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How to Re-Design American Airlines’ Website, AA.com

(Via Fast Company):

A web designer has caused a bit of a minor hubbub in Ye Olde Blogosphere ™ by penning an open letter to American Airlines noting his disgust for the company’s website, bashing their designers, then offering up his own design.  For travelers who feel that AA.com is a cluttered mess of information (me), you’ll love the design this guy recommends.  Clean, with lots of whitespace — what’s not to like?

The interesting part is that an AA.com designer wrote a letter back to this guy and explained what’s going on at AA:  it is virtually impossible to come up with a clean design with so many hands in the pot.  There are at least 75 links off the homepage, and each one of those is there because someone at a one of those divisions insisted on it.  Designer-driven webdesign is near impossible at a large, interconnected organization like American.  That’s not empirically a bad thing, but it does lead to a design-by-committee website like AA.com.  It offers a huge number of options, without being useful.

If you care about travel site design, I’ll offer one last comparison:  India’s Cleartrip.com decided from the beginning that it would be as clean as possible (at one point putting a joking banner on their website noting it had 80% more whitespace).  Compare that to any other online travel agency you’ve seen where there are competing factions fighting for homepage space.  Which would you rather use?  (Answer: Orbitz, since you’re probably not flying from Mangalore to Hyderabad).  Wrong question, my bad.

I really brought this whole thing up because we’ve become used to what airline websites have served us — a giant number of links and graphics that make for a cluttered experience for everyone.  The AA.com mockup shows us what happens when you decide to serve 85% of visitors’ needs from the homepage – sure, you won’t be able to find “meeting planning” as easily.  But most people don’t need to.

(in case you were wondering, I find site design fascinating…)

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