2013 Melbourne Design Awards - Deadlines

1 August - Entries CLOSE
11 August - Extended close date
19 August - Judging
27 August - Finalists announced
23 September - Voting closes
23 October - Awards Night
2013 Melbourne Design Awards
 

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Hotels.com.au

Finalist

Project Overview

Hundreds of hours of usability testing and design work resulting in a modern, simple and user friendly online platform for booking any hotel in the world. When it comes to online travel and modern websites, today’s users have very high expectations. Designing a user friendly and intuitive experience on top of so many complex functions, features and data was exceptionally challenging.

Project Commissioner

Online Travel Group
Chris K

Project Creator

Alaress

Project Team

Ryan Hughes
Matthew Sambell
James Leckie

Project Brief

Hotels.com.au is Australia’s foremost provider of online hotel and travel reservation services. The Online Travel Group needed a unified online booking service for affordable accommodation and travel to keep abreast of industry developments and trends.

The website required functionality for users to book international hotels, flights, cruises, rental cars, travel insurance and sporting events and manage their bookings online.

In 2002 Alaress was first engaged by the Online Travel Group (OTG) to pilot this massive project. Now 9 years in development and this recent version required over two years of research and development and resulted in a custom built booking platform and content management system (CMS).

In 2009, Alaress commenced planning the re-design and development of a new and improved website, Hotels.com.au version 2.0.

This complex web application needed to be built again from the ground up so Alaress mapped clear business requirements and advanced functionality specification, formed an online marketing strategy and a solid system scope.

The information and application architecture phase was detailed and required a high level of technical experience. The website is integrated with over five API data feeds provided from multiple external providers including Google’s Map’s division, Expedia, Lonely Planet, Avis and AIG.

Understanding the new system would have to cater for an extraordinary amount of web traffic, customised enterprise web hosting hardware infrastructure was deployed. Rigorous system design and creative processes resulted in new interfaces focused on usability and increased accessibility.

The system core was developed on emerging open source web technologies including jQuery and the Symfony development framework.

Alaress’ SEO services and online marketing strategy ensure page one ranking for seriously competitive keywords such as “hotel accommodation”.

Being only Version 2.0 of this website means that it doesn’t stop here. Alaress will continue working to improve this website for many years to come.

Project Innovation / Need

The Hotels.com.au website is large and complex. Alaress designed and developed the system architecture, website interfaces and content management system from the ground up following strict SDLC methodology.

The system core was developed on emerging open source web technologies including HTML5, CSS3, jQuery and Symfony and features integration with over five API data feeds from external providers.

Everything is custom built from the ground up including a sophisticated administration panel and content management system that allows the client to manage the company, reservations, cancellations, migrations, membership, reward points, page content, email marketing and so much more.

The implementation phase was backed by a detailed wireframe process to document how each of the XML data sources would integrate with the application and integration testing was carried out.

Understanding the new system would have to cater for an extraordinary amount of web traffic, customised enterprise web hosting hardware infrastructure was deployed.

Web hosting infrastructure was custom designed, tested and deployed and is supported on-going.

Design Challenge

When it comes to online travel and modern websites, today’s users have pretty high expectations.

When Alaress originally built Hotels.com.au (in 2006) we learned a lot of hard lessons. At the time it was one of the hardest websites we had ever built, predominately because designing a user friendly and intuitive experience on top of so many complex functions, features and data is challenging.

The web had changed a lot since the original site went live, so when Alaress commenced the scoping of Hotels.com.au Version 2.0, we knew the user interface was going to be make or break for the success of this web application.

We took all the knowledge and experience previously learned about online travel, user expectations, what works, what doesn’t, reviewing trends and best practices and used it all to create truly user friendly and intuitive interfaces.

Our initial project team consisted of digital strategists, usability specialists, front-end technologists, system architects and our creative director. We started by wire-framing and planning the core user interfaces of the new website. No detail was too small and you don’t want to know how many hours we clocked up.

This process was lengthy and required numerous revision phases. Every user interface, possible scenario, use case and interaction was thought through, diagrammed, discussed and decided upon.

Probably the most difficult task was translating large amounts of data and information from external data providers to user interfaces and then designing user friendly yet complex functionality around them.

Sustainability

Simplicity in booking hotels online is something this modern world can relate to pretty easily and online travel is definitely a sustainable industry!

All work on this application/website was completed on Melbourne soil in downtown Camberwell Junction in Melbourne's Eastern suburbs by the passionate digital team at Alaress.

Alaress is committed to the adoption of environmentally responsible policies and practices throughout its operation. We focus on the following:

- Waste reduction. Alaress separates all recyclables from our trash, including the proper disposal of batteries.
- We eecycle all toner cartridges from printers and copier, dispose of our IT assets and equipment in an environmentally friendly manner.
- Alaress replaces old IT servers and minimises the overall number of servers we utilise to reduce our consumption of non-renewable energy.
- We encourage all employees to turn their computer monitors off after work.
- Electronic time-sheeting and time cards.
- Electronic invoices rather than hard-copy documents in partnership with many of our customers.
- Where appropriate, we purchase PCs that include energy smart options.
- Create partnerships with similar minded suppliers
- Strive for a paperless office