number of tickets.

    Thanks for your feedback.  We'll post an update here when we have a beta of the new checkout.

  • edited July 2011
    Jason - Thanks for that suggestion. My concern is that it makes our checkout process even more confusing...now people can't see the available tours until they put in a desired ticket quantity. However, what if someone doesn't want to enter a quantity because they feel like it's a commitment of some kind? What if they don't see any tours listed and just assume that we're sold out?

    I'm not arguing with you here (I appreciate the response), but the process for checkout should be 1-2-3 simple:

    1 + 2. Select a tour and select a date, or vice versa (this step is interchangeable)
    3. Select your ticket quantities and 'add to cart'
    4. Checkout

    Each of these steps should be on a different page and/or force an AJAX reload so the user feels like they've completed a step.

    Frankly, we need this sooner rather than later...does the API offer us the tools to make this work now? We're losing business compared to our crummy old system that had a standard checkout process.
  • JasonJason CEO Checkfront
    Setting a minimum qty should not remove items that are available to be booked.   If you have a look a the booking page at http://urbanpirates.com/ -- you'll see all tours listed, with a message instructing the user that a quantity must be supplied to add a booking.

    Alternatively, you can use the API to re-create the booking process in any way you see fit on your end.

    We'll have a hosted beta available soon of the new checkout, so I'll post here when that happens.

    Thanks!
    -J


  • Jason, you and I have a scheduled meeting for this week to discuss the development need that I see most often: A large embeddable calendar with the option of displaying images. I realize this flies in the face of your pre-existing paradigm (static items that recur on a schedule) but this is not the model that many event businesses use.

    To me, a system that is built to only work intuitively with a hotel-like business model is limited to just that.


    www.wineandeasel.com/reserveyourseat
  • Jason,

    I'm using a WP plug in for a calender widget.  A big problem is that when a guest selects a date on the calendar, it can appear that nothing happens.  To make it easier, selecting a date should bring them to the next booking step.

    Matt
  • Not sure it's fully what you are looking for, but... I'd love to see a much tighter integration for the front-end (client) interface with Joomla (as opposed to simply be basically an embedded form). 

    Of course... Ultimately... I'm hoping this would lead to a front-end multilingual version of Checkfront that could work with Joomfish for Joomla, to serve clients in more languages :)


  • What happened to the booking interface update?
  • JasonJason CEO Checkfront
    Hey Mike - it still under heavy development.  We've taken some extra time to focus on version 2.0 of our API. This not only provides new functionality to the booking interface, but makes way for a many new projects on our roadmap (new CMS plugins, mobile etc).

    Stay tuned for an announcement.

  • I would like to see compatibility with the Opera browser.

    The argument is that only 1% of the browsers used are Opera.
    To me that means that for ever 100 guests, 1 user will not able to make a reservation. 
    When we have thousands of reservations each year, this number is significant.
    This problem also doesn't seem as difficult as some.

    Thank you,
    BJ
  • JasonJason CEO Checkfront
    it wont be fixed in the current plugins due to comparability issues with the rendering engine (believe me we've tried), but will not be an issue in the next generation as discussed here.
  • edited October 2011
    I took a brief look at Checkpoint and while I love its simplicity, it's ability to integrate with Joomla, Wordpress etc and its back office functionality, I couldn't get past the big issues of lack of styling, images and more importantly, the lack of search engine visibility.

    My existing rental solution, because is is closely integrated within my joomla website, are page targets for google search etc. This gives us a huge SEO boost - every page is a target, there are 100 properties = 100 more ways of being found.

    The image issue is huge - people love to browse a gallery, If they like the look of the property they read the blurb and either make a call or book. Having just one image doesn't give the customer confidence in the product and for this reason I think bookings would be lower than for other image rich systems.

    While styling may be way down the list of priorities, it would be nice to have the option of making the checkpoint page more closely reassemble the website it is working with.

    Cross browser functionality is important but Opera wouldn't be a big issue for us. Providing it works for IE, Firefox and Safari I think you pretty much have it all covered. I take on board that 1% might use Opera but 99% use everything else. If there are browser problems I think they are most likely going to be associated with IE rather than Firefox and Safari, at least in my experience.

    I don't know if these points are helpful or relevant to others but I hope so.

    Cheers
    Dave
  • edited October 2011
    Maybe I just didn't look well enough but one thing I cannot find, at least in solutions that integrate with Wordpress, is an out of the box Shopping-Cart system that allows customers to add multiple products (say, a walk, a boat tour and a bike ride).

    And editing the shopping cart is essencial, of course.

    So this is my interface request for all of the web booking developers out there! :-)

    Thanks a lot,
    RP
  • Great system guys, but I do have a rising concern with the system which could be easily addressed. If it could be possible to create a multi-category "filter" system it would help with our booking system tremendously. A scenario, for instance arises when we would like to search through 1Br/1Ba apartments in a particular building.

    I can create ONE category and name it a particular building, but would like the ability to quickly search the available 1Bedrooms in that building (second category filter). This would be extremely vital to the way we do business.

    Thanks,
    KP
  • Havent read throught all suggestions, so this might be suggested already.
    We do fishing trips where there is room for up to 12 persons on each trip.
    When someone tries to book for instance 4 days for 5 persons and one of the dates chosen there are no seats left, then it says Sold Out. Many cutomers might interpret this as if there are no seats on any of the days. The customer might wish to book the other days when there are seats left. So it would be great if when the customer does the search, it shows the individual dates and shows the number of available seats on each boat.
  • On a technical level, the booking interface (WP) can support buying multiple rooms. The usability is not intuitive, however. If you want to book two different types of rooms (1 of each) it's hard.

    We think the system should work so book one room at a time, and you have a big, clear button which is "Add another room" or whatever you want the button to say.

    Basically multiple room booking needs to have more solid integrity when you're booking more than one room of more than one type. There must be some way to make the functionality more solid and intuitive whilst still keeping the flexibility that it can be used on many platforms.
  • Hey Jason, just wondering when the new  frontend wordpresss pluggin is expected to be introduced?  
This discussion has been closed.