Four Seasons recently launched a massive overhaul of their website(you can read the econsultancy.com piece here). E-consultancy readers everywhere immediately chipped in their critiques of the effectiveness of the $18m expenditure. Needless to say, there was a lot of cynicism. Not content to let everyone else have all the fun, we asked one of our usability professionals for his take on the new Four Seasons website redesign.
While the new look of the Four Seasons site is certainly polished with large, high resolution images of exotic destinations, it’s hard to believe a polished look was all they got for $18 million dollars. Yet, after going through the reservation process and reviewing the site at a cursory level, it seems functionality and intuitiveness took a backseat to flashiness.
Starting with the homepage, it seems bothersome that you can’t hover over an image in the carousel to pause it, much less click it to view more information or begin the reservation process for that destination. The images are lovely and certainly draw users in, but with no controls or functionality, an immediate opportunity for conversion is lost. Furthermore, there are several images in the carousel rotation, yet it is nearly impossible to tell how many. If there is a destination/image of particular interest, there is no way to click back to it for further studying. People like pictures and the images used here are top notch, which is why they are a prime area for additional interactions.
Although the map feature for the regional options is commendable, the small map pins make it difficult to differentiate which location is a ‘hotel’, ‘resort’, or ‘coming soon’ (terms based on the key). Upon mouse-over of a pin, they all look the same. A more intuitive interaction would be for the enlarged pin (upon mouse-over) to represent the key icons as opposed to the current functionality.
A positive feature of the reservation process is that the carousel images update to display those relevant to my selected destination. Again, the use of high quality images is a plus! The fact that the images continue to rotate in the background when the calendar light box appears is somewhat of a distraction. It would have been better served to pause the carousel rotation to allow customers to focus on the task at hand – selecting his/her desired reservation dates.
Once reservation dates are selected, the customer is then taken to a clean, yet standard room type selection page. The expand/collapse functionality for each room type is clean, but could be overlooked, as the ‘+’ icon is subtle. Another feature that could easily go unnoticed is the calculator icon next to the rate per night. There is no hover or change of the cursor upon mouse-over, making it easy to miss. Luckily there is a ‘Convert Currency’ drop-down at the top of the list, but it too may go unnoticed because it is not within the primary area of the user’s attention. The ‘See More Information & Photos’ feature is disappointing. For the amount of money spent to revamp the site, one would think there would be additional images for each room type, and perhaps a 360⁰ viewer…no such luck.
How Do I Get Home?
There is no ‘Home’ button or noticeable icon/breadcrumbs to return to the homepage for the main Four Seasons site once in the reservation process, which is also user-unfriendly. Making the user hunt for a way to return home or utilize the browser ‘Back’ buttons is never a good thing.
Overall, it’s hard to believe that $18 million dollars was spent to spruce up the site. While the visuals are attractive, the functionality and user friendliness of the site leaves something to be desired. One can’t help but to ask, how did Four Seasons spend so much money to upgrade a site, yet miss such obvious opportunities to improve the user experience?
Comment below and let us know your opinion of the Four Seasons website redesign.
—Tony Moreno, Senior Usability Analyst