August 14, 2022

You’re the Boss: JetBlue vs. Continental: Battle of the Airline Web Sites

Site Analysis

Last week in my post, “What’s Wrong and What’s Right with These Web Sites,” I asked you to compare two sites, and

Among other things, I wanted you to review the overall design, the helpfulness of the information and the e-commerce functionality. In other words, I asked you to put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer looking for travel information and ease of ticketing.

Airline Web sites have difficult choices to make. Visitors come to the sites for any number of reasons. They may be looking to purchase tickets, check prices, check reservations or check a flight’s status. While all of this information is important, it can clutter a Web site, making it unappealing to a visitor and driving away business.

What the readers of this column found was that neither site got the job done in an entirely satisfying way. Some gave JetBlue credit for overall design but other readers found the functionality lacking. Continental struck some as cluttered but got better reviews for functionality.

DESIGN: Most commenters preferred JetBlue’s design.

As Joshua from Maine saw it: “Jet Blue’s site is preferable visually. It’s clean and sharp with a clear focus on searching for flights. “The Continental site has too many little ads for things, 2 for a credit card, Vegas, Farelock, merger news and Adidas. Problem is, they give the site a very busy feeling without adding value. Jet Blue has some across the bottom, but b/c they are all in style with the page, and each other, they’re not distracting.”

Vlad Unatanov offered this: “One thing that I love about JetBlue is how they have the big wording of their featured fares prices, it’s not so crowded and (has) great spacing in between very easily seen and straight to the point. However, Continental site I come in and see so much information and it’s so crowded and in my long experience as web designer people want to relax when they come to the site they want to see as small info as possible. Don’t throw so much info at me at once so my head will explode because I don’t want to sit and figure things out.”

Jonathan from Seattle commented: “JetBlue has the more appealing design, and layout, just in sense of appearance and overview (also color). Also the fonts I find slightly off-putting on the Continental main navigation bar whereas Jet Blue’s has an instantly striking clarity and appears less cluttered.”

FUNCTIONALITY: In terms of getting the site to do what you want it to do,  most visitors preferred Continental.

Joshua: “I was initially attracted to Jet Blue’s site b/c of the clean layout, but as I looked closer as a consumer, I found Continental more functional (once you get beyond the noise on the home page). This is a great example of some of the conflicting elements in web design, form versus function. It’s no good if it looks great and doesn’t work, or if it’s ugly but works. It needs to do both.”

Joshua tested the baggage information capabilities of both sites and gave the advantage to Continental: “I attempted to find baggage information. On continental, I found it immediately under ‘Flight Information.’ On Jet Blue I had to poke around and found it under ‘Manage Flights,’ but worse than this was that it was below some ads below the fold under Helpful Information.”

There was one strong vote in favor of JetBlue’s functionality. It came from J. Hus: “One thing I particularly hated at was the process of selecting an airport: in the pop-up window, first I had to select the country in a drop-down menu; then I had to select a state in another menu; then I had to select a city/airport in yet another menu. And the last one included a bunch of airports they don’t even serve! What on earth is the point of that?”

MY TAKE: JetBlue is a company that regularly wins awards for customer service and that attitude is reflected in the Web site. Continental, on the other hand, overwhelms visitors by cramming as much information and functionality on the home page as it can fit.

When you look at the design of the JetBlue site, it is a perfect illustration of everything I’ve preached in this blog, to my team and to my clients. The fonts are large and easy to read. The text is simple and short. You don’t find cumbersome paragraphs here.

What I really like about the site is that you don’t see is a lot of self-promotion. It doesn’t tell me how great the airline is, it demonstrates it by giving me a site that serves my needs. I think business Web sites should be all about problem-solving. Visitors want their needs filled, and if you can fill them, you are likely to have a long-term customer. That’s what JetBlue does.

Take a look at the “Travel Deals” page. It’s clean, with no blocks of text. All you get is what you’re looking for: “Travel Deals.”

In contrast, I found the Continental Airlines site cluttered and confusing. On the homepage, you are overwhelmed with dozens of messages — a flight search engine, a couple of ads, cruise reservations, hotel reservations and more.

When I want to book a flight, I don’t want to be distracted with ads for credit cards, charities and insurance. I want the best information and a simple checkout procedure. And when I went to Continental’s “Vacation Packages” page, I saw an unattractive, uninformative page.

Furthermore, I’m not sure I agree the commenters who found that Continental has better functionality. Continental offers more functionality on the home page (hence the clutter), but that doesn’t mean that JetBlue doesn’t offer just as much functionality.

JetBlue offers the single most important piece of functionality on the home page: flight booking. Beyond that, its homepage is a gateway. The top navigation is clear and intuitive. It leads you to all of the functionality that Continental offers on its homepage. This one extra click is no real hardship, and it allows JetBlue to maintain its sleek, user-friendly look.

The single biggest mistake businesses make when designing their Web sites is that they feel compelled to get every single piece of information on their homepages — as if they are terrified that no one will click to an internal page. A great homepage, in reality, is one that makes visitors want to click onto the internal (landing) pages that offer the information or functionality they are seeking.

Got a Web site or mobile app you’d like to have critiqued? We are always looking for sites and apps to review. We are especially interested in hearing from businesses that are using smartphones, iPads and other mobile devices and apps as tools in marketing, selling and branding. To be considered, please send an e-mail to and tell us about your experiences — what works, what doesn’t and especially why you would like to have your site reviewed.

Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design, development and marketing company based in New York.

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