There is an annoying trend at present when you buy things online and that is the assumption that you are happy to let the ‘system’ choose what is best for you based on some criteria you fill in before hand.
I’ve seen this when buying tickets for cinema and theatre – it asks what show, roughly where you want to be and will then present you with some specific results for where to sit. Of course what I often want to do is look at seat availability across a few different time slots to trade off when I can attend with the best seats available. I might be happy to change nights and wait a few extra days for a better seat. In many cases that is almost impossible without toing and froing between different checkout actions and rerunning searches for each different time slot.
Trains are another example. If you have a single regular journey with no options, it’s fine to just enter the time to travel and view the trains around that time. But if you are unsure and are thinking about options of driving to different stations, again it’s very hard to get an overview of your general route options. Is it worth driving down the road to join a different line rather than go in and out of london? Quite likely but you won’t get that from a ‘we know best’ search. And don’t get me started on journeys where two separate tickets are cheaper than booking one journey with a train change. Maybe one day the world would support a fully integrated travel system, but I doubt it will ever really know what your aims are above the simple information you’ve entered into the site.
Holidays seem to be falling into the same trap. Ideally when booking you want an ‘at a glance’ overview of availability. When it asks when you want to go on holiday, you want to say ‘any time during school holidays, that doesn’t clash with exam results, isn’t stupidly priced and ideally will have the sun pre-booked’ (or words to that effect). If you have to go through all accommodation options for each week individually (and some sites make you do this) then you lose track of what you are trying to achieve very quickly and that is before you start adding in different options.
So, to all super intelligent search and decision making engines – just remember, sometimes I just want to browse and given a suitably organised representational overview, and when presented with the facts I need, I am still better at deciding what I’d like to do than you are. For the moment at least.
Someone sent me this link – this is a school boy prank and a half – see http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=vvyupNXK-4A. Very cleverly done.