Travelocity -
A Web-Based Travel Reservation System

The Product

Travelocity is a real commercial web-based travel reservation system ( The site offers many features. You and your team will evaluate a portion of the Web interface to Travelocity site --- the portion dealing with flight lookups and reservations. We will pretend that the Vice President in charge of the site wants to know if web-literate young people, such as university students, can successfully accomplish a few typical travel tasks. Your job is to find major flaws with the reservations portion of the site, and recommend ways to fix them. If there are problems, the Vice President may authorize changes to the system in upcoming versions.

Selecting Tasks

It is up to you to decided what set of typical tasks should be given to the users. The assignment sheet has a section that indicates how you can go about this, and you are already familiar with task descriptions from Assignment 1. As well, the experimenter should try the system ahead of time, becoming as familiar with it as possible. The experimenter should come up with at least six other reasonable tasks to give to subjects, preferably more. A good task one that is likely to be used by many end-users. Tasks should also be selected to investigate different (but still heavily used) parts of the system functionality.

To get you going, I've included a few sample tasks below. Notice that they are phrased as directions that will be given to the user.

Preparing equipment

You can have people use browsers from their own account, or you can have a browser set up in your account. If you are reusing a browser (e.g., in your login account) clear the browser's cache before each session, as you don't want the link highlights to give the user clues of where to go. Depending on how you run subjects, you may want to have a browser (e.g., Netscape) up and ready at the travelocity home page (

A few precautionary notes.

  1. The site can be busy. Be prepared for slow responses.
  2. The site allows people to register with it, which could include giving credit card numbers. Because this is just an exercise, you should not have students enter this kind of information.


Administer the pre-test questionnaire. Questions must at least probe for people's experience with the computer they are using, the web browser they are using, travel reservation systems (both paper and electronic), the travelocity site, and how often they make their own air travel arrangements.You may also want to ask them if they are familiar with web-based search systems.

At the end of the test, administer the post-test questionnaires. These should include questions that ask people how satisfied they are with the system (e.g., "I would rather check ticket fares with the existing travelocity site over phoning a travel agent" (Strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree).


Administer the usability instructions to subjects, as indicated in the handout.

Initial conceptual model

Note: the reason you are doing this is to see what initial conceptual model people have of the system, based upon their prior experiences and their interpretation of the visuals on the screen. You are looking for places where the model is incorrect. Start doing this as soon as they get to the main screen of travelocity..

Task 1. Finding a cheap flight on a simple trip.

Travelocity is a commerical travel reservation system accessible via the web. It actually uses the Sabre electronic database search and retrieval system that is used by many travel agents. With your preferred web browser, go to the travelocity home page ( Now imagine that you want to book a return flight from Calgary to Vancouver, where you leave shortly after supper on Wednesday night and return Friday evening. You also have air points on Air Canada and Canadian Airlines, and you prefer to fly them. Using the travelocity site, find the best flight/ticket for this situation.

Reason for choosing this task. This is a simple but routine request. The customer knows their travel constraints, and the travel arrangements are straight forward (eg, most likely as direct flights with no stop-overs). Also, this tests whether the person can navigate through the system to the appropriate pages.

Task 2. Checking a flight arrival

You have a friend arriving on a flight tonight from Winnepeg. Unfortunately, you've lost the paper with all the details on it. You think she is flying Canadian, and that her flight arrives after supper. Try and find the flight.

Reason for choosing this task. This is another typical (although less frequent) task, where people have a fuzzy request to make.

Task 3. A complex task

Find a cheap itinerary that lets you travel from Calgary to Boston, where you will stay in Boston for the weekend, and then travel from Boston to Miami on the Monday. You want to rent a car in Miami, so find the cheapest one (from Monday to Friday). Return to Calgary on Friday.

Reason for choosing this task. Many people have quite complex travel considerations. The one above is not unusual.

Other tasks you could develop

The developing conceptual model

When complete, repeat the exercise the subject did at the beginning i.e., have them explain what each interface component does in each main screen. Has their conceptual model changed through their experiential learning? Is their model correct?