Trains comes (back) to Cleartrip for Android

Earlier today, we announced the availability of hotels on Cleartrip for Android.

There is one more thing…

By very popular demand, the ability to book Indian Railways trains comes back to Cleartrip for Android after a brief unplanned hiatus.

As before, there are no Cleartrip service fees for booking train tickets through Cleartrip for Android. You pay the same price that you would pay if you were booking your tickets through IRCTC.

We apologise for the hiatus, and with this relaunch, we hope you enjoy riding the rails again with Cleartrip for Android.

Hotels comes to Cleartrip for Android

When planning and booking travel, the global trend is that travelers tend to make their flight bookings first and then their hotel bookings and booking patterns in India are no different. 65% of our India hotel bookings are made within a week of the check-in or arrival date at the hotel. By some industry estimates, almost 30% of all hotel bookings in India are for check-in on the same day.

Today we’re making things easier for everyone who waits until the eleventh hour to make their hotel bookings by bringing hotel bookings to Cleartrip for Android. For the business traveler who needs a place to stay right now because their meetings have been extended and for the impulsive holiday-maker who wakes up on a Saturday morning and hits the road for a quick weekend getaway.

Cleartrip for Android lets you book your hotel rooms while seated in the middle of a conference room or in the comfort of your car as you drive to your destination. Over 10,000 hotels in India and over 100,000 hotels around the world are available in your pocket with Cleartrip for Android.

Search

For the traveler who books her hotel only after reaching her destination, we have the handiest and easiest hotel search — a single tap of the “Show hotels near me” button will show you a list of hotels nearest to your current location, sorted by distance and available for immediate check-in.

Same-day and next-day check-ins are eligible for amazing last-minute deals with Cleartrip’s exclusive Quickeys rate hotels.

For those of us who are a little less ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ travelers, there is a regular hotel search available with support for search by specific cities, landmarks, locations and even directly for a hotel by name. Check-in and check-out dates are optional as Cleartrip for Android supports dateless hotel searches for everyone who’s ‘just looking’.

Search Results

Hotel search results are available for viewing in a list-view and a map-view with controls to switch between the two views available on the bottom-left of the display. Results can be easily sorted and filtered by a variety of parameters so you can fine-tune the results to only show what suits you best.

Similar to our desktop site, you’ll also find Smart Tabs available on the bottom-right for quick access to popular hotels and hotels with deals.

Hotel Details

Tapping on a hotel name will bring you to an overview screen, which is designed to give you all the information you need for a hotel at a glance. Additional tabs are also available from the overview screen for photos, traveler reviews, hotel info and location.

One-touch payments with Expressway

If you’re a smart traveler, you use Expressway to make easier and faster travel bookings with one-touch payments. If you’ve saved your card details with Expressway, your saved cards details are automatically available in Cleartrip for Android.

So give it a spin and share your feedback with us in the comments or email us at mobile@cleartrip.com. We’ll be looking forward to it.

Introducing Collections: For the wanderer in you

Travel inspiration is not hard to come by – whether you are scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed or watching a movie or flipping through a magazine – images and experiences that you witness are good enough to get the travel bug moving. But how close are you to making a decision on where to go, what to do or where to stay?

You may see a snap of your friend in front of the Colosseum in Rome but you are not quite a historical person. You want an adventure holiday. May be you like frequent short breaks but not long vacations. You need to consider if your kid will enjoy. Or you are just interested in the journey but not so much in the destination.

There are almost as many reasons to travel as there are people wanting to travel. And that is the biggest challenge in building something for travel inspiration – it requires both depth of content and breadth of experiences to be useful to as many as possible.

When we introduced Waytogo a few months back, we gave you the means to reach from anywhere to anywhere. Today, we’re proud to announce Collections, a curated list of destinations, activities, travel themes and hotels that will help you make the decision on where to go, what to do and where to stay. And to help us curate this, we’ve associated with Conde Nast Traveler – one of the biggest names in consumer travel magazines.

