Getting back on track to a user/viewer/shopper experience--I recently heard about Hipmunk. The nice thing about this interface is how clean the design is, while still offering a sophisticated pricing/display mechanism. I really hope it takes off--but the reason I think it will is because the user psychographic which motivated the hipmunk team to build such a thing is driven by a surprising trend: online bookers are getting smarter. It's not a coincidence that hipmunk didn't emerge at the same time as the old schoolers--10 years ago no one knew what they were looking at and users wanted big radio buttons and simple, prioritized list displays. Now people are much more used to infographics and far more sophisticated ways of displaying information online. They've also gotten to understand that booking travel is complex, and, in reality, pretty difficult. The "Travel Made Easy!" (or whatever) entreaties of yesteryear have created a disillusioned online user base. Users know they're being gamed and that travel isn't easy to buy--so why should it look that way? It shouldn't, of course.
Thanks for the writeup, Michael! The author has a great point there: power ticket shoppers are much savvier than they were a decade ago, yet most flight search technology hasn't really caught up.
Of course, we hope hipmunk isn't so sophisticated that it's intimidating -- rather, that it's so user-focused, anyone can have a refreshingly agony-free flight search.