FAVORITE LINKS ANALYSIS PROJECT - TRAVEL
Ashley Roehl
HTML Publishing and Web Page Design, Prof. Joseph
August 1, 2009

My family and I enjoy traveling immensely and have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit in Europe. Traveling, especially in today's economy, takes research and resources to make the most of both one's money and time. Some of the links I chose for this project, I either use on a regular basis or have used to plan a trip. For others, I used the Google search engine using the search word "travel" and chose based on potential useful information. All the travel sites I have used have been created well and are easy to navigate; but if a company wants to keep customers, these are necessary qualities of a site. Other qualities needed for success include pleasing aesthetics, reasonable download times, and relevant information. Additionally, since there are so many available travel sites to choose from, a company with a mediocre site or one that takes too much time to perform will easily lose customers.

In critiquing these web-sites I considered the usefulness of the site for all potential users, aesthetics, download time, ease of use and understanding, its purpose, and it’s potential. Included is a brief explanation of the site.

FAVORITE SITES

 Dirk Pepperd's Space-A Message Board

The Dirk Pepperd web-site is a superior web-site and receives a grade "A+". It provides a terrific service for our military members, their families, and our retirees regarding military travel opportunities. The site is easily navigated for all levels of users wanting to learn about the military's Space-Available travel program. It is very straight-forward and there is little time used to learn the ins and outs. I found everything to be nicely titled, up-front, categorized, and explained well. I use this site quite often and have never had any technical issues. All links work as expected and the load time was minimal. Additionally, there were no other gimmicks or pop-ups and nothing was unreasonably utilized from my computer. The content of this site is extremely original, updated daily, and full of useful information. The order of the information is presented in an easily to follow and clear manner. The aesthetics of the web-site are simple and quite minimal but it works well for its subject and audience. It is easily readable and nothing takes away from its purpose, such as too much color or other graphics. This site is extremely effective and useful for its audience. My only suggestion to improve the site would be to add links to the USO sites for easy information gathering, additional knowledge, and awareness.


 DK Publishing

We travel quite a bit and I utilize this site quite often when searching for travel books. The DK Publishing web-site receives a grade "A" as it is an excellent site. It was simple to learn and the search option helps tremendously since the company has a wide range of book subjects available. The navigation is easy and straightforward for all users and as a user you will not feel lost when navigating through this site. There were no technical issues evident, all the links worked, downloading from page to page was quick, and there were no pop-ups or other unnecessary gimmicks that utilized computer resources. The informational content was current and presented in a simple format. The content is original as it contains the books available from the DK Publishing Company itself. The content is thorough and contains a more than adequate amount of information about each book they sell. The site's aesthetics work well with their content and commerce. Its background is simply white but it looks crisp. This allows the books to show better and makes the text easily read. The DK site is very effective, simple to navigate, and services its users.


 Keukenhof Gardens

The Keukenhof Garden is a world renowned spring garden of mainly tulips that travelers from all over the world visit in the spring. Its web-site is a very good but because of a few errors and inconsistencies I discovered while navigating the site, it receives a grade of "B+". The site was easily navigated and not at all confusing. The site did not have any technical issues but there were several links that did not work. Additionally, some of the links reacted differently than others when clicked. The site was very quick and all the external and internal links were quick also. No pop-ups or other gimmicks were found either. The content was placed in a pleasing, easy to follow, and organized manner and was laid out in a way that made sense, which makes it easy to navigate. All the information in the site was original, as the gardens are one of a kind, and plentiful. This site has lots of great and colorful photos which are not distracting to the user. Everything shows up well on the white background and is pleasing and not "stressful". The graphics in no way hampered the computer's ability to download and were fitting for the site's subject. The background colors did not affect the ability to read the text. Overall, the site is very effective and serves its audience well. It will be considered a superior web-site once its few broken links are fixed along with the couple of inconsistencies.


