Website Evolution: SkyScanner
Skyscanner is perhaps the best entrepreneurial success story out of Scotland in recent years. Their website was a focal point for their success – driving engagement and ultimately spending. Let’s have a look at it’s evolution and see what insights and tips it can provide for improving your website engagement.
Born in 2002, Skyscanner was acquired for £1.4B in 2016.
It’s Scotland’s Travel Tech Unicorn. Like the other organisations we look up to through this mini series, Skyscanner’s website represents a focal point of their success. Their website is where their ideas, strategy, business model all flow into the real world.
Looking at Skyscanner’s website evolution allows us to observe and learn from a fast-growing, highly successful website. One that grew and developed into an international powerhouse helping define an industry. As we go through, we’ll share our thoughts and lessons for your consideration when improving your website’s engagement moving forward.
Skyscanner’s website is the perfect role model for any business looking to curate options or offerings for users to select from through their website. More generally, it’s task-driven so website engagement is crucial.
2003 – June
We’re lucky to be able to see Skyscanner near the very beginning of their journey. A raw Scottish start-up with with a dream and a taste for finding you good value flights.
“Welcome to Skyscanner – Search Engine for cheap flights” | What’s impressive is how these first few words incapsulate the entire concept in a very simple way for new users.
Testing the water | We can’t forget how early stage this website is. It’s almost impossible to avoid overcomplicating your homepage in the early days. Particularly when traffic is low in the early days, it’s common to see homepages overcrowded as you try to establish what users are wanting to see.
Feedback Encouraged | You really have to hunt for feedback in the early days. It’s rare it lands on your doorstep. You can see in the top left Skyscanner are actively doing their best to encourage feedback and draw attention to the changes they are making.
2003 – October
While the volume of searchable results increases, impressively the Skyscanner website becomes more simple. The same is true for the hompage.
Central Search | This evolution of the homepage really makes the search stand out. Almost Google-like. The search is prominent and encourages the user to take action. No confusion, no delay. Website engagement tend to increase as a website is made easier for the user to process.
Clean | A large part of encouraging the user to interact with the search is based on cleaning up the page. This homepage improved significantly – not by adding more but by leaving only the essentials in place.
Simple doesn’t mean less. Previous iterations to the Skyscanner homepage has consistently reduced the amount of content on the homepage. However now a growing userbase provides greater insight. With this, comes the opportunity better understand how users use the site. Gaining this understanding allows you to tune the for better website engagement by showing what the user is looking for more prominently.
Menu Rethink | The previous menu was a bit useless. Now, prominent links allow users to jump to popular searches. The header, leaves space for the user to select their language for translations. Less menu, more useful content.
Search Prominence | As content has once again grown slightly, it would be easy for the search to suffer. The on page positioning and size of the search protects against this to a large extent.
Titles | It is a bit old school (in fairness it’s 2006). Having clear, prominent titles really help the user digest this page. Especially when the content amount is growing again, the titles provide a quick and easy roadmap for the user to process and wayfind.
The visual shift here is significant. So too are the choices of content. While the search remains a focal point and mainstay, supporting content shifts to advertising.
Visual Renovation | Incorporating images, using colours to inform and steer the user – a hand full of tricks that make the information easier to scan and ultimately take action.
Business Growth | Businesses grow and audiences’ expectations evolve. Naturally in line with other price comparison sites of the time, Skyscanner incorporates Hotel and Car Hire searches. Neatly filed away into menu tabs for easy access. Introduction of a new menu can be a good approach for keeping continuity for the user while continuing to grow and meet evolving needs.
Advertising | Commercialising a useful website is a necessary reality for highly ambitious and growing businesses. Usage of the Skyscanner website expands and premium digital real estate is present for advertising. What is key is that this advertising never detracts from the user’s ability to seamlessly complete their goal for visiting the site. Search remains prominent and easy to use.
Seeing the change over time puts it into perspective. Now, we see the Skyscanner hompage in 2021. It’s a content explosion!
Search is King | The search is and always has been at the heart of Skyscanner. In that time however, it has become tremendously more usable. Size increases have made it more prominent and usable on a range of devices. Predictive fields have made it easier and less messy to search and select the users desired inputs.
Visuals | To a large extent, especially in this particular industry design can be about ‘keeping up with the Jones’. It’s common to see many competitors with fairly similar websites. The reasons for this can be varied, but in essence the space is highly competitive and any advantages are usually short lived – therefore the appetite to spend on innovation or R&D that can be easily (especially cheaply) imitated is fairly low.
Content | Woowser! On first scroll this is a mammoth homepage by comparison to previous years. Setting aside the Covid related content and alerts, there are two main reasons. The homepage is making a feature of key topics that drive visits. In this case, local trips, monthly deals, weekend breaks and recommended holidays. Now factor in rich, engaging content (images, etc.) and mandatory spacing to prevent it looking overcrowded. In total this makes the content relevant and pleasing to the eye.
Skyscanner’s Website Evolution
“Welcome to Skyscanner – the Search Engine for cheap flights”. It essentially holds true to this day. Searching has stayed front and centre, while supporting content has become more nuanced based on understanding of their users.
Initially, SkyScanner’s homepage had to guess what users wanted beyond the ability to search. In time, they were able to accrue insight and intelligence on their users. Gradually, this insight grew significant enough that they had better insight over what their users wanted. This knowledge was power that created a better website engagement, user experience and a successful business in the process.
Improving Your Website Engagement
#1 – Insight leads to answers
In the beginning there’s limited insight. Guess work is required and feedback required elbow grease. Don’t be afraid or hesitant to get this done. This effort provides insight and answers other may not be brave enough to get. This insight, leads to improvement and less guessing. Make your business about knowing your customers better than anyone else. Your website should be at the heart of that effort.
#2 – Design objectives vary
Depending on your industry, it may be essential that you stand out – or important to blend in. Make sure to check out your competitors and consider how and why their websites are the way they are. What can you learn from them, what can you learn from other sectors with similar user objectives?
A Final Thought
We love website development, so we keep a keen eye on the different options, offerings and trends out there to stay ahead. It’s also about bringing our own style to the work be do and ensure we can give the best advice possible. We don’t have any ties to any of the parties mentioned. Our advice is based on experience, research and personal preference. We’re confident it will help you make a decision on what’s best for you. Naturally, we’re also keen to hear feedback and answer any questions you may have.
The aim of our blog is to share our experience and advice in the hope it saves you time, hassle and money. We’re keen to hear your ideas for future posts so if you have any questions or requests please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Thank you!
At Ngage, we’ve had the pleasure of developing websites for amazing organisations and entrepreneurs from around the world. From clean landing pages for aspiring start-ups to a ‘first of its kind’ tourism data platform for one of the most respected tourism data research organisations in Europe. So what have we learnt so far? More importantly, how can we use it to help you?