So You Think You Know What Your Customers Love?

May 21, 2009

I am always amazed when site owners say, “Our customers love {whatever} about our site.”

Last week, they had an SEO day here in Pittsburgh, and I spoke on the analytics panel. So I was there at lunch when the speaker from MSN/Live got up to talk about Farecast (which was purchased by MSN a while ago) and heard her seem to know what her Farecast customers love.

I have been a Farecast user for a long, long time. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it is yet another travel site, with a unique twist: for most markets, it predicts whether fares are rising, falling, etc. For example,  in this screenshot, you can see the forecast (farecast) for travel from my town to NYC (Laguardia).  It’s clearly advantageous to purchase now, given that I have to travel within the next couple of weeks.

But that’s not what I love about Farecast, and I was surprised she assumed that it was. In fact, the thing I love about it is something you can


get from other sites, like Kayak — Farecast just does a better job of it. Farecast gives you the capability to do excellent filtering on your travel selection.  It’s not just that they ask when during the day you want to travel — the site actually cares what you tell it, and shows you all the prices at the various times.   I know that I have to leave in the morning to be in NYC and work there that afternoon, and I know that I can’t leave the following day until the entire day of Google Analytics training is done.

It really looks like that $140 block is the one that is going to meet my needs. First of all, it is not too early in the morning for departure (after all, I don’t need to be in the city until after lunch.) After having done the GA training (which will be the following day) in NYC numerous times, I know the only good flight home is the 9:25 — a little late for my taste, but better than walking out on attendees just to get to the airport on time. And while not as inexpensive as the other fares, it’s only $140.

So — to return to my original thesis — why didn’t the MSN lady even mention that Farecast has an incredible user interface and travel usability tools to die for? Maybe she has done a lot of testing and knows what all her visitors love.  After all, as my friend from the WAA, April Wilson, always says, “Don’t make your decision on this focus group of one person.” But I have a sneaking suspicion that like most sites and most products, the owners overlook the simplest of features and always care about the sexy ones.