Flying the sneaky skies


While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.

Why would United do this? Sure, they can trick a few people into mistakenly purchasing an upgrade. But at what cost to the brand? Even if they don’t fool you, you’ve had to work to avoid being fooled, and the trust (seemingly an important brand attribute for an airline) is dinged.

Grab a clue, web people @ United…this is no way to interface with customers.


About Steve