Improving Online Event and Dining Reservations for Walt Disney World

Posted By Debbie on June 2, 2016

As a Disney Vacation Club (time share) member, I go to Walt Disney World in Florida at least once every other year. You may laugh but it’s my happy place.

Even when I am there, I am still wearing my UX hat. Today I want to look at a UX flaw in trying to make some online reservations ahead of your vacation.

When can I do this?

Let’s say there is a restaurant where you want to eat or a special tour you want to take while on vacation. Many of these book up far in advance. It can sometimes be hard (if not impossible) to get the restaurant you want on a certain day and time.

Additionally, not all events and tours are available every day. Some tours are only given on certain days.

This means that when you are planning your vacation, once you have “what do I want to do/where do I want to eat” decided, the next question is, “when can I do that?”

Disney booking interface

That’s the current interface

The above screen shot is how it currently looks if you wanted to try to book a restaurant. The interface for booking an event is similar except it doesn’t ask how many. You just select the ONE date you’re hoping to go and it says available times or not available.

What’s missing here is the idea that most of us aren’t on a WDW vacation for one day. We’re there a bunch of days. Many people are there a week. Some people are there even longer, taking an extended vacation in a place the size of San Francisco.

How should this look or work?

Disney booking interface

This is about 100 pixels taller than the original but the width is the same.

This interface could offer more flexibility knowing the actual behaviors of vacationers.

1. Let me choose a range of dates. When I pick the first date, make the second date the same as the one I just picked in case I only want that date. Or I can choose a second date and have a range. And let’s say we let people search an entire week.

2. For events, we’re now done. Show me every time this event, tour, or special thing happens during my whole trip. I can then easily plan which one I want.

3. For dining, you now need some more information. How many in the party? I guess we can keep the droplist format for that. Defaulting to 2 only makes sense if Disney knows that most dining reservations are for two. If the average dining reservation is for 4, they should change the default.

4. We can include one more optional parameter for dining reservations. Which meal do you plan to eat at this location? How about checkboxes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with all selected by default. There are some places in WDW I’m happy to get ANY reservation at… won’t be picky! Some I only want a certain meal.

5. Since I started on the individual page for a certain restaurant, I can now see every open time for up to a week. How about we see this in an overlay since we’re now hopefully in the middle of a process (committing to one of these times and making a reservation)?

Disney booking interface

Better than one day, one time block at a time.

Perhaps for space’s sake, only one accordion opens at a time. But this would easily show when I can eat at this place over my whole trip.

And that’s a real life use case. On my last trip, I wanted to eat at Be Our Guest. I would rather eat there at dinner. I was on a 5-day trip and had to keep checking each day, one by one, time block by time block, to see if any spots were open.

It turned out one spot was open. Lunch at 10:45am on a Saturday. An interface like this would have saved me a lot of time, searching, and a little vacation stressing over getting a booking here.