We all have a website that at times feels like the bane of our existence. In my case that site happens to be Southwest Airlines. Personally, I feel that it suffers from some uniquely bad work flow engineering and if you have used the site at all, let alone as many times as I have had to use it I’m sure you can relate.
So, just what makes it so atrocious? The first page is actually okay. You can find what you want quickly and efficiently so the demerits don’t start there. It’s when you’ve actually picked out a flight that you want to purchase where the user experience utterly collapses. Let me explain.
First, there is no intelligence built into the page at all. If there’s a field that requires data, you better enter the requested data. Forget something and your transaction will fail. Okay, I admit, this isn’t all that unusual and if I’m too careless to enter in the requested data my transaction should fail, right?
But then, when it does fail (and let me assure you, it is inevitable when you are late for a flight, or running out of battery power that you will miss some tiny field that Southwest demands you fill such as whether your address is your home or office) you can’t simply click the back button and enter the missing data. Ohh noo. That would be too simple and easy. Instead you get to start from scratch and re-enter every bit of data that you’d just entered previously – and of course now that you are annoyed and later than ever your chances of missing some other field or even entering the data in a field but not making sure it stayed entered is going to go up exponentially and if you blow it again – guess what – you get to try for the third time, or the forth, or the ninth… until you get it right. There are plenty of second chances with this site it just that they all start from zero.
Better still while the site won’t leave the fields that you entered populated with the data, the cookies the site keeps will hold whatever you entered for eternity. Of course God forbid you entered the wrong thing because it will still be there too just waiting to jinx you when you’re in a hurry.
It’s secure too. I mean how many sites do you use frequently that won’t permit you to store a profile on line to make you life easier, but insist on cookieing your credit card number so that anyone that uses your computer can buy themselves a trip on Southwest courtesy of your bank account? It’s stupid but that’s the way it works.
I have to wonder if the execs at Southwest have ever tried to use their website? If they did have they ever gone back? Did it not occur to anyone there that the most valuable travelers they have are the ones that fly often and that we might not want to enter the same stupid information every single time we use their site? (let alone enter it half a dozen times until the darn transaction actually processes) I swear, if I have to continue to fill out this ludicrous page I’m going to start paying the extra fifty bucks to fly United or American and consider it an anti-frustration tax – and one that is probably well worth paying.
After all, if a company like Southwest doesn’t care enough about people like me that fly often enough to be bothered by this bad design to actually improve upon it, perhaps they don’t deserve my business in the first place. Honestly, I’d like to know why they think the current set-up is okay, why they cookie my credit card number but won’t keep the fields populated for thirty seconds so I don’t have to re-enter everything, and why, by God, they don’t simply let me store a “traveler’s profile” so that I don’t have to enter the data again, ever???
Please, someone from Southwest, get back to me with some answers. I’ll be easy to spot…I’ll be the guy sitting in the airport lounge – most likely at LAX – looking apoplectic and pounding away on my laptop as if there’s something on the keyboard I want to kill. There is; it’s your website. Please fix it. Soon.