HotelTonight's minimal-effort mobile booking experience

September 5, 2019
Mobile app

There are many reasons why you might need a last minute hotel, which HotelTonight explores in their (sometimes cheeky) ad campaign.

Let’s say our reason for booking a hotel tonight is a flooded basement-level apartment.

After downloading the app (42.6 MB—about a minute on a decent wifi connection) we're good to go: 

hoteltonight mobile app push notification permission request

Ok, makes sense. We need a hotel, tonight, and since our apartment is rapidly filling with water, we want something nearby. So, we opt to share our location.

hoteltonight mobile app hotel search price results for boston

And we’re already up and running! Look at all these hotels right nearby! The color scheme is great—very nocturnal, very hip (as is our first hotel. Great!). 

But scrolling through the list, it looks like the cheapest hotel is $315. These are all great hotels, but say we never actually got around to acquiring renter's insurance and need something more economical.

Let’s try some filters. Clicking the little slider button sure enough pulls up a filter menu!


hoteltonight mobile app hotel search filters

HotelTonight gives us a few super obvious and simple filters here (wonder what goes into the calculation of “Top Deals,” which is the list we had just been looking at). The other options here make sense too—it's easy to see why someone looking to impress (or feeling liberal with their company's credit card) might choose the “Most Premium” option. But we're in a rush and replacing the couch is going to be expensive enough, so let's choose “Lowest Price.”

hoteltonight mobile app hotel search price results with filters applied

That's a little better! One thing that didn’t get captured here  is that the purple text animates in—which is a cool effect, although a little confusing when the page first load the $363 price appears first. In any case, let’s tap on that first "Basic" option.

hoteltonight mobile app hotel detail screen

Swiping through the header photos, this place looks clean and nice. Scrolling down, we're shown a price comparison to another booking site, the time it will take to drive there, a brief editorial summary of the hotel (nice personal touch!), and an easily readable list of amenities. 

hoteltonight mobile app amenities details
hoteltonight mobile app editorial copy

Let’s click the big, obvious purple button and book it!

hoteltonight mobile app booking screen with added taxes and fees

We have strong feelings—good and bad—about this screen. 

The good: an Apple Pay option! By this point, only our head and hands are above water, so being able to pay in a single click is a great option!

The bad: $147 in taxes and fees! That’s some sticker shock right there. It would have been great if HotelTonight provided a more transparent breakdown or explanation of these extra charges.

Why this is really good UX

  • The entire process is super clear—the app behaves very much the way any knowledgeable smartphone user would expect.
  • The integration with Apple Pay—which is already great at streamlining the payment process—is an extra pleasant surprise. 
  • HotelTonight's design and presentation is sleek and well done. The professional photos make each hotel option that much more attractive, and the editorial copy is a great touch.
  • No account creation is necessary—even at the booking stage, it's optional—further reducing the barrier to value.

Why this UX really matters

  • Because HotelTonight is focused on last-minute bookings, it makes the assumption that people want to book quickly. The app really goes out of its way to give the user all of the information they need to complete this transaction ASAP.
  • From download to booking, the whole process could have probably been done in the space of 2 minutes. There was zero friction in the process—right up until those pesky taxes and fees.
  • All in all, HotelTonight delivers on its core value proposition of helping users book a hotel, fast.