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So I'm having an interesting problem while selling vacations.

Right now, I have two calendars for picking a date range. This date range is supposed to identify the days my customer is available to be on vacation. For example, if they pick Feb 4 to Feb 22, I'll return any vacations that start on or after Feb 4 AND end on or before Feb 22.

The most common vacations I'm selling run from Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday. There are some shorter and some longer, but I want to be optimized to find these 7 nighters.

The problem is that the standard calendar isn't optimized to pick these vacations. This is an example calendar:

Example Calendar

If people know they're off from work from Monday, Feb 13 to Friday, Feb 17, they almost always select from Sunday, Feb 12 to Saturday, Feb 18. This is just a natural way to select a full week.

Unfortunately, this doesn't return any of the most common vacations. Vacations beginning on Feb 12 most likely end on Feb 19, which is outside of the date range. Similarly, vacations that end on Feb 18 most likely began of Feb 11, which is outside of the date range.

I'd guess that 95% of the people that select this date range are actually available from Feb 11 to Feb 19, but what can I do to optimize the UI to receive the right inputs?

Most travel websites simply ask "When do you want to leave?" and have users select a month range. This is what I'm trying to improve.

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I'd love to know if you happen to have any statistics to back up your 95% figure. I, for one, know that I always choose the longest range I have available, which would put me in the 5%. Are people like me really that uncommon? –  rbwhitaker Feb 4 '12 at 18:14
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2 Answers

Modify your system to take the "natural way to select a full week" into account.

You've already observed that people select weeks starting from Sunday and ending on Saturday. The UI is set up to reflect that, because it just shows you a calendar the same way you'd display a calendar anywhere else (like on a physical calendar).

So rather than changing the UI away from the convention and making things more confusing, you should keep things the way they are and modify your system to deal with that.

In order words, if I select Sunday 12 to Saturday 18, you should either notify me that there are vacations that start on the 11th and ask me whether I want to see them, or just show them to me anyway with a note that they start one day earlier. As a user, I'll appreciate that you're thinking ahead for me. Right now the system's response is very robotic, because it's interpreting the exact query rather than helping me book a vacation.

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I think you can invest more in the affordance of the calendar to suggest the Sat to Sat option. something along the lines of flashing the whole week and next to it some kind of a message with an arrow, saying that this is a recommended vacation. After two or three seconds it should fade away. Or indeed including the Sat to Sat option in the results, as an option above the requested results. I fyou do this, you must signify it visually. THink of something along the lines of 'sponsored links' It is acctually a bit similar to the sponsored links in google, in the way that the user searches for one thing, and than the system offers her another alongside what she requested. You may also decide to suggest the option of being flexible before choosing the dates. You can see it here: http://www.easyjet.com/EN. on the right hand side you can check a check box saying that you are flexible with dates. Hope I helped.

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