Cleartrip Collections

Something for everyone

When we started with building and curating Collections we had two simple goals in mind – it had to have something for everyone right from the word go and it had to be accessible from anywhere. The set of 45 Collections that we are launching with today reflects just that thinking. They are truly comprehensive both in depth and breadth. We’ve also built Collections to be beautifully responsive, so no matter what device you are using, you will never be short of travel inspiration.

Cleartrip collections

There are monsoon break ideas and weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi that you can keep coming back to every time you want a quick getaway, every year, till you have done it all.

If you want a long international vacation, we have you covered with suggested itineraries to Turkey, Vietnam and Switzerland. If you want adventure, we have things to do at Rishikesh and India’s best road trips, as also the mother of all adventures – a biking trip to Ladakh.

Greek island getaways

For the foodies out there we have the selection of the best places in Mumbai to treat your palate to the best cuisines from around the world and the best hotel bars in Bangalore. Want to party? Head out to Istanbul. Traveling with kids? There’s Shimla and Singapore. Want to do some celeb spotting in Mumbai? That’s there too.

The right tools at the right place

While you are going through a Collection you are bound to have additional queries – where can you get more information about the place, how do you reach there, what is the nearest city to stay or what is the nearest airport. As far as possible, we have tried to put that information right where you need it – along with each unit in the Collection. There are also little nuggets of relevant information and best times to visit thrown in to help your planning.

Collection tools

This is just the beginning

We kick this off with over 40 Collections, with holiday themes in India and abroad. And the best part is this is just the beginning. More such incredible inspiration will be added over the coming months.

When we launched Waytogo we said:
We aim to make Cleartrip the Swiss Army Knife of travel and Waytogo is another powerful addition to empower the Do It Yourself traveller.

Collections is another inspirational addition to this toolkit. So, go pick your destination, do your thing and enjoy your travel. Explore what is already there. Start planning your vacations. Share with your friends what you think they’ll like.

And don’t forget to tell us what you think. We’d love to hear what you want us to do to make Collections even more awesome. Tell us what Collections you want to see or share your experiences and tips on our current collections. Drop a line in the comments here or send us a mail at collections@cleartrip.com.

Waytogo is now way better

A few months ago we launched Waytogo as a public beta and we’ve been hard at work to remove the beta label. Today, we’re happy to say that Waytogo is officially out of beta. In this post, we’ll be walking you through all the improvements we’ve made.

Waytogo is now mobile

We designed Waytogo keeping the mobile experience in mind from day one. We didn’t release the mobile version alongside the public beta because we didn’t think it was good enough to go out the door yet. We’ve restricted certain functionality on the mobile, partly because of screen limitations and partly because we expect users to use this primarily as an exploratory tool. Having said that, we just love how well the design translates on mobile.

This is the first time we’ve experimented with a hybrid approach to responsive design — the product is responsive both on the front-end and on the server side. Waytogo is served off a single SHTML page, we’ve effectively managed states and served different versions of the app with some some advanced SSI commands.

On the Waytogo home page, we’ve stripped out the elaborate background, product pitch and masthead and replaced it with a simpler, light-weight masthead for mobile.

On the search results, we’ve stripped out the map and show just the search results.

We’d love to share the implementation details of our responsive design, but that deserves a separate blog post.

Custom designed transportation icons

For our core products we’ve been using icons that are commonly known as DOT pictograms. We’ve tweaked some of these, for the screen which we’ve written about in the past.

While most these icons are front elevations, we needed side elevations for Waytogo especially to fit into the timeline in search results.

Although, the icons in the first version of the product were pretty sharp they just didn’t feel like they belonged to one family. Not only did they not resemble their respective front elevations but they were also quite different from each other in the side elevations.

This always bothered us, so we decided to custom design the side elevations of the DOT pictograms for Waytogo. Here’s how we went about designing these icons

Step 1 – The front elevations were lined up along with the guidelines for reference.

Step 2 – The old icons were tweaked to align with the guidelines that were formed by the front-elevations

Step 3 – Side elevations followed the guidelines formed by the first icon

Here’s what the final result looks like:

These icons were to be used at a much smaller size in the product. After scaling it down, the icons were pixel-fitted for maximum sharpness.