 Kayak.com

Kayak.com is a newer discount travel search engine created specifically for travel users to ease their travel shopping experience. The site's carefree yet informative approach is fun and energetic. Its initial simplicity is welcomed as is it's no nonsense approach. I give this site a "B+" as it is not initially easily navigated. However, after taking a minute to make a preliminary walk through its approach make sense. There were no technical issues and all the links I clicked worked and worked quickly. There were pop-ups that appeared asking for feedback when searching parts of the site. However, as a traveler I did not find these annoying because they can be very useful. As for the information on the site, they obtain all their deals and costs for travel from other sites across the web and roll it into one. The deals are up to date and there are a few unique pages that offer users potentially critical travel information, such as the 'Insight' and 'Airline Fees' pages, as well as up to the second deals. Its information is placed in an easy to follow and functional manner. The site's aesthetics are simple and practical and do not cloud the site's purpose; and although the appearance is fairly plain, it works. There were very few graphics and the load time was minimal and the text was easily read on the white background. This is a great benefit for the user. Overall, this site is very effective for its travel audience. Nevertheless, there are a few areas I think it could improve on in order to serve all its users. First, a back button would be beneficial for the pages that do not offer a sidebar menu and a user who needs to read the site in English but is living abroad cannot do a search under these parameters. It would help if a user could choose both their language and their location. With these changes, this site would be considered a superior site.



 American Embassy Prague - Apartments in Vlasska Street

The American Embassy Prague web-site offers information and booking for its apartments in Prague. The site is very simple, aesthetically pleasing, and useful but because of some design errors on the location page regarding parking and the confusing wording regarding parking, I have given the site a grade of "A-". The design of the site makes it extremely easy to navigate and wastes none of the user’s time deciphering it. All the links worked and there were no technical issues. The pages loaded very quickly, contained no gimmicks or pop-ups, and did not require any unreasonable resources from my computer. Information on the site was current and placed in an easy to follow nature. Everything was original, thorough, informative, quick, and effective. The look of the site was very appealing and charming, which is the appropriate mood for this type of site and its subject. The download time for the photos on the site was minimal and well worth the wait. As a traveler, it’s advantageous and fun to see the actual room or apartment where you would be staying. Moreover, these photos were of high quality. The text was easily read on the light yellow background. Overall this site is very effective, serves its audience well, and is enjoyable. Improvements could be made fixing the design errors on the location page along with clearing up information regarding parking and its cost. Then the site would be considered superior.

LEAST FAVORITE SITES

 U.S. Department of State Travel

The State Department's Travel site is a very valuable tool for any persons wishing to do any traveling outside the United States. However, I found the site had a few errors and was overloaded with information so I give it a grade of "B-". The site looks as if it should be easy to navigate by the list of links on the page and it is fairly simple. There was one link I found that did not work and the frame in the middle is not properly set in the site, which is very distracting. It also impeded reading some of the top row links. Positively, the site runs fast, has current and up to date information, contained a lot of useful and pertinent information, and was original. However, when you clicked on internal links you would be taken to another page without a way back, other than the back arrow. Moreover, when clicking on external links, it would take you outside the site but not by opening up a new tab so you lose your place on the site yet again. As for its aesthetics, the colors are very good and they do not impede on the ability to read the text. There were a few well-chosen graphics, which was good since the site has so much information, and they did not affect the download time. There was a pop-up when first entering the site but none after. The site has the information an international traveler might want but it might take them a bit of time to find exactly what they are looking for. Improvements could be made in fixing broken links, properly aligning the inside frame, and having external links open up new tabs when clicked.


 The Meyer Travel Group

The Meyer Travel Group web-site is for a small, independent travel and tour business. Even though it is a small company, the web-site offers great potential for increasing tours. However, I think the site is lacking and so it gets a grade of "C". The site is very simple to navigate as there is little information presented. On the positive side, there were no technical issues, all the links worked, it loaded very quickly, and there were no pop-ups. The content of the site was original and fairly current but improvements could be made. The company lists their most recent past tours but do not show prospective consumers other places they travel to. However, a user can look up all the information about the previous trips that are listed; a plus for the company. But, there was only one upcoming trip listed, which I think hurts the site. Additionally, I do not think the site posts enough information. The introduction is good and the trip information sheets are good but there could be more to draw in the user. Aesthetically, the site's color scheme is very pleasing and the few graphics are great. The index page is set too far to the left, which leaves a lot of dead space but the other pages are centered and look good. The text is easily read and the download time is very reasonable. Overall I think this site could do so much more. If you were unfamiliar with the company you may not think seriously about joining any of their tours. The site could be improved by adding more graphics, as travel and tours is its main subject. I would also add comments from past tour participants and post pictures from past tours but not going back past 2 years. Lastly, on the index page, I would make the table with the introduction wider and shorter so it all fits without have to scroll down, I would add more photos, and possibly links to the places where their tours have or will visit.


