It’s Friday 5:31 and I’m going on holiday! I’ve worked hard for a break and really looking forward to relaxing, away from it all. No deadlines, no internet, no emails, no world news!
We set off to the idyllic cottage in the country, anticipating a carefree feeling, peace, quiet and fresh air. This is going to be great!
A few hours later we arrive at our beautiful cottage. We unpack the car, off load the kids and dogs, get the kettle on and…relax.
Half way through my cuppa one of my teenagers shouts from his bedroom for the WiFi password.
Now firmly in holiday mode, I kindly request that he looks for it himself in the cottage information pack.
After a pause, I hear “Found it!” Calm is maintained.
Another pause and “The wifi doesn’t work!”
“Argh…. I’ll sort it”
On inspection I realise the network in this area of the countryside is shockingly slow. Slower than a sloth chewing a curly whirly. So slow, Google takes forever to load. This can’t be right surely: the website definitely said there is Wifi.
I quickly do an internet speed test that reveals the worst of news. The connection speed is 174kbps. (I sigh. The average page size as of 2014 is 1,935Kb)
OK so perhaps this is not the worst of news for parents, but it’s definitely the worst news for a bunch of teens in the middle of nowhere.
Hold on, that means it’s bad news for us, because we’ve now got to keep the revolting teens distracted from cold turkey.
Net effect: This is not going to be a relaxing holiday after all.
Where did we go wrong?
When we booked, we knew we’d need the internet for things like finding the nearest shop for milk, bread, butter, cereal to feed the kids in the morning and to fill up the car for the week. We’d also need it to find and plan attractions and events for the week. That’s why we looked for a holiday cottage WITH wifi.
I really didn’t expect to have to put up with a flakey to non-existent internet. It’s more than an inconvenience, it’s stressing us all out, at the very time we expected to relax.
I looked back at the website to confirm what we thought we’d booked. The list of amenities on the website revealed the issue. The list below accommodates for the physical needs of a party of 8, but ‘Wireless internet’ is not explicit enough. I mean sure, it does have internet, but does it indicate if it’s powerful enough for a party of 8? No and it isn’t.
- 10 guests
- 3 Bedrooms
- 6 Beds
- 3 Bathrooms
- Wireless internet
- Open Fire
- Pets allowed
- Open fire
So what to do
We grin and bare it and holiday websites could consider these options:
Perhaps the ‘Wireless Internet’ term/icon could also display the internet speed? It’s easy to find out and accurate, however ‘174kbps’ might not be meaningful to the general public.
Alternatively, an asterisk could be added after ‘Wireless Internet’ which page anchors to the UK coverage? Again accurate but it’s not a convenient experience.
A better quick-fix would be to have an icon that represents connectivity strength next to ‘Wireless Internet’ which shows the net effect of both wifi and connection speed to the end user. Perhaps similar to a signal strength icon on the top left of mobile phones. It’s an accepted precedent that is instantly understood.
However, the ultimate approach would be to filter by user behaviour. So, in the holiday cottage search criteria customers would choose between dedicated internet usage filters. They could be based on three basic and meaningful categories like this:
- Messaging, email
- Social media, standard website browsing
- Video streaming & file access
Ticking one of these would then return cottages with adequate internet access for your families purposes.
- OK we did enjoy our holiday, but it wasn’t what we expected and that made for a reduced experience.
- Would we return? Probably not and certainly not with our children.
- Does this affect all Self Catering websites? All the sites I sampled presented over-simplified internet connectivity information.
- Could Self Catering websites avoid this happening? With UX improvements, yes.
- Should this be important to countryside tourism? I think so. Families need internet for the day to day tasks wherever they are. And also, let’s be honest, we need to encourage the younger generation to visit the countryside and it’s outdoor activities wherever we can. They are the future after all.