Travelocity tore apart its booking engine as part of a homepage redesign to simplify the booking engine's look and feel and make it stand out as "the hero of the homepage."
Without further delay, here's the "before" picture -- the previous Travelocity homepage, where the booking engine is somewhat overwhelmed by the huge Travelocity banner image and promotion.
Notice above that the booking engine is a relatively busy affair and is divided into Book My Trip, My Deals and My Travelocity sections. Also, under Book My Trip, there are eight choices of types of inventory to book.
And, drumroll please, here is the "after" picture, namely the redesigned homepage:
As part of the overall redesign of the homepage, Travelocity divided the booking engine into four sections, tapped into the current question and answer craze by inserting text such as "What Do You Need?" and "Where Do You Want to Go?" and highlighted each section with varying color schemes.
Travelocity also removed Hotel + Car and Last Minute Packages as booking choices in the homepage booking engine, cleaning up the overall look.
Here's a closeup of the booking engine itself, with a smallish Roaming Gnome anchoring it at bottom left and providing a bridge to a Travel Deals section beneath the booking engine.
To varying degrees, Travelocity's competitors already have made their booking engines homepage heroes, too, so let's call it a trend. Competitors' booking engines likewise occupy high-valued homepage real estate.
For example, here's Priceline's homepage and booking engine, where William Shatner is right in the mix of things in contast to the cameo by the Roaming Gnome for Travelocity.
And, Expedia.com, too, knows that not only Where You Book Matters, but where your booking engine is placed on your homepage matters, too.
And, while Expedia's booking engine is at the top left of its homepage and has a bold feel to it, the Orbitz booking engine is similarly positioned but its squared design makes it feel like it was cut and pasted onto the page perhaps five years ago.
The Orbitz booking engine badly needs some curves.
Take a quick tour at the design of travel booking engines around the Web and you'll find that some sites have let their booking engines become part of the supporting cast rather than giving them star status.
For example, take a look at the the BookIt.com booking engine which, rather than being a hero, definitely needs a rescue. The rest of the homepage seems to swallows it up.
Alas, Travelocity redesigned more than just the booking engine, of course.
Joel Frey, a Travelocity spokesman, notes the redesigned homepage has a revamped deals section, which displays offers based on your home airport, and there are new promotional spots on the right side of the page.
Among other twists, consumers can now use image-driven search to peruse Top Travel Destinations, and a Twitter-influenced Trending Now in Travel section at the bottom left of the homepage is based on Travelocity's most popular pages.
"Having these links featured prominently from the homepage also helps us from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective," Frey explains.
There are also a couple of changes atop the new homepage: Facebook "like" and Twitter buttons have been inserted into the header, and Travelocity's most popular destination, Las Vegas, gets its own tab atop the homepage.
Vegas, baby, has become a Travelocity high-roller with its status as the only destination with its own tab.
And, Las Vegas knows all about tabs.