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What Chinese travel pages have taught me about the user interface

Browsing through travel sites is my strange, self-consuming, time-consuming extravaganza. I do not know what's so exciting about the ticket lists, I just like them. I like them in the way I like cheesecake and Pearl Jam.

I once wrote Adioso a sweeping fan mail because I thought her search for tickets to people was hotter than Jorah Mormont in full plate mail

My first experience with Chinese travel sites was booking tickets on eLong many moons ago ̵

1; 2007 I think? They had an English-language interface, and although they did not use any international payment methods at the time, I was able to stop by their office and hand over cash.

I have since followed or followed most of the major Chinese travel suppliers cTrip (they of transcendent English-speaking customer service), Qunar and to a lesser extent AliTrip, Alibaba recently entered the industry , Notable differences between these and most western-based companies abound:

Customer Touchpoints for Aggregators

Bypassing accountability by Western travel aggregators (except you Agoda ) has become an accepted norm Websites are there to search If you need help with your booking, call the airline or the hotel directly. The Expedia Hotline for Expedia is buried with five clicks:


Support (Dropdown)> Customer Service

Contact Button

Select a topic> Select a category

Finally, long and terrible a telephone number

And then there is this agoraphobic customer service landing page of Orbitz :

The message is crystal clear: these people would rather do something earthly than call you. They would rather have a popcorn core in their teeth forever. They would rather smell their own farts.

The leading travel companies in China are not behaving like this. They do not give the plebs an e-mail address or access to a knowledge base and call them daily.

Customer contact points are immediate and accessible. Look at these Chinese UIs. Look where the phone number is. It's right there, usually over the fold (if you can say it exists):


Qunar (ooh, 24-hour service)


The recent study by Epsilon on Chinese consumer behavior relies on this finding that brand loyalty is highest for seamless online and offline customer service through digital brands:

SHANGHAI, February 26, 2015 / PRNewswire / Epsilon The World's Leading Provider of People-to-Brand Connections Completed Its Study on the habits of Chinese consumers.

The report found that 61 percent of Chinese respondents believe they are loyal to e-commerce actors such as Taobao, JD and Tmall …

Epsilon The research report revealed several other trends in China: the best-trained companies that integrate online and offline touchpoints to provide seamless customer service now have the loyalty of Chinese consumers.

by Apple The highest score for the loyalty of any of the mentioned brands, which designate 17 percent of the brands questioned and cited in all categories. Lifestyle brands that have a direct impact on consumer health, including food chains, restaurants and financial services, also received high loyalty ratings.

Strong Separation of National and International Search and Identification Systems

Chinese travel websites require each user to actively select users, whether they are domestic or international, and switch between different search features, a distinction that we not found on US user interfaces.


International and domestic flights even have their own landing pages, being the deals and callouts are separated by target type. To be honest, I've been scouring a few research piles and can not understand why that is, and I can not see an answer to that question online. From a UX point of view, it seems superfluous.

For each type of search, there are some other form fields, but nothing that could not be consolidated into a single interface with a little smart thinking. Either there is a problem of imitation (everyone does it, so I have to), a technical problem or, I suspect, a user behavior that may indicate the possibility that Chinese consumers consider domestic and foreign travel as two separate things.

I'm in the process of finding some answers and keeping my fingers crossed.

"Disposable" Domestic is standard

Suppose these front-end options are determined by data, and the default settings can tell us a bit about which features are most popular. The default settings for searching for air tickets are "domestic, one-way". ("Roundtrip" is the default setting for the international tab.)

Again looking for final answers, but there are a couple of possible reasons that come to mind here:

  • Trains are very convenient and cheap. Chinese consumers are more likely to buy a plane ticket and a train ticket back there.
  • Chinese consumers are more likely to make domestic trips where the return date is determined upon arrival.
  • Chinese consumers prefer to buy two simple tickets rather than a round trip.

Some screenshots, again from the Big Four:



Focus on Traveling as a Gift

Most Chinese and Western travel aggregators offer similar services in the main navigation. The focus is on flights and hotels, there are secondary booking services for activities, car rentals and some cruises here and there.

However, the main navigation areas on the Chinese travel pages also include gift and charge cards, a focus that is prominently downplayed in Western UI.

The exception here is again Alitrip, probably because their payment platforms and account management systems are integrated into Taobao, and Taobao offers its own gift programs.

Ctrip Gift Cards

Qunar "Camel Cards"

eLong Gift Cards [19659016]

We are dead legit

And while this is not universal, both Qunar and Alitrip both care to place product warranties in relatively important screen real estate positions.

I do not think there's a lot of mystery why. Alizila, a website with e-commerce news and comments from the Alibaba group, cites recent findings suggesting that Chinese consumers need more security than elsewhere:

Consumers need more hand position and assurances during the purchasing process. They are comparatively demanding and want far more information about products and suppliers than buyers in other countries.

Kendra Schaefer writes about The User Pixellary about the Chinese user interface and serves as Creative Tech Director at Trivium China, a political, economic and technological analysis business. It lurks since 2004 in the Beijing tech scene.

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