August 2nd, 2010
The airline industry is well-known for the wrath and frustration it inspires in its customers. Usually this manifests itself in shouting at gate agents or long, angry blog posts about being trapped on the tarmac for hours without rescue.
Recently, a new kind of manifestation has emerged: redesigning. Professional designers, frustrated by the experiences they are having with the airlines’ deliverables, are voluntarily redesigning web sites and boarding passes. They are publishing their pleas for a better experience online and getting a great response.
Most recently, it was Zach Klein’s redesign of Delta’s club portal that caught my attention. Before that, it was Tyler Thompson’s redesign of the Delta boarding pass. And it all started with Dustin Curtis’s redesign of American Airline’s home page.
In each case, these talented designers took time away from their work and life to help the airlines develop a better experience. While the world of professional graphic artists insists that “spec work” is an evil that refuses to compensate designers for the value of their efforts, these designers are donating their time to persuade multi-billion dollar companies on the benefits of good design. And, the worst of it is, those companies aren’t listening.
Look at the Zach’s redesign of the Delta Sky Club’s portal site. The original page design had nothing to do with the club members current context and experience. Here you have someone sitting in a club in Salt Lake City, on their way to New York City, yet the weather is for Atlanta. There’s a link to a story about saving $600 on a Bermuda vacation and another that presumably lists all the club locations in airports around the world. And there’s an ad for a $74,000 Porche.
Zach felt these weren’t the most important things for someone who just checked into the club. His redesign had, in big, easy-to-read text, the departure time, gate, seat, and arrival time of the next travel leg. It contains information on nearby food options, whether the flight has wifi and tv, the length of the flight, upgrade status, and which baggage claim area. These are all things important to a traveler in flight.
It’s a clean, well-thought through design, even though Zach claims he only spent an hour (the time in the club) thinking about it and designing it out. It keeps Delta’s brand in place while delivering an effective experience for a seasoned Delta traveler.
Tyler’s redesign of the boarding passes followed the same themes as Zach’s. He took the existing cluttered information and, through color, grid, and typography, cleaned up it up, making it easy for a passenger to get to the information that’s most important: Flight, Gate, departure time, seat, and zone. Others joined in, with their own suggested designs. Each design took important requirements into account, such as making the TSA’s job easier for the info they need to find.
It all started with Dustin’s redesign of the AA.com site. In the blog post, he wrote, “The experience was so bad that I vowed never to fly your airline again.” He continued, “If I was running a company with the distinction and history of American Airlines, I would be embarrassed — no ashamed — to have a website with a customer experience as terrible as the one you have now. How does your CEO, Gerard J. Arpey, justify treating customers this way? Why does your board of directors approve of this? Your website is abusive to your customers, it is limiting your revenue possibilities, and it is permanently destroying the brand and image of your company in the mind of every visitor.”
He took their cluttered, ad-ridden pages and cleaned them up to provide a simple experience for making new reservations, finding great deals, checking flight status, and getting to your account details. He’s even left a place for the CEO to talk about their new image (hee!) and the multiplicity of other options that one finds at a big airline, like access to the route map and a link for getting refunds.
How bad does an industry need to let its customer experience get before it starts to listen? And, here, the listening isn’t hard. These talented customers are telling the folks they would prefer to do business with exactly how to make their experience better.
The world is filled with talented designers. Which is less expensive? Letting your experience degrade to the point of frustration for every customer? Or hiring the designers who can help you provide a great design?Tweet