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James210700

Brittany Ferries BETA site

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3 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

You could 'grey out' cabins like that presumably?

Possibly. Assuming we are not discriminating. We can't really tell passengers they can't have them when they're available, regardless of passenger mobility.

I am sure there are ways around this - but this really is just one part of the challenge, I for one would love to allow passengers to select their own cabins.

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12 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Welcome to the site, Millard, great to have you here and really impressed that BF is taking the trouble to ask us what we think!

Two more from me - firstly, did you pick up my earlier point about the presentations of the timetables?

Secondly, is there any demand for UK customers to be able to book Cork routes directly through the UK site?

Hi Gareth and thank you for your warm welcome. This website is well known to Brittany Ferries staff, it was even discussed during my training when I first joined the company as a member of the reservations team. It makes complete sense to me that we ask you enthusiasts what you think.

I did pick up your point about the timetables only showing a month at a time. A very interesting point. Believe it or not a lot of our customers can never find the France - UK timetables on our current website. We wanted to try and have both the UK - France and France - UK timetable fit on one screen so our customers could not possibly miss half the timetable (even when there is a 'view Caen to Portsmouth' link on the old website page). Perhaps we can have a way to let you click on something which will display the full year - well worth us thinking about when the time is right.

Yes there is some demand from for UK customers to book Cork routes and pay in sterling on our UK site, but honestly, not that much. I think most of our customers do not mind using the Irish website and pay in euros.

 

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17 hours ago, Millard said:

Hi Gareth and thank you for your warm welcome. This website is well known to Brittany Ferries staff, it was even discussed during my training when I first joined the company as a member of the reservations team. It makes complete sense to me that we ask you enthusiasts what you think.

I did pick up your point about the timetables only showing a month at a time. A very interesting point. Believe it or not a lot of our customers can never find the France - UK timetables on our current website. We wanted to try and have both the UK - France and France - UK timetable fit on one screen so our customers could not possibly miss half the timetable (even when there is a 'view Caen to Portsmouth' link on the old website page). Perhaps we can have a way to let you click on something which will display the full year - well worth us thinking about when the time is right.

Yes there is some demand from for UK customers to book Cork routes and pay in sterling on our UK site, but honestly, not that much. I think most of our customers do not mind using the Irish website and pay in euros.

 

Thanks Millard - yes I can see the issue with people never finding the return timetables - I had never thought of that!  The idea of being able to click on "show all sailings" or something like that sounds great.

I was thinking about what you were saying about using the Irish site etc.  I raised the issue of UK customers booking Cork but, of course, there are other permutations of the same issue - Irish customers booking UK sailings, UK customers booking Roscoff-Bilbao, Spanish customers booking French sailings etc.  To the best of my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong) I think users of the French site are able to book everything from there, including UK-Spain sailings.  So what I was wondering was, is there actually a reason why there has to be "a UK site", "a French site", "an Irish site" etc?  I guess the answer is probably, yes, because of different pricing policies, regional availability of special deals, and the whole "holiday" side of things.  But notwithstanding all those complications, what about just having "the BF site" - same one everywhere - in which you can select language, select currency to pay in etc, but essentially the same booking engine wherever you book from, with all sailings available to book. 

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I believe that numbered cabin selection is a niche request & does not have to be in the booking site - the site should be as simple as possible for the first time user, possibly with extra bits for the more frequent users.

I believe that cabins get allocated on a best first logic - I get decent locations on early bookings and worse ones for late bookings. The support centre can change cabins if you ask them if there are any available. I once asked for a shift to a better floor however was told that they had all gone !

My main two gripes/ suggestions are:-

  • Simple display of all available cabin types should be shown on one screen with mainstream cabin types shown first.
  • Better filtering of sailings by availability, at present the filtering is done on vehicle type and number of passengers - it would be good to have an advanced filtering option that allows extra criteria such as:-
    • Specific cabin type availability (muti choice)
    • Kennel availability
    • etc (if I have missed something)

I agree with Millard's comments that the timetable should make it easy to see the return crossings, however the beta version is a bit confusing with the right arrow not working, the assumption that the outbound starts in the UK and the return timetable not moving with the outbound crossing. It also does not highlight alternative routes. 

