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High Flying Standards: UI Web Design Redefines Customer Service


Before (left) & After (right)

As a holder of an American Airlines cardholder and miles collector, I recently received a newsletter from AA announcing the launch of their website redesign.

If you’ve dealt with booking a flight on this airline’s website before, you’ll understand why this is great news for the average consumer like you and me. The previous American Airlines website had an atrocious user interface design that was over complicated, unattractive, and nauseatingly dense with details and data fields that were irrelevant to their largest user base: customers looking to book flights.

We have user interface web designer Dustin Curtis to thank for this new, easy to use, simplified AA website experience.

Dustin Curtis brought the company’s website usability issue to light when he directly and publicly addressed AA by openly criticizing the site’s hostile user interface. His argument for a simpler redesign was not just logical or aesthetic in nature; instead, he denounced the airline for their terrible customer service in providing such an inaccessible website experience to their customers. He lectured the company, stating:

“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.”

At first, the airline refuted his complaints by arguing that as a large, corporate business, the airline had no choice but to have a website that was overcrowded with complex access options and features. But low and behold, about a year later, AA saw the error of their ways and took Dustin’s suggestion to heart, adopting a simplified user interface design.

Redesigning their website to cater to the needs of their customers (instead of their internal corporate structure,) speaks volumes about the importance & impact of user interface web design on the success of businesses today.

It was a silent acknowledgement that even the most complex and robust functional site requirements are no longer a justification for poor usability. Usability in web design is key to maintaing the reputation & livelihood of large businesses because the standard for usability has grown quite a bit in the past few years. American Airline’s redesign proves that having a website that works isn’t enough anymore if you want to compete with the big hitters.

AA’s new website makes us see how user interface web designers are influential players in the modern world of web-centric commerce.

What kind of message is your website sending to site visitors about the importance your business places on customer service?

Author Alex Stetson

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