Reviving SeatGuru

Can a legacy website remain profitable?

Hub Uy
4 min readMay 5, 2020

Background

SeatGuru.com is has been an institution in the travel website category since it’s launch in 2001. The site features aircraft seat maps, seat reviews, and a color-coded system to identify superior and substandard airline seats. It also features information about in-flight amenities and airline-specific information regarding check-in, baggage, unaccompanied minors, and traveling with infants and pets.

SeatGuru circa 2001

In 2007, SeatGuru was acquired by Tripadvisor (then part of the Expedia group) to supplement the group’s travel portfolio. The site, however, largely stayed the same for 10 years.

In September 2018 we redesigned the SeatGuru to finally make it responsive. There were several large UI changes, but the major change was moving the ‘Shop Flights’ search widget to a tabbed approach to give a primary focus for users to search for ‘Seat Maps,” the core product of the site.

SeatGuru redesign on 2018

Problem

In moving the ‘Shop Flights’ search widget to a tab we saw a ~70% drop in active searchers and a $15K — $20K monthly meta revenue hit.

Opportunity

Although SeatGuru remains just a content platform for Tripadvisor to generate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) traffic, there’s an opportunity to optimize the home page with the goal of increasing ‘Shop Flight’ searches.

While the team realizes that we cannot possibly increase our searches back to the same levels as it used to be, we still wanted to try to mitigate the losses. A tab is a tab, hiding content in a tab naturally will decrease impressions and ultimately interactions.

But I took the challenge.

Goals

Increase flight searches by 30%, equivalent to +$80K annually.

Primary success metrics:

  • Increase active searches

Secondary success metrics:

  • Increase Meta Revenue
  • Increase Shop Flights Form Tab Click

Business Considerations

Product’s direction is to keep the level of effort low. We will only have 1 Front-end engineer and one designer to work on the optimization and we only have 2 sprints to accomplish it before testing. 2 weeks for Design, and 2 weeks for Development.

A full redesign is definitely out of scope. Can simply redesigning the tab increase flight searches?

Solution

We came up with 3 working solutions:

  • Optimize the tab design and the hero UI so that users can easily see that there is an option to search flights
  • Simplify the search fields to reduce friction from users
  • Optimize the ‘Discover Fight Deals’ section and make it more useful for the users.

Optimizing the tab design

Left: BeforeRight: After

This minor cosmetic change made a huge difference during user-testing. Our users say that everything is much easier to read and that the tabs are clearer. Some even said that they did not notice the tab in the old design.

Fixing the text alignment was also essential to optimization. Aligning the header and the subheader to the actual search forms helped clear the information hierarchy.

Furthermore, just increasing the blacks of the gradient background of both the image and the search form helped accessibility as well as the tabs and search forms stand out.

Simplify the search fields

We also wanted to reduce user friction. For ‘Seat Maps’ instead of having users fill in their airport of departure and arrival and go through a list of flights, we realized that most users know their Flight Numbers anyway. Allowing users to search by Flight Number by default increased engagement.

Optimize the ‘Discover Fight Deals’ section

Before
After

The discovery flight shelf enables users to select a destination based on cached data on popular cities users searched for. Clicking a card would trigger a search based on the user’s current location (nearest city) to the city indicated in the card.

We decided to make more usable by adding cached pricing, adding the lowest price possible based on historical data. Adding the cached pricing ultimately enticed users to click.

We also moved this shell above the fold, deprioritizing blog content which is meant to be SEO content.

Final Designs

Desktop — Tablet — Mobile

Results

Emphasizing the Flights search tab and moving up the deals component above the fold increases the flight search rate.

+14.5% Flights Search Rate —+$40K annual impact:

  • +11.89% Desktop
  • +31.8% Mobile
  • 9.4% Tablet

Although we did not reach our goal of +30% Flights Search Rate, we were more than happy to take this win considering the low level of effort.

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