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Finding a hotel in a place you’ve never been, or at the last minute, can be a stressful experience. Hipmunk, known for its visual flight search, launched a mobile application today, with a really pretty way of booking those overnight stays.
“If at any point the user has engaged in active mental math, then we’ve failed somewhere,” said Danilo Campos, Hipmunk’s iOS developer, in an interview with VentureBeat.
Hipmunk was founded on the idea that booking and taking trips is an agonizing process. Thus, you should be able to choose your flights based on the toll they would take on your psyche. The company’s website recently branched out to include hotel bookings but chose not to take that feature mobile until it had the right visual feel that Hipmunk is known for.
With its flights tool, you choose your dates, times, destinations, amount and type of tickets, and Hipmunk gives you a graph of flights, sorted by “agony.” The hotels feature does something similar, but instead employs a map as its visual. You enter in the area where you’re looking to book, or use “current location,” and Hipmunk serves up a Google map of that area with blue, green and red dots showing price point. A heat map overlay shows if your hotel is near food, shopping, or “vices” such as strip clubs. The app lets you to keep and compare up to three hotels. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re taken to either the hotel’s website, or a website like Orbitz to complete the transaction. Cleverly, you can take the finish code Hipmunk gives you and enter it into a search once you’re back at your laptop for a wider keyboard experience.
“This has been the most personal project I’ve ever had in my professional work,” said Campos, ” I was able to ditch all my stuff, hop on CalTrain and within five minutes find a hotel I actually trusted was a good one.”
The user experience is a great one, I tested it on the iPhone, iPad and Android. But Hipmunk itself, and therefore its apps, is very dependent on third-party aggregators, such as Orbitz, which seems like a vulnerability for the year-old company. A spokesperson for Hipmunk explained that Hipmunk won’t rely on those third parties forever. The company is new, so it’s foremost concern right now is getting the technology in place, gathering happy customers and making its product beautiful. In the future, however, Hipmunk will make a concerted push to make direct partnerships with airlines and hotels and start cutting out the middleman. Then it’s moving on to other areas of the travel experience.
“We’re not going to move onto cars or cruises or packages until we make hotels and airlines a success,” said the spokesperson.
Hipmunk was also less than jolted when Google launched its own flight search. The company was nervous leading up to that launch, but those nerves calmed when one person tweeted, “Google travel search is Hipmunk for Hipmunk,” explained Campos.
Hipmunk was founded in 2010 and has taken on $5.2 million in funding from Ignition Partners, Y-Combinator and angel investors. The app is available on iPhone, iPad and Android.