By Tom Levey, tech evangelist at AppDynamics
The internet has conditioned us to expect instant answers to our queries. Google can search and return hundreds of millions of results in a fraction of a second. Why then, can't travel websites do the same with much less information to analyse?
When you search for cheap flights on a travel comparison website, it often takes a frustratingly long time for the results to be returned - several seconds, rather than the milliseconds we are used to for web search. During this time the user, having inputted their dates and destinations, is forced to sit and look at a status bar.
There was a time when the long wait was reassuring, giving us confidence that the site was leaving no stone unturned in its exhaustive search to find us the very cheapest flights. Today, however, our expectations of technology have grown so great that we’re no longer reassured by long waits – instead, we’re frustrated.
This is especially so when it comes to mobile apps, as we found in our study of users’ app attention spans this summer.
Nearly half (48%) of UK respondents said that their expectations of app performance are increasing over time, while the same proportion said that they were less tolerant of problems with apps or websites than they used to be.
Clearly, then, it does not matter whether the delay in returning search results is deliberate or not; it is a serious problem that travel companies need to investigate and, resolve quickly .
While addressing application performance problems is critical for any provider of mobile apps, it is an especially important issue for travel firms: our research found that travel apps came second in the league table of users’ expectation of flawless performance, above both e-commerce and entertainment apps.
Digging a little deeper, we can see the damage that delay can have on travel companies that do not provide a seamless mobile experience. Almost half (44%) of users say they would give up on an app if pages take longer than 10 seconds to load.
That’s an awful lot of business that will desert a poorly-performing app and take their lucrative business to a competitor.
Poor app performance is a very real problem. Around half of our respondents said that they had experienced app crashes or slow loading (46 and 47%) in the last year, leaving users (in their words) frustrated, stressed and angry. No brand wants its customers to feel that way, but least of all a travel company whose users are in need of a relaxing holiday.
Even if the customer perseveres with a poorly-performing app and finally manages to book their flight or hotel after the app times out or crashes, the experience will be such that they’re unlikely to use the app – or the travel company – ever again.
Yet there are reasons for the travel industry, as a whole, to be optimistic that they can address app performance problems, especially those sites aimed at digital natives - those who were born into a web-enabled world.
Companies that have only existed in the Internet age (indeed, which make the web the central plank of their business strategy) are better placed to make the changes to their underlying IT infrastructure that will improve the way their customers’ app experience.
Traditional businesses often have complex IT systems that have been built up over years, with layers of on-premise hardware, multiple generations of software and various cloud assets.
Since providing perfectly-performing mobile apps relies on many different systems working seamlessly, the complexity of legacy IT militates against initiatives to improve mobile apps.
Most online travel firms, however, are or will become software-defined businesses (SDBs), enterprises whose fundamental value proposition is defined, enabled or delivered through software.
One notable example of an SDB is Expedia, which has revolutionised the travel industry by creating a rich and seamless user experience online.SDBs typically have highly complex IT architectures, with all the potential risks outlined above.
They employ sophisticated analytics and monitoring applications to help mitigate these risks.
These tools give SDBs certainty about the operation of their business, IT infrastructure and applications in real-time, and enable them rapidly respond to, or even predict, issues that may arise.
As modern technology has shrunk the world, we have come to expect travel to be quick and easy – not just the journey but purchase, too. There is no excuse for any delay for travel apps, whether it be deliberate or not. Instead, travel companies must ensure that using their apps is not a chore, but a first pleasurable step in one’s long-awaited holiday.
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