So I wasn’t necessarily planning to write my post for this week about United Airlines mobile website. In fact, I had no experience with their mobile site, or even had given it any thought until about 4 hours ago. You see, I was supposed to be on a flight to Johannesburg at 5 p.m. tonight aboard another airline. Except they lost my reservation. I had a confirmation with reservation number in my hand, and they still would not put me on the flight. They said I would have to re-book for the next day.
So, after a few stressful moments and muttered curses I went to plan B. Who else flew to South Africa, and did they offer a later flight? I pulled out my phone and typed in http://www.united.com. Within moments I was taken to a website, obviously optimized and built for a mobile device. I was asked, “Do you want to download our Mobile App?” No, not enough time. So I was able to continue on the website and look up flights. Sure enough they had just what I needed leaving in four hours and it would cost less than what I paid for my original ticket. Score! So I walked down to the United counter to book and they advised me it would be cheaper to book online first. I hesitated for a moment — was I brave enough to book a major transaction on my mobile phone? Would it be difficult to fill in all of the data, or would it take forever for the pages to load? Well it was worth a shot.
Ten minutes later I my flight was booked and paid for from my smart phone. Fast forward 30 minutes later and I had my boarding pass in hand, ready to go.
Boy, talk about leaving a positive impression! In a terribly stressful moment when I wasn’t sure what my next move would be, United came through with flying colors! Their https://mobile.united.com website is clearly built for a mobile device. With easy to touch buttons and no clutter on the page I was able to look up flight options in seconds. While I did need to fill out all of the normal details, such as name, address, credit card details, etc. via a form, there were no unnecessary fields and most of the fields were optimized with easy-to-use pick lists to make it easier to enter details like birthdate and country.
Most importantly, it worked! No error messages, no hanging pages. And I wasn’t forced to create an account or download an app. They let me book my tickets the way I wanted to.
In the article “Audience, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs” Corey Vilhauer puts it very succinctly when he said “advocating for end-user needs is the very foundation of the user experience disciplines. We make websites for real people. Those real people are able to do real things.” United Airlines has clearly thought about their end-user and what their needs are and what “real things” they might need to do on their mobile device. They’ve made it about the customer, not about them!
While I hope I never have to book a flight like this again, I’m sure I’m not the first or the last to have to book a flight with only a smart phone or tablet handy. And I sure am glad United had thought about me in advance.