Charter flight site keeps it simple

This week's site does a lot of things right, but there are also a number of lessons site designers could learn from it.

This week’s site does a lot of things right, but there are also a number of lessons site designers could learn from it. Southern Air flies between Stewart Island and Invercargill and also runs charter flights on demand. The site starts off with an entry page with the Southern Air logo and links to the other pages. I used to dislike these entry pages, but they’re growing on me. They are a good way to brand the company — but only if they don’t take an age to download, and this one downloads quickly. Clicking on the Southern Air logo takes us to the company profile page, but if you’re in a hurry you can click on any of the links to immediately go to information about prices and schedules. This deserves a bouquet. If customers are looking to plan a trip quickly, they don’t want to read about the history of Southern Air — they want to get straight to the facts without having to drill down through a lot of pages. The airline has not taken the step into e-commerce yet — there’s no facility to make bookings online. The airfares page is clear and concise and tells you what you want to know. However, the standby flights have a note saying "special conditions apply". It would be useful for this page to include what these conditions are. If they’re likely to change over time, the page can always be updated. The lesson here is to take advantage of the space you’ve got on your Web page and its dynamic nature to include all the information your customers may need. This is especially the case on the schedules page. I don’t want to be overly critical because I may be missing something but the return trips seem to be missing. The summer, winter and weekend schedules from Invercargill to Stewart Island are there but where are the flights from Stewart Island to Invercargill? It could well be that the planes just do a round trip, but it doesn’t say so. The lesson: don’t make customers guess. You’ve got room for Africa — include the information your customers will be asking for. Customers can also check out the page about Stewart Island. The blurb about the island is short, but it captures what is special about the place very well. There is also a good contacts page with all the information you need, and if you’re wanting to charter a flight, you’ll find some suggestions on the Options page (perhaps this should be called Charter Options so it’s clearer). Now, going back to the profile page of the airline. It’s actually quite interesting stuff. We learn that prior to Southern Air starting up 20 years ago, the island was serviced by an amphibian aircraft which landed in the sea (taxiing up the beach to the local hotel). Unfortunately, the presentation leaves a little to be desired. The corporate profile consists of seven pages, labelled profile 1, profile 2, profile 3 etc. And it’s not all corporate information, either. Profile pages 6 and 7, for example, tell you about what you’ll see on the trip across Foveaux Strait and where to go when you arrive. These pages need to be renamed so customers know what information is contained in each. Maybe the corporate information could be presented all on one page and the last two could be renamed "The Journey" and be included on the main menu bar. The lesson from this is to think about how your customers might use the site and where they might look for information within your Web pages. Overall, the site looks good. It uses graphics well and good use of white space makes for ease of reading. Keeping the site simple has ensured download times are quick – another bonus. — Kirstin Mills Developers: New Zealand Country Matters Technology: HTML coded Hosting: South Net Southern Air

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