Broken UX – wap front-end

Whenever I’m booking a hotel for travel within Germany or abroad, one of my first destinations is – a hotel reservation website. It gives you real-time info on hotel availibility, sometimes special rates, great photos, contact information, maps and routes. Its web front-end is easy to use, and they’ve got very friendly staff on the phone as well.

Yesterday I wanted to check whether they had a wap-enabled version of their website as well. I’ve got a Palm Treo 650 smart phone (which I’m very fond of), and I entered the URI into its built-in web browser. I was happy to see the page started to load, but it looked nothing like a wap-optimized page – and it kept loading and loading. Somewhere around 250k, I canceled the download and tried to operate some of the controls on the page. My browser pushed an alert saying not all JavaScript had been downloaded and I should wait for the rest of the page to be there. So I reloaded the page, and another 250k later, the page just stalled.

Maybe I need to add I’m on a 5MB volume plan. Fortunately. Normally, on e.g. a Vodafone plan a 10k WAP/GPRS packet is about 19ct; my 5MB cost 5 Euros a month. If I didn’t have this volume plan, this small exercise alone would have cost me something like 10 Euros (!) – without providing any value.

I don’t give up that fast. Later the day I tried again, even succeeded in initiating a query, but I didn’t get any result (the page stalled twice). That was the point when I, despite all my previous good experiences with, decided to try a competitive site, Their (non-wap-optimized page) loaded faster, provided all the necessary information and helped us book a hotel fast.

Today I sat down and wrote an email to management, decribing what I had experienced. I’m curious what they will answer. I surely hope they’ll reconsider the whole wap frontend. Looks like a major overhaul might be necessary there.

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