TravelAvenue, a startup focused on image oriented share for travel, is a Pinterest-ish development travelers may want to watch. We gave the product the once over this morning, here’s what we discovered.
If travel imagery and social sharing are your thing, TravelAvenue is not a bad toy to play about with. Like most user generated content models, community powers what’s on on TravelAvenue. Slick to join (as the screens below show) founders Loic Dupont, Stephane Pinatton, and Stefan Surzucki, the French newbie to the social travel space is at once inspirational and mediocre. The mediocre part comes mainly from not having enough community (users) to pin a ton of cool stuff. But, what if the startup cannot find Bora Bora? Read on.
TravelAvenue has numerous UI and navigational rough spots within TravelAvenue, not to mention images of such inferior quality as to leave the photography lover aghast. Just why hotels and restaurants even bother to snap such ugly images, let alone publish them to the Web, is a constant source of amazement for me. But nav dead ends and some crappy pictures does not really say it all for this early stage Pinterest clone. “Pinning” and sharing via object oriented organizational matrix (cool term huh?) is a lot of fun, easy, and probably the wave of the future. For TravelAvenue’s sake, methodology on top of graphic design need to be the focus for a while.
Once inside TravelAvenue the user feels a bit like he or she has signed up for a cutting edge online travel experience. As you can see from the steps outlined so far, the developers have done a nice job with expediency and coolness, etc. The one hits the landing, and still more “Hollywood” type imagery is, well, striking. The home page is where most of the “Pinterest” clone comparisons come from, clearly. In my mind, digging even deeper, TravelAvenue is actually a clone, but with some missing spots of excellence and much needed utility.
Not to be too critical, because the development has lots of potential, but no marque images of venues and an in general “sloppiness” where “pins” are concerned – try TravelAvenue and you’ll see the same problem. But let’s get away from the negatives for a moment.
The pins from Laura Roelants (yes, you are famous now) on TravelAvenue show off what’s best about this platform. From color scheme to layout, this page type is very, very nice. Laura’s wish list of places to go see is provocative and makes other users want to delve deeper. In this near perfect way of engaging, TravelAvenue has touched on what’s right about image oriented (or rich media) travel portals. And then digging two layers of soil deeper…
Most readers out there could care less about terms like; click-through, calls to action, user-centric design, navigability, object oriented, and site structure etc., these are meaningless. What is meaningful however, is the impact one feels when landing on each successive page within a content database (which is what any such site really is). One click to a TravelAvenue created “staff” profile, another to see Angel Falls, and Buick!
I am not sure how many of your reading this have ever been to Angel Falls, or even how many really know much about the place, but it’s safe to say your impression should never be some thumbnail or cheesy slider viewer with no visible means of “capturing” what the place is like. Bottom line, I can name 100 travel sites that do a crappy job of engaging those interested. This sucks, badly. Who care’s about timelines and all the copy pasted wonders any developer can come up with, if stuff gets ugly this fast?
My best feedback, as a beta tester of some 11,000 plus startups is – go full screen on the video below and embrace what Angel Falls is, what service you do visitors even allowing crappy images (make TOS adjustment). The video is in French, I believe, so TravelAvenue investors can fork over a bit more for some cutting edge programming.
According to the TLabs questionnaire, TravelAvenue took a half million Euro funding round from Financiere Boscary and another 400 thousand from investment group OSEO, to start the buildup of the platform. In all fairness to everyone concerned (readers included) this is a very early stage startup, UI and other design components are always deficient no matter how refined the end product ends up being. So, unless the investment is substantial to begin with, there will always be gaps in the build. Now that I let TravelAvenue off the hook, let’s summarize what is needed to make this a genuine travel innovation.
- TravelAvenue claims SEO and SEM are atop the list of “awareness” initiatives – SEO is all but dead
- Giving over value to large OTAs has diminishing return where commission based business is dwindling
- The developers need a native English speaking editor for their outbound PR (sorry, I do edit9
- Images on TA need to have size and quality constraints – value
- The UI needs a kick in the pants – full circular, redundant, better graphic design
- Full page dynamic images (a la what WIHP Hotels did with Convert – fast and flawless – no flash)
- Add the ability to pin video – THE VERY NEXT THING!
- Improve images “pin” capability – I could not add hi res images of Angel Falls
As with any new development, expecially ones gone public a bit too soon (hint) any reviewer who actually tests a product will find problems. For TravelAvenue there is a lot that is good though. Suffice it to say, if they get these bad elements fixed the French travel startup will make good. Until then, there are better mousetraps going down. Guys, don’t get caught from behind.
We’ll update you on TravelAvenue’s progress when the developers come out with a version release. Until then a last word of advice. LOSE THIS!