 

Edited by David Williams
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6 hours ago, Gareth said:

I was thinking about what you were saying about using the Irish site etc.  I raised the issue of UK customers booking Cork but, of course, there are other permutations of the same issue - Irish customers booking UK sailings, UK customers booking Roscoff-Bilbao, Spanish customers booking French sailings etc.  To the best of my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong) I think users of the French site are able to book everything from there, including UK-Spain sailings.  So what I was wondering was, is there actually a reason why there has to be "a UK site", "a French site", "an Irish site" etc?  I guess the answer is probably, yes, because of different pricing policies, regional availability of special deals, and the whole "holiday" side of things.  But notwithstanding all those complications, what about just having "the BF site" - same one everywhere - in which you can select language, select currency to pay in etc, but essentially the same booking engine wherever you book from, with all sailings available to book.

Wow, it seems like you have put some thought behind this. You are right, my answer would initially be about pricing policy, offer availability and the holiday part of our business.

To expand further could get quite technical and would involve me talking about our in-house bespoke booking software which ties in to just about everything to do with our business. In short, all of our websites (freight sites to a lesser extent) must communicate with this software and our software will respond with information the website needs in order to know what to display on your screen. Any developments to our websites therefore must work in conjunction with this software. Because of this, to facilitate the kind of website you are referring to is by no means impossible, but would be a colossal task.

I realize this is a bit of a cop out answer. Your question is a really good one.

 

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14 hours ago, Millard said:

In short, all of our websites (freight sites to a lesser extent) must communicate with this software and our software will respond with information the website needs in order to know what to display on your screen.

 

As someone who used to develop exactly this kind of software and its interfaces with external booking systems, I completely get what you are saying.

When you have an unspecified number of connections (including not just website users but also tour operators, travel agents, in-house booking staff, freight handlers, and even check-in staff at the port) querying and reserving availability on any of up to 70 weeks worth of sailings (at how many sailing per week?) - and that available is expressed in terms of pax numbers, vehicle length, high-vehicle length, kennels, cabins of various types, and even berths in single-sex shared cabins (for freight drivers) - and... whenever the availability is reserved it needs to be held until a booking is confirmed, but if it is not confirmed then the reserved availability needs to be released when the sailing dates are changed, or the customer  decides to ponder a little longer... then yes you can indeed see that it is all a bit complicated.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Millard said:

Wow, it seems like you have put some thought behind this. You are right, my answer would initially be about pricing policy, offer availability and the holiday part of our business.

To expand further could get quite technical and would involve me talking about our in-house bespoke booking software which ties in to just about everything to do with our business. In short, all of our websites (freight sites to a lesser extent) must communicate with this software and our software will respond with information the website needs in order to know what to display on your screen. Any developments to our websites therefore must work in conjunction with this software. Because of this, to facilitate the kind of website you are referring to is by no means impossible, but would be a colossal task.

I realize this is a bit of a cop out answer. Your question is a really good one.

 

Thanks for the reply Millard - yes, what I suggested is probably rather outside the scope of the current facelift project, I realise that - it's just that what you said about using the Irish site got me thinking.  And members on here know what happens when I get thinking!  (All sorts of ideas come out, some a bit wacky and some more realistic.  But they are always the product of a lot of thought - It's a bad habit of mine which I must stop!). 😉

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Lots of other stuff going on, in particular been seriously “enthusiastic” about cruise ships (still am :-)), but been stalking around for a week or so. Decided to take an indefinite hiatus because it was a time when every post was getting hyjacked into one about a certain ship out of Poole, I read a great comment by one of the mods the other day, well done 👍. Certainly two B words I was fed up with, Brexit and B******r. But not to drag this into that and be guilty myself.

I work in a similar line of business to Brittany Ferries, also based in Devon, and I’ve designed and projected managed several websites, online booking engines and two bespoke reservation systems - it’s not an easy job and won’t please everyone, some folks don’t like change but what you do you do for the many.

it does seem to me that most websites are getting closer in look, functionality and style. Gone are mobile websites, anyone with just a desktop site is dead in the water since at least 2/3rds of web visits are now on mobile phones, apps never ever took off except for a very small number of sites like Facebook and it works well for banking (and I never invested in them as I foresaw that), the future is all responsive and if not responsive at least reactive.

