Sep 27

Google's flight search innovates where others fail

Hotwire, Expedia, Travelocity...if you've gone anywhere on a plane recently I'm sure you've used one of these.

Over time, travel sites have standardized on interfaces for flight search; plug in your departure city, arrival city, then dates - get a list of results.

Most of these tools allow you to do basic after search manipulation like sorting by price, adjusting departure time, etc. The problem with these controls is that they all make one basic assumption - that you care to leave exactly on the date you originally picked.

What if you really don't care what date you leave? What if you're planning a trip sometime in the future? How can you get the cheapest flight besides picking random days and praying?

None of the previously available options have offered this type of capability until Google flight search. After performing the standard search dance, clicking a small graph-like icon reveals a wonderful visualization...

Here you can clearly see that leaving on November 1st for New York is the cheapest option. Clicking on each date reveals the price and changes your search criteria. You can even adjust the length of your roundtrip which automatically updates the price.

The clean, modern design carries over onto the mobile version of the same page, with a handy thumb-sized slider that you can manipulate via touch.

Google’s acquisition of ITA Software in July, 2010 all makes sense now, for the me at least. Google gets a ton of flack for their failed projects, but flight search is definitely a winner.

My only gripe? Make this feature more prominent!

Written by Seth Banks

Seth spends most of his days leading the design team at Green Bits and improving Cashboard. Occasionally he finds time to write about music, design, startups, and technology.

Tagged: around the web, design, interface, critique