Deconstructing the Ryanair website
With the impending bank holiday and Royal celebrations now nearly upon us, I thought it would be topical to dissect a low-cost airline’s website. And since I’m actually flying out with Ryanair in a few short days, I have become intimately familiar with their less-than-perfect website. Putting my frustrations aside, I’ll be analysing their website with Web Design Psychology in mind. Below I’ve diced up their rather cluttered ‘home’ page, which we’ll be looking at section by section in our analysis below.
Cluttered, distracting and uncomfortable. This was my initial reaction when I landed Ryanair’s homepage. This, and the observation that their website is justified to the left of the screen, which on my monitor means that the majority of my screen is filled with empty space (which given the design, at least offers respite from the visual noise).
Psychologists have long known that ‘a website’s visual presentation has the power to gain the attention of a user group if the presentation matches the group’s aesthetic values’* and as such, one might think that any website adopting the tactics below is pitching to an attention-deficient, high dopamine audience who enjoy being over-stimulated and experiencing visual discomfort. No? You could’ve fooled me. My guess would be that people coming to use the Ryanair site would be adults comprising a range of ages, gender, and cultural backgrounds. A motly assortment of people who want to quickly and comfortably find the best airfare to their desired destination.
Hierarchy of information
#1 Logo / Header
This is possibly the clearest, most distinct part of the entire website. The use of blue (which can induce feelings of security and trust) if offset by the rest of the page’s colourful mish-mash, and serves only to identify the brand without lending any aesthetic enhancement to the website’s overall design.
#2, 4 Navigation (primary and secondary)
The navigation is tricky and too cluttered to click through easily, though this does have the effect of forcing you to really engage with the content to try and find what you’re looking for. The font is capitalised and small, leaving people with less than 20:20 vision to fend for themselves.
Below the tabbed primary navigation is the even more miniscule and obscure secondary navigation, where you can do important things like manage your booking, check live flight information and find the FAQs page. If you haven’t yet experienced the utter despair that comes from being thwarted by an unequivocally redundant ‘contact us’ page, I can highly recommend trying out theirs.
Besides being presented here, the client-led section of the menu is replicated in section 4, (in the left hand sidebar) where you can manage your booking, check-in online, register for offers and adverstise with Ryanair. And therein lies one of the problems. When you’re a low-cost airline, you have to make the money from somewhere – and what better way to do that than to sell off half of your website real-estate to advertisers? The fact that this advertising takes up most of the prime space to the expense of the client’s online experience may seem inconsequential, but I would bet that Ryanair’s bounce rates are pretty high due to their aggressively heavy ad-hosting.
#3 Book flights
As you’ve probably noticed, there’s quite a lot of duplication going on throughout the home page. In this tabbed section, you can find ‘online check-in’ which is also displayed on the replicated menu in section 4. It strikes me that it would be far simpler to have a clear primary navigation, allowing clients to navigate effectively and freeing up some of that extra web space to even more all-important advertising.
I can’t help thinking that the overall design has been conceived to be intentionally bad, under some misapprehension that it might lead to higher conversion rates and sales. If this is the case, then Ryanair has sorely missed the point, and have wilfully ignored the powerful effects of inducing positive emotional states and trust in online clients to foster long-term (and more highly lucrative) customer relationships. In the interest of balance, if you check out the websites of comparable low-cost airlines, such as easyJet and Monarch, you’ll see that whilst they too use and use bold colours to attract buyers and rely on some advertising, their websites are a lot more appealing and clearly designed than Ryanair’s.
#5 General content
There’s not really much to add here, except that the way in which advertising is interspersed with relevant information dilutes the content and confuses the viewer. Intentionally or not, this has the effect of eliminating any hierarchy of information, making it harder for clients to discern which information is useful to them, and which isn’t. Rather than making me engage more in the site, I found it frustrating to the point of abstraction, so much so that it has put me off ever returning to this site.
The less said, the better.
Yet another convenient place to replicate navigation. Below the dark blue footer, you’ll also notice a smorgasbord of links, which if I guess correctly, is more fo the SEO ranking of the page than to provide visitors with any useful information. I say this because if this information was really important, it would be placed more visibly on the page (i.e. higher up and in a larger font, and clearly demarcated as links), according to standard web practice.
The message is made very clear by the repeated use of one word, that what you are getting here is cheap.
Cheap car hire, cheap hotels, cheapest roaming, book cheap flights, cheap hotels (again) … you get the picture.
The copy on this page is largely made up of single words or short phrases. There is not much to read, instead the reader must scan words and short phrases. While this can work on a bookings site such as this, there is little to help the reader work out what to do, and little to entertain.
The repetition of the word ‘flights’ in the popular links section (Alicante Flights, Barcelona Flights, London-Gatwick Flights) will help the site in terms of SEO. These are likely to be terms people are searching for.
The use of capital letters and words entirely in capitals in the ‘BUDGET BEDS’ section does not follow grammatical rules and disturbs the reading flow (eg. “available now near your Airport or Destination”).
In the Legoland section “tummy-tickling” seems a bizarre phrase to use – I have never heard it used before. Perhaps it means rib-tickling? “Bring a colourful creativity as well as your wildest imagination …” also does not express itself well. Perhaps instead something like: “This is a place where your creativity can run wild. Legoland will capture your imagination.”
I really can’t come up with a satisfying justification for the sheer horror that is the design of this website. Beyond this, the user experience is utterly appalling, there’s practically no hierarchy of information and having spent a good half hour traipsing through this abomination I can safely say that it has succeeded in putting me off ever using the site again. How’s that for a tried and tested conversion.
* J. Y. Chen, T W A Whitfield, K. Robertson, Y. Chen. The effect of cultural and educational background in the aesthetic responses of website users. National Institute for Design Research, Swinburne University of Technology, AU. 2010.
If you’d like to read more, join us next month when we’ll be deconstructing another website using the principles of Web Design Psychology.
If you have any comments, suggestions or tips on this post do comment, we’d love to hear what you think.
The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by We make them click and while we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.
In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website.
Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of We make them click. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them. Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, We make them click takes no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our control.