case study


My team, Hannah, Vianca and Michelle conducted a usability test for the travel search engine, KAYAK, focusing on its web interface.

Findings that were collected from this test will help ensure that the website captures all aspects of usability: effectiveness, efficiency, learnability, memorability, and satisfaction.

Based on user feedback, we assessed  violations of heuristics or design principles that cause high points of friction and provide recommendations towards better designs.




Pain Points:

• Inconsistent placement of filter navigation

• Not given enough information to complete search

• Redirection to 3rd party website

• Being redirected to a safe and reputable site

• Not sure what information to input for Flight Tracker


• Understands where to find main navigation tabs (main menu)

•Meets expectation that they will be presented the best deals on results page

• Learned that Kayak offers more than flight services

• Presented enough information on results page to make a confident decision


• How can we make sure users are able to easily locate navigation bar to narrow down searches?
• How can we inform users that they will be redirected to a third party site?

• How can we create a better system to track flights and enable users to better narrow down searches with limited information?

task 1
book a flight


You work in New York City, but you must attend a conference in Los Angeles next week, from December 12 to 17. You would like to take the quickest flight possible.

Use kayak.com to book a business class round-trip flight for that event.

Pain points:

• Locating “Cabin” option to switch from Economy to Business Class

• Change option from 2 guests to 1 guest

Visibility of System Status (Nielsen) - FAIL

When leaving KAYAK to outsource website; 4 out 5 users did not know they were being redirected to a 3rd party source. Want to be assured that Kayak will send you to reputable sites.

Users were okay when the 3rd party source was www.united.com but not when it was www.cheaptickets.com

User 2: "I did not like it that it took me to a different site," and “I would not use Cheaptickets.com’. To me, it looks questionable. The layout looks cheap."

task 2
book a stay


You will be in Los Angeles next week from December 12 to 17 for a conference.  

Use kayak.com to book a 4-star hotel for your stay near Staples Center.

Pain points:

• Noticing that the number of guest should change from 2 guests 1 room to 1 guest 1 room

• “I am a student” is in larger font than number of guests option

seek universal usability - FAIL

Most users, including User 3 who is older and has difficulty seeing, had trouble seeing the option to change the default (1 room, 2 guests) to 1 room, 1 guest.

User 3 also felt that there could have been more guiding instructions throughout kayak.com

task 3
rent a car


You live in NYC, next week you will be visiting your friend in Boston.

Use kayak.com to book the cheapest car available for the length of your stay, December 18-21. You expect to return your car by 4pm.

Pain points:

• Filter options vary from test to test*Difficulty finding where the sort from lowest > highest price

• The filter section located in a different place on the page than other search options

recognition rather than recall - FAIL

Consistency of the filter menu from task to task
The Car filter menu was across the top but all others were on the left

task 4
book a package


You and your family are traveling from NYC to Orlando for the first time.

Use kayak.com to find a travel package for you and your family  (2 adults, and 2  children - one  5-year old, one 10-year old) around Orlando. You will be there from December 20-25.

Pain points:

• Users cannot select a nearby location to stay, like they can when booking a Stay/Hotel
• Users struggled with finding number of guests

recognition rather than recall - pass

Setting location differs between Stays and Packages
A filter available under Stays but not available when filtering Packages

task 5
track a flight


Your best friend is flying from Miami to visit you in New York City tomorrow. She is flying American Airlines, but was delayed.

Use kayak.com to check what time she will arrive.

Pain points:

• Users cannot select the arrival and departure airports

• Wrong flights displayed


2 users encountered the same error while tracking a flight (Task 5), both noted the error and clicked out of it and tried the task again.