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12 December 2006

Search for accommodation in London?

When attempting to use the Internet to search for accommodation in London, it seems that despite 10+ years of e-commerce no-one appears to have a usable website to do this basic activity adequately. Perhaps I'm missing something here but I tried the popular sites, I tried various terms on Google, I tried various types of searches but nothing was adequate.

What I was looking for:

1. An en-suite double room in Greater London, ideally within about 5 miles of the City of London.

2. Less than £60 a night, including breakfast. This appears to be too complicated for some sites since some quote you without breakfast and then add it on as a surcharge.

3. Available on the night I want to stay. This is again a problem for some sites that do a cursory search then only check availability when you actually go to book the room only to find there isn't a room available to book. Other sites tell you they will get back to you by email in one business day, which is no use at short notice.

4. Wi-fi access would be a bonus but no-one seems to have invented a way of searching for it yet.

5. A place which has been favourably reviewed would obviously be good as many of the cheaper hotels are reviewed as dirty and substandard. Being able to filter for positively reviewed places rather than getting Fawlty Towers would be great. It would be even better if I could filter out the comments that were in languages I don't speak.

6. Searching by star grading would be a bonus, but isn't essential

7. A check in time of 1pm or earlier is a bonus, but isn't essential

8. Clearly the capability of quoting you an entire price, including any applicable credit card booking fee, is beyond the capability of any website in the year 2006 so I gave up on that one.

9. Being able to look at the matching results and see where they all were on a map is a very big usability bonus.

10. Being able to search for somewhere that has a shower. Saying there are en-suite facilities is not enough as some places are bath only.

Having spent ages wasting my time searching the various sites, the only one that even came remotely close to doing 1-3 and actually had available accommodation within my price range (and it has feature 9 too) was priceline. So there you go. Maybe there is a better search out there that can look for cheap availability but I couldn't find it. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I eventually found somewhere that was £40 for a double room including breakfast but some of the reviews are rather mixed so we'll see how it goes. I would have paid a bit more if I could have actually found somewhere suitable.

One positive thing from all of this is it's given me a really great idea for a Web2.0 start-up and no, it isn't an accommodation search.


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