HomeAway Is Testing A New Layout For Destinations

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Spotted today while performing research for a client, HomeAway is testing a brand-new search layout that’s a clear departure compared to the current search results page. With a large mapping element to the search and a new URL structure, HomeAway is emphasizing the location of each rental more by showing the properties in a given search on a real-time interactive map shown on the right-hand side. While it seems that the properties displayed are using the same Best Match algorithm that’s been in place for some time, the visual display to the guest is new.

With HomeAway’s recent issues in Google search, it does seem odd to me that they have completely revamped their URL structure for destination pages. Based on my research, it appears that HomeAway began testing a new URL structure after their Google issues a few months ago.

New Search Results Pages Called “Themes”

HomeAway's New Theme Layout. Source: https://www.homeaway.com/theme/hilton-head
HomeAway’s New Theme Layout. Source: https://www.homeaway.com/theme/hilton-head

Moving on from the VRBO-like layout seems to be a focus for HomeAway as they’ve revamped their area search results pages in hundreds of destinations to a new moniker called “themes”. These new “themes” pages are slightly different with a large header on the top of the page featuring a background image of each destinaion and search results below. Interesting to me, HomeAway is radically changing their URL structure that had been in place for years before their recent Google search issues. This signals that they’re testing not just a design change, but a structure change as well. It’s clear to me that this is still in testing as HomeAway is 301 redirecting the old area-based URLs into the new “theme” URLs internally and hasn’t updated their breadcrumb structure to reflect the change.

New Map All Properties View Option

HomeAway's Mapping Layout. Source: https://www.homeaway.com/theme/hilton-head?view=m
HomeAway’s Mapping Layout. Source: https://www.homeaway.com/theme/hilton-head?view=m

Another new element of the themes pages spotted this week was similar in structure URL-wise, but very different design-wise. Instead of the normal list-style results of properties in the destination, we’re presented with an interactive map. The same pages and list of properties seem to be consistent down the left side, but the rest of the page has a large Google Map with pins for each rental.

Compared to the regular theme page, this page has a focus on the location of each property. It can be easily activated on any new “theme” page by clicking the top left of the mini-map and expanding the view. When activating this view, it’s meant just for searching as the text that is on the main themes page goes away as well as the large header photo. From my knowledge, this is a new test for HomeAway as I have not seen this layout on the old destination or area search pages.

Old Destination Layout

For Reference, The Former HomeAway Search Page. Source: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rentals/south-carolina/hilton-head/r161
For Reference, The Former HomeAway Search Page. Source: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rentals/south-carolina/hilton-head/r161

The old search layout is above, with more text links above the search results and no large header image or text. From a design perspective, it’s easy to see why the new layout is being tested: it looks a lot better in my opinion. However, this old layout is very similar to the current VRBO layout.

Do you think that VRBO will soon match HomeAway or is this test performed intentionally so that the websites look different? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think.

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