Here’s a look at the icons in different sizes:

And here’s how the new icons compare with the old icons.

Not only are the new icons more visually coherent, the additional weight we’ve given them ensures they are more distinguishable at smaller sizes.

Timeline transition

Back-end services on Waytogo are broken up into multiple services based on how static or dynamic the service’s data is; for example, route information is relatively static, but fare data is highly dynamic, so they are two separate services. The static service includes the route information, approximate fares and trip duration.

Dateless searches on Waytogo will simply use this static service. However, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes magic required for searches with a date. For date searches, the results page first renders the static data available – you see the basic route information – while we stitch together a valid itinerary with accurate durations and fares. Since the total duration of each route is still unknown we cannot render the timeline just yet. During this time, users can see transportation modes for each route and as soon as the itinerary comes back with the actual fares & durations we render the timeline with a nifty animation. Here’s a clip:

We loved this so much that we added the transition for dateless searches as well.

Better labelling in the timeline

Designing the search result unit was one of our biggest challenges while working on Waytogo. We wanted to display enough information upfront to make comparing routes easy. The timeline has the most significant roles in helping compare routes. Even though the timeline is not an absolute representation, it provides a fair representation of the relative duration of each route. The timeline lets you consume quite a lot information; i.e. relative durations, modes of transport involved and all the waypoints at one glance.

In cases where there were more than three waypoints in the timeline, displaying the labels for each place was a challenge. Our original design simply truncated place names so they didn’t overlap with each other. This approach didn’t work in well in cases where city names were a part of other waypoint names. For example, a route like: “Bangalore [BLR] > Bangalore City Junction” would land up looking something like this “Bangalore [… > Bangalore C…” after truncation. This made it difficult to distinguish between these place names. So, we designed a multi-level labelling system that overcomes this limitation and can easily handle many different waypoint labels in the timeline.

Improved usability of the map

In the first version, the map used to simply show markers for the start and end points along with the route. You could click on a specific leg of the journey and the map would zoom into that leg.

In the above design, the directionality of a route or leg was never clear. We’ve now introduced labels for start and end points for the entire route as well as for specific legs. This little touch makes the map so much more usable.

Sharing made easy

We’ve always believed that travel is an inherently social activity – people travel to push their personal boundaries outwards through exploration.

We’ve made sharing of routes easier, so you can instantly share the routes you’ve found with friends and family – and spread the word at the same time.

There’s more we’ve done behind the scenes to improve the search and make everything faster. Do give the new version a spin and keep the feedback coming — we’d love to make it even better.

Designing Cleartrip for iOS7

Earlier this week we released the newly designed Cleartrip for iOS7. Within just two days of release Cleartrip for iPhone has, again, been handpicked by Apple as an “Editor’s Choice” app. We’re quietly thrilled to see Cleartrip featured front and centre in the App Store.

As expected, many of our customers are missing the old taxicab yellow and black colour scheme that we’ve had since we first launched the app. Today, we’d like to share some of design thinking that has gone into redesign Cleartrip for iOS 7.

The march to a single unified Cleartrip experience

In yesterday’s post, we briefly touched upon the direction we’ve taken:

While the design is optimised for iOS 7, we’ve also managed to design it such that it feels closer to home, closer to the design of our products for desktop and other mobile platforms.

Here’s a look how everything comes together:

Content precedes design

Taking our cues from the design of iOS 7, we bid farewell to textures and gradients; and with those out of the way, the focus lies squarely on the content and the task at hand.

iOS as a touchscreen operating system has come a long way from its roots. Today’s users already understand how touch interfaces work. Most, if not all, the user-education has already taken place and the days of guided aesthetics in touchscreens are at an end.

The whole screen to play with

iOS 7 provides the opportunity to use the entire screen as a canvas for content and we’ve used it wisely. The new Cleartrip app uses every one of the 727,040 available pixels of an iPhone; content flows beautifully above and beneath translucent layers lending the design depth and context.

