News article

4 key elements of a successful website, as determined by booking a European road trip

At the end of February 2020, my long-distance relationship became not-so-long when my partner arrived in the UK, coming to stay with me for a month. A week before their flight home was due to depart, a little global pandemic had just started to take hold in their home nation, and they closed their borders.

Two and a half years later, my fiancé and I are both finally able to enter the country without needing to quarantine, have negative PCR tests, or any other hassle. So, with a load of their belongings still in continental Europe, we thought “why not drive?” to visit their family and collect the rest of their things.

We had this idea in the middle of 2021, when lockdowns and restrictions were still in full effect over there. Our idea was to do it in December 2021 (for Christmas) or September 2022 (for their birthday) depending on restrictions.

There was just one small issue… neither of us could drive.

One theory test, six months of waiting, and 40 hours of driving lessons later, and I passed my test with flying colours, and went straight to the used car dealership to pick up the car. Step 1, complete!

It was then that we started to encounter some challenges – and it’s the same challenges that people will often face when it comes to your website. Let me explain…

1. Information

It sounds simple, but information is so important. And there are two types – the more the merrier for those who want it, and a concise breakdown for those who don’t.

I booked my driving theory test through an intensive driving course company. All the information on the site was brief bullet points, along with some interactive elements such as choosing what sort of gearbox you wanted to learn with.

However, none of it really went into too much detail. Luckily, I understood what to expect from the whole process beforehand. To someone with no prior knowledge, though, there wasn’t enough there to make a reasonable decision.

When creating your website, it’s vital to provide enough information so visitors can make an informed decision.

2. Simplicity

Luckily, I passed my test the first time due to the amazing instructor I had. Consequently, I was able to get a bit more experience in my own car before planning the fabled road trip.

This is where the second website feature comes into play: simplicity. Before getting experience in my own car, I needed to buy it.

Almost every car listing online provides loads of information about the car, but sometimes finding that information was like navigating through a maze. You scroll to the bottom of the page, click on to a tab, open a pop-up, and then from a dropdown list inside the pop-up you would find the line of information you were looking for. Madness!

I would understand if it was something the average person would probably not really care too much about when looking for what to buy.

But no. The information I was looking for was “if it had parking sensors or not”. While I took my test in a Ford Fiesta, I decided to buy a bigger car. Yes, I can park, but no, I don’t trust myself to not go too far back the first few times I reverse.

Some small changes to the website’s layout would have greatly simplified the process of finding information. I love the car I got, but I still hate that website.

3. A logical layout

On the more positive side, we were almost there with the final steps in planning this journey;  booking the EuroTunnel and sorting out somewhere to stay on the three-day trip to my fiance’s home town.

The website for Le Shuttle has a great user experience, and information on buying tickets, what to expect on the train, and destinations on either end of the tunnel.

However, it’s the ticket booking system that really stands out to me. It’s frictionless and, one might say, completely logical.

After choosing which way you want to travel, and the dates you’re going, you are asked about the car. If you’re in the UK or France, you can just use your registration plate and it will prepopulate the information for you.

After adding the vehicle you’re taking, along with the extra details it asks (such as if you’re taking a trailer) you’re then able to choose your time slot. After choosing your time slot, you add the names of everyone in the car and pay.

It’s so simple, not asking for any information until it is needed. At no point did I feel like I was fumbling around for information I wasn’t expecting to need at that time.

4. Friendly for a new user

Finally, all we had to do was to book some overnight stops along the way.

I had just one condition when booking these: if I am driving for up to eight hours a day, the limit I set myself (as I’m still a new driver and I’m on the other side of the road in languages I barely speak) I want to be able to relax at the stops.

This means large enough beds (sofa/TV is a bonus) and private bathrooms so I can take a nice long shower. My usual go-to when travelling is hotels and B&Bs but, when all I need is a single night, the £90-150 a night average for the areas we’re stopping in wasn’t really ideal on our budget.

I’m a developer. I love tech, I’m the geekiest person in my family… but I hate phones. I hate them with a burning passion, and I cannot stand using my phone for anything other than calls, texts, or the odd game whilst on public transport.

So, when my fiance said “let’s just use AirBnB” they may as well have asked if I wanted custard on my toast.

I’ve never used AirBnB before, and the idea of it always puzzled me. However, I opened the app, searched Dunkerque – and there they were, places offering a room for the night.

Not only that, but they came with a handy price above the pins so we could easily see what was within our budget. Better yet, there was an obvious filters button at the top, where we could just exclude those we wouldn’t be able to afford, Even better, the filter let us show only those choices that featured exclusive use of the property.

Simple, easy to understand, and “beginner friendly”, the final feature.

I had no experience with AirBnB, and barely any experience with apps in general. Yet, here I was with three places booked, and no troubles along the way. For once, when using my phone for stuff I would just use my computer for, I was a happy bunny.

It probably was a bit too much for my grandma to use straight away, but simple enough that if she was given a few minutes she would probably be able to use it without any help.

The 4 key elements of a great website

It wasn’t until we started planning this road trip that I really started to notice how important those four simple-sounding features are on a website:

  • Information availability
  • Simplicity in design
  • Logical layouts
  • New-user friendly.

Every website we produce at the Yardstick Agency has these four simple principles baked into them from the very beginning.

Since planning this trip, I have started to notice these features more and more in the websites we develop, and strive to ensure my new personal checkboxes are being ticked on anything I am working on.

To find out how we can create a superb website for you, email or call us on 0115 8965 300.

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