Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Kayak User Interface

When we created the first versions of Kayak (was it really two years ago?) we wanted to push the envelope a little bit on UI. Our UI lead, Jeff, previously was in charge of Intuit's new web UI toolkit, so we had some experience on doing "rich internet app" stuff.

The very first version of Kayak (private access only on Cinco de Mayo 2004) was developed in Macromedia Flex. That tool helped us think more openly about different UI paradigms, but we decided to scrap it since at the time, the performance on non-modern PCs was lame. (And given that Kayak is just a search site, the "handoff" between Kayak and the chosen airline or hotel site was jarring given the different UI idioms.)

We wanted both a UI which was stripped down and simple (craigslist anyone?) but which also was fast. A key part of being fast was doing the xml http thing, so user refinements would not cause annoying page reloads.

Some advisors disliked us trying to innovate on UI idioms. For example, most users are still not completely comfortable with scrollbars, so why try to confuse them with even more idioms.

The widget that has best become part of the Kayak "identity" is our simple slider used to refine the display of search results. Even though other travel sites have now tried to also have better refinement tools, none yet has the granularity of a true slider. This is one of very few examples where we did lean towards power and uniqueness and brand even over ease of learning for the mass market.

But in addition to decisions about lean power, we also try to put a little bit of fun into our website. A good example of this is "flippy", the widget we use to flip through the list of sites we are actively searching. This also has now become part of the Kayak identity, and we've gotten great feedback from users who enjoy flippy. We just uploaded to youtube a little video to show you more about the creation of flippy.

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

Can you post some pics of the original UI?

3:16 PM  
Blogger msjulie33 said...

Ah AJAX before AJAX was cool, why didn't I think of that...

7:11 PM  

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