There is a magical layered hierarchy in the design that manages to be simultaneously strong and invisible at the same time. Achieving this layered hierarchy is a foundational building block for the future of all our products. We created a similar layered hierarchy when we redesigned our desktop products.

Typography

With access to dramatically improved font rendering in iOS 7, we’ve made the text crisper and sharper. Information has been made lighter on the eyes and easier to consume by increasing the white space boundaries around the content.

To paraphrase the good book, ‘And let him who wants less white space cast the first stone’…

Navigation

Cleartrip for iPhone has always evolved side by side with iOS from the very beginning. Here’s quick visual journey of how just the headers in Cleartrip for iPhone have changed with the operating system.

And, of course, we’ve worked on making a few of the little things better…

Immersive start-up screen

We noticed that when launching apps in iOS 7 gets transformed and crossfaded into app splash screen. We took advantage of this particular behavior and made our splash screen as a bigger version of our app icon. This got us a very smooth start-up transition.

Arm’s length PNR viewing

Our customers are great at sending us feedback and we love making the things they point out better and better. A longstanding quibble was that finding the PNR in trip details was too difficult. This is important to us because may customers use trip details as their mobile ticket at the airport where the PNR is a critical piece of information. And now we’ve fixed that…

Improved usability

On mobile phones we always contemplated the form designs. Placeholder versus Labels. We’ve finally implemented the labeled forms throughout. Now there’s less overhead while filling up the forms.

Support for native navigation gestures

In iOS 7, Apple added a subtle gesture to all of their native apps to let users go back one step — swiping from the left edge of the screen takes you back. Once you get used to this, you won’t be using back buttons much. Cleartrip for iPhone happily includes support for this new gesture.

We’ve worked hard to get this into our customers hands at the same time as iOS 7 arrived. We hope you love it as much as we do. And, as always, Cleartrip for iPhone is available from the App Store.


Cleartrip for iPhone redesigned for iOS 7

Just yesterday, we shared some data on the iOS 7 adoption rate in India. We were all so shocked at the blistering pace at which iOS 7 was being adopted in India, that we stayed up all night, redesigned Cleartrip Mobile for iOS 7, submitted it to the App Store and got it approved…

Just kidding, we’ve been working on it for a few weeks now.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, described iOS 7 as the “biggest change to iOS since the iPhone” was launched in 2007. And, boy, is it big. When we first loaded the developer preview on our iPhones, the redesign felt so overwhelmingly new and different that it took some days to get used to the whole new level of minimal. But soon enough, the visual tone of the iOS 6 along with the Cleartrip app began looking and feeling awfully dated.

We’re thrilled to announce the completely redesigned Cleartrip for iPhone — refined and polished to take advantage of the simplicity and beauty of iOS 7.

Taking our cues from the design of iOS 7, we bid farewell to textures and gradients; and with those out of the way, the focus lies squarely on the content and the task at hand. Cleartrip for iPhone now feels lighter, cleaner, simpler and snappier. We’ve fine-tuned all the typography in the app to take advantage of iOS 7′s new Text Design & Rendering Architecture.

Take a gander at some of the redesigned screens…

While the design is optimised for iOS 7, we’ve also managed to design it such that it feels closer to home, closer to the design of our products for desktop and other mobile platforms. This is how the new design aligns with Cleartrip’s recent Tuxedo site redesign and our other mobile products.

It feels great to have our various products feel like they all belong to the same design family.

We highly recommend you to update your Cleartrip app and experience a more unified Cleartrip experience. For the design-minded among you, stay tuned for a post tomorrow where we will be delving into design details.



iOS 7 adoption rate in India

Soon after Apple launched iOS 6 last year, we blogged about iOS 6′s adoption in India and lots of people appreciated us sharing that data. Last week, when iOS 7 was launched, we immediately received requests on Twitter for a similar report on iOS 7 adoption.

Yesterday, Apple announced that over 200 million iOS devices are already running iOS 7. Apple is obviously sharing a global number and we’d like to share our own data to show an approximation for how iOS 7 adoption in India is trending.

