NB: This is a guest article by Niall Harbison, a co-founder at social media agency Simply Zesty. Philip Joyce, a graphic designer at the agency, created the artwork.
Ryanair is one of the biggest airlines in the world, but one area that has always let it down and annoyed its customers is the online offering.
It generates vast quantities of cash for it, but anyone who has ever used it will tell you that it is a badly designed and painful site to navigate.
Add in the fact that forgetting to print your boarding pass in advance costs you a small fortune and the ludicrous situation where they ask you to pay Euro 2.99 to download its iPhone app just to book flights.
You canâ€™t knock them from a revenue perspective, but for the good of all our sanity across Europe, we thought weâ€™d have a little fun with their site and make some suggestions as to how it could be improved.
The current website
So looking through the site right now, you can see that it is a horrendous blue and yellow mess. Nothing on the site is aimed at improving the user experience, but rather at extracting as much money from you as possible.
It often takes over ten minutes to book a flight and you leave the site feeling traumatized and with your wallet feeling much lighter than when you entered the site.
When you first conduct a search, for example, you are taken to a captcha page and a pop-up appears with Ryanairâ€™s hotel white label (via HotelsCombined) offering.
Thatâ€™s just one of the first pages and it is like an assault on your senses.
Once you do get through the horrible process of actually selecting where you want to fly, the real hard work begins. Getting through the following page is one of lifeâ€™s great chores and you are constantly worried that just one wrong click could cost you a fortune.
This page is all about making as much money for the airline as possible and anybody who can navigate it without spending a penny is an absolute genius.
The designer â€“ Philip Joyce
We started thinking about this as a blog post when chatting in the office one day and Phil said he would love to re-design Ryanair if given a chance. Here is his take on it.
“Passive Aggressive Rebrands have just recently become a new fun mini-project for designers, and have even become passÃ© already. Microsoft, American Airlines and Wikipedia have already received the fake rebrand treatment, with some great results.
“So I decided to try one myself. I wanted a brand/service I used a lot that had an identity that left a lot to be desired. The first company that sprang to mind was Ryanair.
“They have a famous (and intentional) unattractive and cluttered website that comes along with a frustrating user experience. My goal was to strip out the clutter and focus on what people want from the site: Flights, Hotels, and from time to time, Car rental. I selected a five tone colour pattern, while still using a distinctive blue and yellow.
“The biggest draw is the flight booking tool on the homepage, so I tried to make it a lot cleaner and easier to use. With the recent release of its already maligned mobile app, I also wanted to integrate more app focused tools, hence using a new, simpler mobile app and Appleâ€™s new Passbook system to check in online â€“ the idea being to simplify its entire eco-system.
“I tried to change the logo, but still not make it seem like an unrecognizable brand. I kept its logo icon but modified the colour and surrounding shape. I wanted to unify the circular theme, signifying the cyclical nature of air-travel. I used circular icons to highlight times, prices, etc.”
How the new website could look
So Phil started with a blank canvas and started to imagine what the website could look like in a perfect world. A thing of beauty with a wonderful customer experience as the core part of the project rather than just trying to trick people out of extra money.
We are sure that Ryanair has tested the insurance sign up or “opt out” box to within an inch of its life to increase revenue, but wouldnâ€™t it be really cool to actually get the choice rather than being tricked into buying something? To be given a nice simple explanation as to what you are actually signing up for?
Incorporating this new look on the website would be a great start, but it would have to be a multi-platform approach with smart phone apps provided for free to help you track, change and manage your booking if needed.
With apps in millions of customers hands, the chance for up selling in a useful and targeted way would be immense.
Even the boarding passes are a wonderful opportunity to improve the branding. They may not be around forever as we all move to using smartphones, but they still represent a great opportunity to improve the flying experience.
Rather than relying on screens and outdated technology, why not provide real-time print outs with all the info you need about your flight on the boarding pass. Ryanair could also provide additional info within the app.
Now we know that we are probably taking this too far, but wouldnâ€™t it be just wonderful if Ryanair did away with all its boarding passes and the fact that you have to print them out, or pay for them and instead integrated with Appleâ€™s new passbook app.
No more mad panics at the last minute, but a one-click solution that sent the boarding pass to your phone and allowed you to swipe to board the plane. Simple.
If we are dreaming here about the website and mobile rebrand, then it is only right that we rethink the branding for the planes themselves. Ryanair planes at the moment fill people with dread, but looking like this, they could be a thing of beauty.
So on the off chance that Michael Oâ€™Leary is reading this and wants to use Philâ€™s lovely designs, here are some of the details and the color palate that could work for the new website and rebranding.
Could this ever happen?
Absolutely not. We would love it if it did, but Ryanair has a focus on revenue. It generates massive amounts of cash from its website and as long as the flights stay cheap, people will keep using it.
You only have to look at the Euro 2.99 app which people were going crazy about, but which has been in the top ten paid apps in the Apple app store since the day it launched.
Weâ€™d love to see better design and a better customer experience, but that just isnâ€™t the way Ryanair works.
Weâ€™d love to hear what you think about the designs though, whether you would ultimately spend more on the site if it looked like this, or if itâ€™s a dream that will never happen?
NB: This is a guest article by Niall Harbison, a co-founder at Simply Zesty. Philip Joyce, a graphic designer at the agency, created the artwork. Simply Zesty is a social media agency based in Dublin, Belfast and London. Its blog provides news, tips and guides relating to social media and marketing for businesses.