This is not a relaunch

The old Gadling look has faded away.

The old Gadling look has faded away.

We’ve made a few updates around here, but this is not the “new” Gadling. At least not yet.

The changes you see are all about moving Gadling from AOL to its new home at Skift. There are some links to stories, which we think matter to Gadling readers because you’ve always had an interest in travel news, both on this site and elsewhere. But we know that’s not the real reason you come to Gadling.

You’ve come here for many years because you want to read about how people experience travel. That will return soon.

But right now we’re getting rid of the mountain of spam comments, the strange network ads, and the look that had seen few updates over the last five years. …

How Can Airline Websites Improve?

I recently visited the mobile website for midwest-based Sun Country Airlines, where I could check a flight status, view schedules or check my itinerary. Basically everything except what I came to do: book a flight. The confusing, unattractive, user-unfriendly design of airline websites is a common complaint of travelers, and a problem that the designers at Fi (Fantasy Interactive) have attempted to solve.

Their mock website and accompanying video highlights high-quality images, visual details such as weather temperatures, street maps and city sights, and a seamless, all-in-one-screen experience from flight booking to seat selection to flight status. Their design makes the airline more than a transportation company. It makes them a travel authority, tour guide and most importantly, a source of inspiration.

This wasn’t the first attempt at an airline website overhaul. In 2009, user interface designer Dustin Curtis published an open letter to American Airlines on his website, along with his idea of a website redesign. This was followed up by an anonymous response from one of AA’s designers, who was then fired for his message to Mr. Curtis. Funny enough, his vision of a new is pretty similar to what the airline unveiled this year with their new logo, with large images, links to deals and news and an overall streamlined look.

For something completely different, check out Anna Kovecses’ minimalist and vaguely retro design for American, along with a user-generated blog community where you might leave travel tips for frequent flyer miles.Delta relaunched its site last year with features including a travel “wallet” to store receipts to make their site more “customized” to travelers. Swedish designer Erik Linden’s gorgeous layout for a new Lufthansa site can be found online, but a visit to the German airline’s official site shows the same old crowded page. has been consistently appealing and easy to use, touting the “jetting” experience rather than just a seat. Travel industry news site Skift has a nifty slideshow comparing booking sites now and from their early days. (The major innovation seems to be images over hyperlinks and text.)

One thing many of these designs have in common is suggestion and inspiration. Airlines seem to assume that most of us go to their website with a firm destination in mind, burying their route map deep in a sub-menu for us to hunt down. Yet if we are to be loyal to one brand or try to use frequent flyer miles, a map of their flights is the first destination. My husband is trying to make “million miler” status with American, and tries to book with them as much as possible, maximizing the distance and number of miles. While I can search for destinations from JFK, and even sort my number of miles, it’s harder to figure out what international destinations (such as Seoul) are served from another departure city. Shouldn’t the goal be for the airline to be one you want to return to, rather than a site you quit using out of frustration?

What matters to you in using an airline’s booking site?

Is Travelocity Built For Women?

The folks over at Skift have an interesting study on mobile travel apps as a function of gender. Among the comscore data that they crunched, they found that the mobile tools for Hilton and Delta were frequented primarily by men (74% and 67% respectively) while among Online Travel Agents, Travelocity was the only tool that was gender asymmetric. Apparently, 66% of Travelocity app users are women, while other sites like Orbitz and Kayak are closer to 50/50.

What’s with the skew? Dennis Schaal, the author of the article, jokingly suggests that the Travelocity Gnome might have some better sex appeal (and The Negotiator doesn’t?) but the real influences are probably more subtle than that. It’s well known that design aspects of a website including color and functionality tend to cater to different demographics. In this case, it’s possible that Travelocity’s design is just better suited to the female aesthetic.

Either way, Travelocity has the same comscore data that we do, so the targeting is intentional. We just don’t know why.

Travel News Site Skift Launches: An Interview With Cofounder Jason Clampet

Skift, a new travel news site from paidContent founder Rafat Ali and Frommers alum Jason Clampet, launches today. I sat down with Jason this past weekend to get an update on the launch and to see how the product is shaping up.

Breakfast at La Bonbonniere, 8th Avenue, New York City

Grant Martin: Kind of loud out here, no?

Jason Clampet: It’s nice outside. I wanted to take advantage of the weather.

GM: Alright, well I guess I can transcribe this on the fly. How are things coming together at Skift? Can you give us a profile of the site in a nutshell?

JC: Sure. Things are going really well. We want Skift to be the daily homepage of the travel industry. Additionally, it’s also a great resource for people who don’t necessarily work at an airline or a tour company but are really engaged in travel – either on the consumer or the business side.

We cover travel in a few different ways: through content aggregation, where we pull in stories and link to the original source; curation, where we cultivate stories from around the web and provide a small excerpt – the Skift take; syndication, where we have deals with AP, Reuters and a host of other sites; and then complete, original reporting. Our first hire was a news editor, Dennis Schaal.

GM: Didn’t he used to work for Tnooz?

JC: Yeah. He’s on staff with us now. He’s going to focus on original reporting, and the rest of the news spectrum will be filled in with aggregation, syndication and curation.

GM: And that will be selectively filtered in through the Skift staff?

JC: Right. Curation and aggregation we do through something called PublishThis – through WordPress – it allows us to discover stories faster than through Google.

GM: Travel news through, that market is fairly competitive, isn’t it? What are you doing that’s different from Tnooz and sites like travelllll?

JC: Both those sites are great, but they’re niche – Tnooz is more for the tech brains in travel, Travelllll is really blogger focused.

So that’s why I actually don’t think it is that competitive right now. Travel media isn’t in the same place that business or entertainment news is right now. Fifteen years ago, Entertainment Weekly launched and everyone said, “who cares about box office reports?” Now it’s one of Time Inc.’s biggest brands. With Skift we’re telling stories that view travel as a much larger segment then just OTAs or inventory management so that we can connect with stories that really matter to them. We think that’s where most travel media fails these days. More coffee?

GM: Sure. And that makes sense – from this altitude at least. So how is it going to make money? Content is difficult to sell.

JC: For the first six months we’re really focusing on building it as a media brand – we’re not getting into the page view business – but we’ll be looking for sponsors whose needs closely align with who our users are. We’ll also have data services that will be subscription based, and that will be a large part of our revenue.

GM: Your co-founder, Rafat, started paidContent and is part of the brains behind this operation. What’s it like working with him?

JC:He makes a good cup of coffee! You know, the thing that Rafat did at paidContent was that he saw where the content media business was moving before most other people did, and he’s bringing that same perspective to travel with Skift. His insights into the travel industry have really illustrated some of the connections that aren’t being made and the opportunities lost. And we plan on taking advantage of that.

GM: So is this operation funded by his previous ventures or by external sources?

JC: Primarily external. We raised money largely from seasoned media vets who see the opportunity in the field.

GM: As far as editorial then, with whom are you working to build content?

JC: Outside of the aggregated content, we’ll probably also work with some freelancers. I’d really love to find a hotel expert in the Gulf States and also Asia. Most people of the people that we’re going to look to as contributors, though, are going to have a business background.

GM: So where should people send pitches?

JC: You can send them to jc[at]

GM: Great. Good luck with the launch.

JC: Thanks Grant.