– a profitable existing business with over 800,000 subscribers to their weekly travel deals newsletter – were obviously doing something right, finding great deals for their users week after week for years. But the website had been functioning as more or less an adjunct to the newsletter business – and the weekly web traffic spike in their stats was an obvious sign of this. Editors were required to manually update the site weekly, and there was no database underlying the site, so archiving and updating were an onerous task.

The Challenge

Here was a thriving business with a solid staff and a very basic website, which means it was a great opportunity for me to really add value to the business in the redesign. By enabling a database content management system behind the scenes, we were able to substantially transform the day to day management of the site and the business. And, in the process, brought about a really uplifted business and brand presence – enabling the business to set it’s sites on the next level of growth and business development.

The Process

First, we sat down with the client to discuss how enabling a CMS in the background would potentially affect the site and the way it was integrated into the overall business. It soon became clear that we could not only provide a greatly improved website, but that the database aspects of the CMS coupled with some content feeds to provide an array of deals to editors every morning would create an entirely new scope of business. Instead of manually searching for deals across the web, editors would now be able to search their own extensive database of deals and flag weekly and even daily deals for their users.

In addition to a vastly improved workflow behind the scenes, archiving of previous deals became effortless. Deals could be set to self-publish and expire when the deal was over, removing hours of maintenance for editors and providing an extensive history potential for editors and users.

The first change I made to the front end of the site was to re-organize the sections and pages of the site using a sitemap. Previously, the site had been built around region pages – one for Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, etc. – with ten deals per page, per week. In the new TravelAlerts, we decided it made more sense for the user to tell us from which region they were traveling, and then provide deals for that region only. Of course, users would have the option to change regions at any time.

This approach allowed us to greatly simplify the interface and move the concept of the departure region back in the user’s mind. Instead of surfing through regions and pages of deals not relevant to the user’s desired departure location, we now presented a simple interface with the top ten deals, period. In addition, users would have the capability to enter a destination to search the extensive database of other deals available at that time.

In addition, I identified a confusing flow in the current interface: namely that the weekly deals were presented in almost equal priority to the top ten deals, which leads to extraneous explanation and confusion etc. We decided that the best remedy would be to move the existing TripSearch widget down to the bottom of the page. TripSearch is a previous search technology that is used to search the web for deals, and will remain an important part of the TravelAlerts experience, but will no longer be confusing to users.

In addition, we punched up the icons which identify the deals by type and the actual deal prices themselves, and introduced the ability to sort deals by type and price in the main interface. Finally, to fill out the main navigation (which was now removed since we no longer had regions front and centre in the interface), we decided to provide top ten deals sorted by type as main navigation selections. So Flights, Vacations, Hotels, etc. became the sections of the site, and a mixed top ten list of the best deals on the site became the home page.

The Results

With the new interface design applied, the rejuvenated promises to be a real contender in the Canadian online travel deals space, and the new technology has opened up entirely new business possibilities for this great team of travel experts.