 AAA

The AAA web-site is comprised of information for travel, auto needs, insurance, banking, entertainment, and miscellaneous membership discounts. It also provides the ability to make reservations for all travel needs. However, due to the site's lackluster looks, lack of interesting graphics and load time, I give the site a grade of "C". The site itself was fairly easy to navigate and was not confusing; in essence it was easily learned. All the links worked but it did take several seconds for the different pages to load. There were no pop-ups or other gimmicks. The information provided was current and laid out in an organized and sensible manner. The aesthetics of the site were less than desirable. It felt dull and out of date. There were not many graphics so this did not create any additional downloading time but it also made it boring. The text was easily readable against the white and light blue background. Most travelers are familiar with AAA and what they offer so overall, yes, the site is effective for its audience. However, it could use some "jazzing" up in order to provide the site with a more modern and exciting feeling. Some ideas would be including Facebook on the page, adding some more appealing graphics, and enhancing and updating the color scheme.


 MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is an Italian cruise line offering world-wide cruises of all lengths. The web-site offers a great deal of information concerning their cruises but because of the unreasonable amount of time for each page to download and the several pages that had errors, I give the site a grade of "D". Cruising the web-site was simple and straight-forward. It wastes no time for its user to become friendly with the site. Each page had at least a two-second delay in downloading with several pages taking over 15 seconds. Several links contained errors or had trouble loading but there were no annoying pop-ups or other gimmicks. The information on the site was placed in a logical and easy to find manner. It was up to date and original. You could even become a Facebook fan or follow them on Twitter. Some of the areas could have used some more in-depth information, but what was there was informative. Additionally, for an international site, the translation was done exceptionally well. It was easy to read and follow in English. The site's aesthetics were pleasing. I appreciated the blue and white theme that went well with cruising and water. The mood of the site was calm and relaxing, which again, goes well with the idea of cruising. The graphics were well-chosen and not over-done but seemed to affect the download time. The text was very easy to read on the white, grey, and dark blue backgrounds. The site has a tremendous amount of information but it does not feel overwhelming or difficult to find. Its environment is very pleasing and makes you want to take a cruise. However, the download time per page is very frustrating and way too long. This could easily cause a potential customer to give up and try another cruise line, resulting in lost business and a negative attitude toward the company. Improvements need to be made in establishing a quicker download time and fixing its errors.


 Victory Services Club

The Victory Services Club is a hotel facility for military service members, their families, and retirees. Membership is required to use the hotel but active duty members and their spouses can join for free. From the beginning I did not care for this site. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing, the text seemed small and hard to read, and navigation was more complex than needed. Additionally, the download time was too long. Overall I gave this site a "D". The site seemed busy and the navigation on some pages did not make sense and was more complicated than needed. A few times I was confused as how to get back to the home page. The site did not have any technical issues and all the links worked. However, the loading time was long and frustrating. There were no pop-ups or other gimmicks. Content was in a logical order, current, and original. It did offer information from other sources that were relevant to the site. The information was sufficient and the pages were organized in a logical, easy to understand manner. The site's aesthetics left much to be desired. It had a very "hodge-podge" feel and did not seem to have any sort of scheme. The mood felt sporadic and loose with no clear consensus. The text was difficult to read; it was small in some places and did not stand out against the background color. Additionally, the links to the internal pages seemed very crowded. Overall I do not think it was a very effective site for its audience. Needed improvements include download time, a change in text size and color and the creation of an overall scheme to blend everything together. The navigation could be improved in a few areas. An example would be the link to the "Events & Conferencing" page. Instead of having a menu displayed immediately below the link as all the other links have, it continues on to the page where the left-hand links change. This is confusing and adds a potential un-needed step. All the links should be unified and work the same.



































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