Google doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to attractive user interfaces, and now it is taking a cue from the visual and inspirational Web, and flexing its creative impulses with a flight search UI called Flight Explorer.
Until now, if you were set in advance on your hoped-for origin and destination cities, you had two fairly ugly ways to get your Google flight searches going.
You could type “flights from New York to Rome” in the Google search box, and retrieve this:
It’s utilitarian, but a big yawn.
Or you could go directly to Google Flight Search, and start from there.
It has the requisite map, but it doesn’t stoke visions of St. Tropez in July.
Enter Google’s Flight Explorer, which appears to be an experimental UI that takes a page from the legions of travel inspiration startups, many of them now dead, and open-ended flight-search tools from the likes of Amadeus with its map-based extreme-search offering.
Flight Explorer (above) isn’t exactly Pinterest-like, but it is Pinterest-influenced with georgeous destination photos from Panoramio, which Google acquired in 2007.
Taking an inspirational tack, Flight Explorer detects your nearest airports, and suggests you try Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean as destinations. You can adjust your trip length, tweak stops, airline, duration, outbound time and return time, and then a widget at right depicts the fares over several months, and the “best price” overall.
The widget showing the fares over several months is a significant improvement over the nerdy and impossible-to-use bar chart depicting best fares over time that Google put out there at launch and later dropped.
Select any of the flight options in Flight Explorer and you navigate to Google Flight Search, where you can drill down deeper into your flight search options.
There’s no telling whether this rendition of Flight Explorer will last — it is one of several creative twists Google has in the works for flight search — but it certainly is an improvement as a consumer-facing tool.