Dear American Airlines, Please redesign your site.

30 Sep

Last week in my Multimedia Planning and Design class we explored  a site created by designer Dustin Curtis called Dear American Airlines. This man had a frustrating experience navigating the AA website and decided to redesign it.

I’ve used their site before, and yes, it’s terribly overwhelming and has a poor user experience. The amount of information they are asking for is overwhelming. What day are you leaving? What time of day? From where? Passengers? Promotional code? Price & schedule or just price? Airports within 50 miles? Flight only or flight and hotel?

Ok, so these are all valid questions when planning a trip, but I feel like I need to have a solid itinerary before I’m even allowed to look at flight prices.

Dustin Curtis formatted his site as a letter to the AA design team and then went out of his way to redesign the home page.  He is a little sassy and insulting to the person who made the original, but I think his points are valid. The site is soooo busy. You can’t discern an advertisement from an internal link. I thought American Airlines only flew planes, turns out they have cars, hotels and vacation activities too. The “News and Offers” section is a text box. I think they could show me a picture or at least make the newsworthy text stick out so i can find it.

As far as their average user, I can’t say for sure, but I bet it’s a wide pool of people. Ranging from my not-so-tech-savy mother trying to plan a family vacation to a traveling business people who can book a flight in their sleep. No matter who is using it, the site should be as obvious and basic as possible. Everyone loves ease on the Internet, that’s not just me.

Look at what Dustin Curtis did to improve the AA site. From this:

To this:

So I’m a sucker for a photo of Fiji, but seriously, this would make my trip planning much much less intimidating. Notice you can search anything: a city, an airport, even a climate as your destination. Pretty cool.

On the downside, it might prod more info from you in the next page, such as dates and number of passengers, etc., which is pretty much what the original site does the first time around. In this age of web friendliness and competition, I think it would benefit American Airlines to lighten up their home page a bit by using a design that doesn’t look ten years old.

Southwest Airlines has a much simpler homepage that also jumps straight to booking a flight.

So I doubt I will ever get the chance to design a website for a major airline (maybe a smaller one someday…), but I can use these same ideas when designing my own portfolio and blogs. I thing the biggest lesson is simplicity and breathing room. Crowded websites are harder to look at and look outdated. By using a sleek, simple design, my sites will look more professional.

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