JD (Jaymes) Jones: Critique of book.jetblue.com

Overall, book.jetblue.com, JetBlue’s site for booking flights, hotels, and rental cars, has a simple and intuitive design that allows users to book flights fairly easily and quickly. I noticed a lot of good things about the website but I also noticed some room for improvement.

First, the website’s appearance is not only pleasant, but it lends to the site’s simplicity as well as their image. The white background and ample amount of whitespace allow for an intuitive layout. The site designers use the whitespace to not only separate unrelated elements on the page and group related items, but also to highlight the orange and blue color scheme. The light and dark blue ascents found throughout the page coincide and reinforce the company name: JetBlue.

The layout of the website is also consistent for the most part. Separate steps and information are labeled by white numbers or letters within orange circles. Buttons to proceed to the next step in planning a trip are always orange and always located at the very bottom of the screen. Meanwhile, buttons to navigate away from the main procedure of planning a trip are always blue. All of the buttons also have the same shape.

A small drawback to the site, perhaps, is its lack of functionality for advanced or frequent users. However, because the site is already quick and simple, I do not think much could be done to introduce any sort of shortcuts for frequent users. The site does present users with a list of their recent flight searches, which would help with anyone who travels to and from a certain destination regularly. With this list of recent searches users also won’t have to remember what they searched for if they realize they would like to revisit an old search in hindsight.

The site also does a great job of providing feedback. Throughout the entire process of planning a trip, there is an itinerary section always located on the right side of the screen that summarizes anything that the user selects as soon as it is selected. So if the user selects a flight, it appears in the itinerary with all of the flight’s relevant information (departure time, arrival time, price, etc.). The itinerary section not only provides feedback, but it lightens the user’s short term memory load: all of the information they may need is always in the same place on every page. The designers also included a progress bar at the top right of the screen that keeps track of which step the user is on. Each of the five steps in the process—Flights, Travelers, Seats, Car and Hotel, Payment—is represented by a numbered circle with a label. This progress bar not only provides the user with feedback, but also provides a clear sense of the process’s beginning, middle, and end. The only problem I have with the progress bar is that it makes no distinction between steps that have been completed, steps that the user is currently working on, and steps that are yet to be approached. In the progress bar, the user’s current step is presented in the blue, while completed and incomplete steps both remain grey. I would suggest making completed steps orange, current steps blue, and incomplete steps grey.

The site also prevents users from committing errors. For example, the date selection interface, which is just a simple calendar with selectable dates, will not allow users to select a return date that is before their departure date. The site also validates all data forms; it catches invalid email addresses, incomplete information, and invalid date formats.

The site does not do a very good job of allowing users to change or undo information entered or selected in a previous step. First, while the blue link to navigate to a previous step is located near the orange button to continue to the next step, it would make more sense to have them side by side and of the same type. Juxtaposing these buttons would make more sense visibly and conceptually. I would even suggest making the previous and next step buttons in the shape of left and right pointing arrows, respectively. There is also no way to navigate several steps backward without pressing the back link or the browser’s back button several times. I would suggest making the numbered steps in the progress bar links to their respective steps. It also may be a good idea to allow users to click links in the itinerary allowing them to make changes to its various listings.

The initial step in the flight booking process could also do a better job of lightening the user’s memory load. The labels for the “to”, “from,” “Depart,” and “Arrive” drop down boxes are presented within the drop down box, so when users select an option from the dropdown box, the label disappears. While the layout of the site lends to its conceptual model, making the labels permanently visible would eliminate the small amount of time users may spend reorienting their understanding of the dropdown boxes.

Overall, the site is simple and quick. Its main problems lie in its inability to lighten the user’s short term memory load and provide easy ways to change information.