It never ceases to amaze me that leading companies continue to miss the basics of web design in 2010 (or 2009 or 2008 or 2007...). It should amaze me because it is simply not challenging nor difficult to hit the basics of web design and interaction. But the fact that errors are so prominent has clearly jaded me to the point of apathy. Allow me to share with you my most recent experience.
Prior to departure to a vacation to California via Delta Airlines, it sent me an email with my itinerary and a link that enabled "Check-in." At least those were the words in the hyperlink. Now let me ask you: when you see the words in a hyperlink "Check-in" what do you expect? If you're like me, a reasonable, well adjusted person, you most likely think that upon clicking the link you'd be presented with the opportunity to check in, right? Well, in crazy DeltaWorld that's not the case.
Okay, now that you've looked at it, answer the following question for me: how do you check in from this page? Can't answer? Okay, let's try another question: where would you go IF you wanted to check in (a ridiculous question if this were your real world experience because you clearly wanted to check in--you clicked on that link in the email). Hard to answer as well, isn't it?
The answers are as follows. Number one, you can't check in from this page: there is no link. And two, a user of this page is not certain what to click on in order to sign in (and deliver upon the promise of the email's link). It may be in the upper left of the page in the left hand navigation under "Check-in Requirements." Or it may be under "Check-in option" in the same navigation pane. The point is it is not clear. So let's pick one: "Check-in options."
Okay, not we're talking (I hope). I see a list of options here that I think allow me to check in. There's online check in, there's mobile check in, there's airport kiosk check in, and there's airport curbside check in. I feel better that I am making progress towards my goal. And for those of you playing the home edition of DeltaWorld, I am now going to make my third click of the game in seeking the elusive and rare "check-in" (versus the one the link in the email inherently promised).
Super! This is the place. A page that outlines how to use online check in. And what's that at the bottom right of the page? Can it be? It is! A blue button that reads "Proceed to Check-in." Ohhhhhhh... now I get it. I see where I was mistaken.
In the email I received it merely said "Check-in." Which I, stupidly, thought it meant to check-in. It clearly did not. It meant to "begin the check-in process and proceed through four or five pages of our web site to get to what you are really seeking-the check in page." The words that really mean "check-in," in my definition, are now clear to me- "Proceed" is the operative word that has eluded me, as in "Proceed to Check-in." Damn, do I feel stupid.
So to finish the story, allow me to show you what is on the other side of curtain number Four (my fourth click). Indeed, it is the "Itineraries & Check-in" page. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what allows us to check in online for our Delta Airlines flights.
To conclude, let me reiterate the point that I have had to sadly make in several posts. When designing for consumers (advertising, packaging, IVR systems, web-experience, etc.) everything is a promise that is to be met downstream from that moment in time. When you read "Check-in" in a hyperlink in an email it means, to the reasonable person, that the next action I will be able to take is to check in. Sadly, in Delta's case, this is not true. This is tantamount to calling a company, being placed on hold and told that the wait time is approximately 5 minutes... and then waiting 20 minutes (four times the original promise). Not a good experience, is it?