For inspiration, it’s useful to check out other business websites, but you’ll need to be very selective. Truth is, a lot of big companies have websites that fall woefully short of the mark.
Gabriel Shaoolian in a recent NY Times article, compared two airline websites: Continental.com and JetBlue.com. He invited readers to test both sites, then send in their votes and comments regarding the websites’ design and functionality.
Design—JetBlue takes the crown
It’s not surprising the majority of readers voted JetBlue’s design as better than Continental’s. JetBlue’s homepage is easy on the eyes, attractive, uncluttered and provides smart visual hierarchy.
This contrasts to Continental’s crammed style, or as one commentator puts it: “Don’t throw so much info at me at once so my head will explode because I don’t want to sit and figure things out.”
Shaoolian, who runs web design agency Blue Fountain Media, offers his take: “When you look at the design of the JetBlue site, it is a perfect illustration of everything I’ve preached in this blog, to my team and to my clients. The fonts are large and easy to read. The text is simple and short. You don’t find cumbersome paragraphs here.”
Functionality—Continental strikes back
Although JetBlue certainly has got the looks, the majority of readers felt Continental provided more functionality, not only in flight booking and information, but other useful travel data.
One commenter pointed out how essential it is for a website to marry both features: “This is a great example of some of the conflicting elements in web design, form versus function. It’s no good if it looks great and doesn’t work, or if it’s ugly but works. It needs to do both.”
Shaoolian, however, didn’t agree that JetBlue’s site got beat in functionality. He accepts that Continental offers more functionality on its homepage, but feels JetBlue provides the same functionality, just not all stuffed on one page.
“JetBlue offers the single most important piece of functionality on the home page: flight booking. Beyond that, its homepage is a gateway,” he writes. “A great homepage, in reality, is one that makes visitors want to click onto the internal (landing) pages that offer the information or functionality they are seeking.”
But we can all agree with Shaoolian who explains your website should be about solving your customer’s problem—“Visitors want their needs filled, and if you can fill them, you are likely to have a long-term customer.”