Behind the Screens: How Trivago Won Travel by Simplifying

Trivago’s winning combination of simplified design and advanced web tech.

Published by J.P. Holecka on 07.03.2019

The commercial break begins, and as usual, there’s a man on your screen. He’s slightly odd; buttoned-up yet unkempt, youthful yet weathered. He speaks softly and smoothly, and it’s his mission to communicate one thing, and one thing only:

Hotel? trivago.

Yes, I’m talking about the trivago guy, and his promise that there is no simpler process for booking a hotel. And he’s not kidding.

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Go to trivago's site, and you’ll quickly discover that there’s only one thing to do when you arrive: search for a location. It’s Google-like in its streamlined, straightforward design and its airy white space; it’s instantly familiar to anyone accustomed to the world’s favourite search engine.

Once you enter a location, you’re automatically prompted to input more information — arrival date, departure date, number of guests — to further refine your results in a fast, intuitive manner. You can conduct a comprehensive search in seconds, and find the perfect accommodations in just a few clicks.

trivago finds its sizeable niche.

At its core, trivago gets it right by being a specialist, not a generalist: it isn’t trying to find you the best flight or the cheapest car rental on top of a great hotel. Perhaps the company could move into those markets, sticking with its hugely successful model of category-specific service design. But what sets trivago apart is that it does precisely what it sets out to do — and does it really well.

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While air travel has always been fiercely competitive (online agencies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity have long been duking it out), the hotel space was lagging behind in UX before trivago came along. And in order to position the platform well ahead of potential competitors, the company knew it needed to excel in two things: provide the widest selection of hotels at the best prices, and create an exceptional experience for both businesses and consumers.

Comprehensive Choice

Different agencies and aggregators offer different deals: Expedia may have one sale, Booking.com might have another, and the two offers are mutually exclusive. But trivago’s metasearch engine sits across the top, accessing all those catalogues.

This enables travellers to compare over 700,000 hotels on 250 sites worldwide. Plus, trivago references the rating and reviews on these other sites to provide a master view of what people are saying about their experience at a place. It’s no wonder trivago is the world’s most popular hotel search engine, with more than 120 million users.

Elegant, Understated UX for Consumers

The team at trivago knew that to provide the most intelligent, intuitive customer experience, they had to build a touchpoint that felt familiar to people, and that worked seamlessly on all devices. That’s why they focused on designing their platform as a progressive web app (PWA), bringing together the discoverability and accessibility of a website with the rich features and functionality of a native app.

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From a design perspective, PWAs can be a more difficult route to take — but when done right, the speed and responsiveness are outstanding, and the interface adapts perfectly to mobile. It certainly placed trivago well ahead of the curve; click throughs to hotel offers rose by a staggering 97% when consumers began using the PWA, and there was a 150% increase among those who added the service to their home screen.

Easy End-to-End Solution for Hotels

Consumers aren’t the only ones that trivago is designed for. Hotels are a double-sided marketplace that involves both the hospitality industry and ordinary consumers; that means trivago designs services for the supply side (by supporting hotel businesses), and the demand side (by connecting ordinary consumers with accommodations).

Hotel owners can take advantage of the company’s property management system, which allows them to streamline their customer service processes online—from marketing their hotel rooms, to handling check-ins and check-outs, to conducting follow-up surveys on customer satisfaction. Some of the biggest beneficiaries of trivago’s innovative approach have been smaller boutique operations.

Top of Mind, Top of Market

I already mentioned the tagline Hotel? trivago. The simplicity of the message matches the simplicity of the service — and its sleek service design and smart advertising has paid dividends. According to the company, it has the leading aided brand awareness over competitors in five of its top seven markets, including 92% in Italy, 89% in Spain, 86% in Germany, 79% in France, and 77% in Australia.

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Since it was established in 2006, trivago has delivered a consistent experience to travellers, with a uniquely disciplined focus on its own strengths. This stands in contrast to other platforms of a similar vintage, such as Facebook and Twitter, that continue to pile on features in an effort to keep visitors engaged. For trivago, it’s more important to build behind the scenes, improving search results and enhancing functionally.

At the end of the day, trivago’s design beautifully demonstrates what we call the “iceberg effect”: the consumer-facing part that we interact with appears clean and simple — but this is all supported by the complex, multifaceted machine beneath the surface.

At POWERSHiFTER, we know great design when we see it. That’s how we’re able to develop and build it ourselves. Get in touch, and let’s bring your apps and platforms to life.

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