eCommerce Usability Testing – Project Objectives

As a travel portal created by five of the nation’s leading airlines, Orbitz.com needed to be seen as a site that was easy to use while offering consumers the most comprehensive flight choices available online. Orbitz.com had to establish itself as “the next generation” travel portal from the day it launched.

The usability team was faced with the following challenges:

  • The design and project management staff needed an immediate findings report after each round of testing given the extremely tight development schedule.
  • Our test plan needed to be precise and draw conclusive information about the searching & booking tool, the unique search results matrix page, and the purchasing pages.
  • With Travelocity.com and Expedia.com already established as the main players, we had to understand if the site’s visual appearance and navigation clearly conveyed the site’s value proposition as a travel portal.


An appropriate screener questionnaire was developed to recruit targeted participants with specific levels of online travel and ticket buying experience.

We created a comprehensive moderator’s guide that elicited feedback on the site’s value proposition, visual design, and searching, sorting and e-commerce purchasing functionality.

Dozens of one-on-one usability interview sessions were conducted over a six month engagement in an agile method before “agile” was even a popular term.

Our team presented a key findings & recommendations report to all stakeholders one day after the testing.

Success Measurement

Testing revealed that the site’s value proposition was clear to participants.

Changes made by the creative team to the matrix page after each round of tests resulted in significant improvements to the site’s ease of use before launch.

Participants were able to move through the purchasing process more rapidly due to nomenclature and graphic enhancements pinpointed during the previous rounds of testing.

In June 2001 (the first official month of launch) over 3.7 million unique visitors went to Orbitz.com.  By July 2001 they had over 1 million registered users and sales of over $100 million.  In November 2004 Orbitz was purchased by Cendant for $1.25 billion.


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