Tuesday, July 29, 2014
For seven consecutive years, Virgin America has topped the list for the best domestic airline in the United States. The company is often applauded by leisure and business travelers alike for superior customer service, industry-leading in-flight entertainment and sleek cabin design. Branson’s team can now add another skill to its already impressive resume – killer website design.
Several weeks ago, Virgin America unveiled a completely revamped website designed to help customers book flights faster, regardless of whether the user was doing so from his office desktop or from a mobile device on his way to the airport. While attorneys aren’t in the business of selling airline tickets, there are some key takeaways from the redesign that can be applied to all web design, even that of legal professionals.
Make a list of your web pet peeves
To tackle the massive undertaking, Virgin hired a small design studio called Work & Co. According to various sources, the co-founder of the design company was a frequent flyer who had a long list of pet peeves that he brought with him to the drawing board. Overall, he found that airline sites (most of which continue to embrace web 1.0 technology) were cluttered with ads, making it difficult to actually research and book flights. The redesign stripped the site of these annoying (and often distracting) visuals to give visitors a more enjoyable booking experience.
Takeaway: You may not be a website designer but you are an internet user. Do you hate pop-ups? Find vanity phone numbers to be an annoyance? Dislike CAPTCHAs that are impossible to read? Make a list of these pet peeves and bring them to your website developer to help build a positive user experience and remove the clutter.
Identify what it is that your visitor wants
In redesigning the site, Virgin’s hired designers had one main objective: make booking a flight pain free and downright enjoyable because after all, the purpose of an airline’s website is to simply sell tickets. Once the team had identified the goal of the visitor, they were able to build a site to achieve it.
Takeaway: Your site isn’t for you and it isn’t always to attract new clients. For some firms, a website may just be a validation source for those who are referred or even a way to get current clients to register for your “clients only” seminar series. Before you develop an effective website, you need to take a step back and ask yourself who do I want using this site, and what do these individuals want to do.
Embrace the Mobile User
We’ve written quite extensively on the increase of mobile usage and to avoid beating a dead horse, we will leave it at this – a majority of Americans now access the web on their mobile phones and tablets. Your site needs to be mobile-friendly. If not, you’ll lose visitors to competitors who have welcomed the mobile user.
Takeaway: No ifs, ands, or buts, your firm needs a mobile website or responsive site design.
Don’t be afraid to stray from the norm
Check out the websites for JetBlue, Delta, Southwest and American, and you’ll quickly see just how different Virgin’s site really is. The designers did away with overly used stock photography and chose to omit photographs from the site entirely. Instead, users will find fun graphics with stereotypes and landmarks of destinations. The site also boasts improvements like a boarding pass which can be printed to be the size of your back pocket (as opposed to the entire sheet of paper required by other airlines) so you can easily place it there for safe keeping as you make your way through security. All of these improvements, albeit seemingly minor, help to make for a much better overall visitor experience.
Takeaway: So often during the design process, attorneys ask us to look at a local competitor’s website, saying they like the look and feel. In looking to others in the same industry, and specifically the same city or town, for inspiration you often fail to stand out and embrace new technology which can lead to a more satisfied visitor. If you’re developing a new site for your firm, or redesigning a current one, don’t be afraid to step outside of the box; we can tell you from experience, if you’re an estate planning attorney, you don’t need photos of happy families to be successful and if you’re a bankruptcy attorney, you don’t need to have a live chat tool that harasses visitors to be an online success. By focusing on your visitor, rather than on competitors, you’ll have a much better chance at making a powerful first impression.
If you haven’t already done so, check out Virgin’s new site (and let us know what you think), you might get a bit of inspiration for your own site. And if you’re really interested in the little touches that can make a big difference, consider checking out Webdesign Inspiration or Site Inspire for ideas to improve your web visitor’s experience.