The key thing is to use the beta site on your phone, not a tablet - tablet visits are dropping like a brick at the moment - and see how it works there. The BF mobile site was poor, the desktop site too small on a mobile. I totally get the point that too much information just gets missed. Too much imagery slows things down and the impact goes on a phone. And put too much there and you’re scrolling forever.

User behaviour is constantly changing and we’re certainly seeing an ecommerce market where “less is more”. Most users feel bombarded by too much information, to many extras at the point of booking which makes them freak out.

BF have an additional challenge. Most people on here will be booking ferry travel; you consider it, research it, travel often so you have habits. But BF are also a tour operator or travel agent selling ferry inclusive holidays; it’s a way to fill the ships which is BF’s priority but the customer’s priority is NOT the ferry but where they’re staying. Ask them to make choices about that as well as the holiday and the user becomes overwhelmed, doesn’t change from a user to a customer because they go elsewhere.

Users to customers is what is called conversion (it’s a simplistic measure, of only Google Analytics could show it so simply). For users intent on just booking a ferry, the conversion is probably about 40%, may be a little higher as BF have no real direct competition on U.K. to France and Spain (they do from Ireland to France, but Irish Ferries seem to be annoying every customer at the moment and taking themselves out of the running), but around that 40% is I know what one of the two IOW operators gets (I will not say which).

On the other hand, the holidays site probably gets around 1% to 2% conversion on average across the year, it will be higher at certain times but not necessarily when you think. Much higher than that, everyone at Brittany Ferries, contact me cos I’ll give you jobs and pay you more than BF!

Previously you might have built two websites, current wisdom is that is suicide so they’re balancing the two.

Yes, BF are late to the party with a responsive website (way behind Stena who I think were first, P&O, Irish Ferries, DFDS etc) but perhaps it’s because they didn’t need to be ahead. My guess is most revenue comes from ferry travel since they are the sole operators there and if you’re looking at 40% conversion or above then why change?

Except I bet their conversion has been dropping steadily as mobile useage continues to grow and shows no sign of slowing or stabilising. And if they want to sell more holidays, they need to compete. Find a Holidays website that is not responsive! Eurocamp, Canvas, Siblu as direct competition but also Tui, Airbnb, every single large hotel site, all been responsive for a long time. My guess is the holidays section has been the most argued about, most complicated, most politically charged part of the project.

From a developer’s point of view, why show a timetable as they will see it in the booking engine. From a conversion rate optimisation specialist’s view why tell people about the ships on a web page, do it in the booking engine as that’s where you want them so they can buy and worst case you can capture retire details.

Web design is a balance but these days the format is pretty much set - users want one site to be like another and fast, damn fast - so it’s about tinkering around the edges.

My guess if new BF site will go live as soon as the conversion rate matches or exceeds the current one for a period of time. Before that they will take away the choice and start sending 50% of traffic, perhaps by device or source, to the new site with no selection, may be tinkering with those proportions and different device types or referral sources. That’s called A/B testing; it’s really simple but it’s still foundations of any website user testing (who can sit through thousands of hours of user recordings, certainly enough to glean anything meaningful, and not loose the will to live?).

It’s a race against time though, Oct and Nov are great months to put in a new website in this sort of seasonal market, December is an awful time because people will be researching holidays then ready to book in Jan - and there will be a lot of researching which is why the conversion is far lower - and whilst the technology is there to make sure you see the same version of the site on your device A, if you pick up another device or partner’s device and you get something different on device B then that will freak them out.