From our standpoint, the adoption rate for iOS 7 is twice as fast as the rate for iOS 6 — within less than a week iOS 7 is contributing over 45% of the iOS traffic to Cleartrip Mobile. It took over a month for iOS 6 to reach a similar level of contribution.

This time we’re also sharing city level data for the adoption rates to see which cities are showing the fastest iOS 7 adoption, and surprise, surprise — Kolkata and Ahmedabad top the charts.

Movie posters, the Cleartrip way

Last year we posted about Redesigning the hotel icon, where we referenced the iconic DOT pictograms that have been in use across the world for years. At Cleartrip, we’ve been playing with these icons and graphics for a long, long time.

These pictograms have assisted millions of travellers of different ages and cultures, but we thought we’d have some fun with them too — break them out of their purely utilitarian straightjackets.

So, we held an internal competition asking for poster entries of your favourite movies redesigned using these pictograms. There were two advantages we saw — the first, being refreshing and viewing the age old pictograms in a new light; second, we wanted to add some zing to the design department’s space in our office.

These were the entries

The two best posters were selected from the submissions and the ‘prize’ was having one’s work framed and proudly displayed in the office.

This is how they look now.

Tuxedoes everywhere

We rolled out our new design more than a month back. At the time, only our flight search & hotel search had migrated to the new design. We wanted to keep a laser focus on our core products, get them to a stable condition before touching any of the other products. Having said that, we’ve been hard at work all along to move all our products to the new design. In fact, our Flight + Hotel Packages product was originally designed using the Tuxedo design framework; but we chose to retrofit the older design onto it because Tuxedo didn’t launch till 3 months later and we didn’t want to give the design away.

By now, you may have already experienced the Bus search that launched soon after the redesign – buses was the first new product which leveraged the new design language & framework. With Trains & Packages moving to the new design, we are happy to announce that all our core products are now wearing Tuxedoes.

Codenamed ‘Tuxedo’, this project has been a true labour of love for us – months and months of hard work, which has given us a new design framework for the next five years.

Search forms

Search results

Tool bars

You can see we are putting our tool bars to good use. The search summary, view switchers and smart tabs — and we’re just loving the way the design of the toolbars is scaling across our different products.

Individual result units

Unifying the user experience across all products is a huge milestone for us. We believe, consistency not only helps our customers as they move from one product to another but it also builds a tremendous amount of trust. The consistency in design patterns and code is also going a long way in helping our teams deliver much faster.

As we finish the fourth phase of Tuxedo, we start another phase that takes our products closer to being more cohesive. Stay tuned, we’ll be back with more news on this front.

Building ‘Undefeated’ teams

In 2002, Bill Courtney took over as Head Football Coach for the Mannasas Tigers in Memphis. Their story is chronicled in the Oscar winning documentary, Undefeated. He came to a team that had not won a single game in over ten years. It took him six years, but Courtney took the “losers” and transformed them into a unit that won the district championship. He didn’t do it by making his team focus on winning games; he did it by focusing on what was much more important:

The foundation has got to be a solid platform that you can stand on and speak to these kids and say, ‘This is the way you build yourself. If you build yourself this way and handle yourself this way and have character, you get to play football. And winning will take care of itself because young men of character and discipline and commitment end up winning in life and they end up winning in football. But when you flip it and the foundation of what you’re doing is football and you hope all that other stuff follows… Well then you think that football builds character. Which it does not. Football reveals character.’
~ Bill Courtney

Great companies are no different from great sports teams — they’re both collections of individuals that, together, achieve dramatically more than any one individual can. What sets great companies and great teams apart is a shared foundation. And foundations need depth. Deep foundations are imbued with vision, values and goals that go beyond short-term objectives like “Win the game” or “Achieve the revenue target”. Great teams don’t view their wins as achievements, they see them as an outcome of pursuing greater goals and staying true to their foundation.

When sports teams or business teams “flip it” and focus on the wrong end of the stick, they confuse outcomes and goals; they confuse cause and effect. And for confused teams, the most typical end is ruin.