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6 hours ago, Seashore said:

apps never ever took off except for a very small number of sites like Facebook

Why is that? I thought that was going to be the way for companies to incentivise their customers. Over here the SNCF is pushing their app heavily as part of a drive to crack down on fare dodging. Why wouldn't it work for BF, not just as a way of making your booking but also managing it? The timetables would be much easier to see for those who are interested as you could put them in a drop-down menu of favourites, save your sailing preferences and come back at a later date to confirm your booking, send suggested crossing ideas to family and friends for approval, store and access your pdf booking confirmation and add extra otions (like a cabin) without having to go through the connection process on the site much more quickly. Plus it would store the history of your trips (like the ebay app does with purchases) in case you wanted to refer back or make a duplicate booking. Ed

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The use of apps is all to do with frequency of usage, not that many apps get used multiple times - excluding social media, banking and dating sites, gaming and the sort. For a user to download it it’s got to be worth it for multi time use. Regular BF users might like it but the cost of building apps for iOS and Android (they’re different) and maintaining them along with a main website doesn’t justify the return in most cases.

However, apps do have a future as the replacement for conventional browsers. On your phone if you click on a link in Facebook then you’re viewing the website in their app and not on the Safari, Chrome or other browser on your phone. Browsers themselves as the environment in which websites are used and access is already in decline and it’s due to in app browsing.

YouTube didn’t exist 11 years ago and it’s now massive, the inspiration for on demand video streaming, and all reasons why traditional linear tv broadcast is in rapid decline shedding “live” audience at an alarming rate. Add to that recording boxes, things change fast. Most Gen Z don’t even know what a TV guide is, Millenials are older but don’t expect to be constrained either by set times. This is the future market for BF and these are the folks who are going to want to find a ferry or a holiday very fast and easily.

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I've had a good play with the BETA site and actually enjoyed the experience. The only suggestion I have is whether the Sailing Update tab could change colour to signify that changes have been made to the schedule(s).

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1 minute ago, jonno said:

I've had a good play with the BETA site and actually enjoyed the experience. The only suggestion I have is whether the Sailing Update tab could change colour to signify that changes have been made to the schedule(s).

Yes, or flash as I'm sure I've seen elsewhere, to draw attention straight to it. Ed. 

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Just had a look at the Beta site. I usually book hotel holidays with BF, so tried out that section. While you can still filter by region (eg: Brittany), there is no longer an option to filter by town, you are just presented with a random list of 94 hotels in Brittany. I usually have an idea of where I want to visit, so what I want to see is a list of the hotels that BF uses in a particular town. That info is available on the current site and needs to be brought into the Beta site IMO.

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Just had a look myself, and like the others above, I do value the ability to filter by town as can be doen on the sidebar of the existing site. We tend to book hotel short breaksm and have a very good idea of which town localities we are interested in.

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Just want to thank everyone for their feedback so far. There has been some interesting insight shared as well.

If there is any more appetite for it, I would like to encourage more enthusiasts to set up and try the new free account feature. For those of you which are Club Voyage members, you can log in and experience the new account features as well. It should show you your future bookings, but also allow you to shortlist holiday properties, save ferry itineraries and generally provide a better experience.

This area of the new website is something we hope to grow and improve going forward.

I would very much like to know what your opinions are of what we have so far and whether or not it actually works. Also, to some extent, I would like to know what you would like to see from this in future.

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I saved a trip on my account but didn’t use it for my latest booking as it didn’t include my club voyage feature, maybe restaurant bookings would be a good feature.

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34 minutes ago, Millard said:

Just want to thank everyone for their feedback so far. There has been some interesting insight shared as well.

If there is any more appetite for it, I would like to encourage more enthusiasts to set up and try the new free account feature. For those of you which are Club Voyage members, you can log in and experience the new account features as well. It should show you your future bookings, but also allow you to shortlist holiday properties, save ferry itineraries and generally provide a better experience.

This area of the new website is something we hope to grow and improve going forward.

I would very much like to know what your opinions are of what we have so far and whether or not it actually works. Also, to some extent, I would like to know what you would like to see from this in future.

Did just as you requested and made my booking on the Beta site however another rat bit me in the bum. My credit card is renewed on 1st Jan and the booking was for July so you cannot secure the booking. We could pay the deposit but then the card would no longer be valid. Phoned BF they sorted it as usual but had to pay all upfront. Not much can be done about that I suppose but it is all the little gremlins that creep in.

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An app would be a useful way to get rid of tickets they could be used for all their current purposes and to open cabin doors along with other potential onboard uses.

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