American Airlines Site Showcases Design Of Little Things

I’m a very frequent flier and a heavy user of the American Airlines site. One of the things that has bothered me about the site is the login process. In order for my AAdvantage number to show up during my next visit, the site required me to check a box below the password. If I forgot (which happened often), then I would need to input my AAdvantage number again.

American Airlines recently changed their site to keep the box checked if it was previously checked.

My take: While the login issue was not a big problem, it certainly was an ongoing annoyance. And the solution was relatively easy.

The reason I’m pointing out this change is that it’s an example of a concept that I’ve labeled the Design of Little Things, which are the small changes that can dramatically improve the customer experience of much larger investments.

Companies need to make sure that they keep investing in finding and fixing these little things that cause customers to struggle with an experience.

The bottom line: Don’t underestimate the Design of Little Things.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

6 thoughts on “American Airlines Site Showcases Design Of Little Things”

  1. Hi Bruce Great example of a customer insight. Not always earth shattering but to continually remove customer annoyances is great. I had a recent example of a company (my own!) supplying fancy binders with 3 rings. Problem was our customers had 2 & 4 hole punches! Easily fixed but often ignored. The key question is who in a business is tasked with looking for and acting on these “actionable insights.” For me it’s part of the Clienteer function that I am suggesting that businesses consider.

  2. Hi Bruce

    I could not agree with you more – in 2007, Shop Direct Group introduced a mechanism to do just this continuously and systematically through the ffective engagement of our employees – Customer 1st Aid has resolved, corrected and responded to over 1000 customer experience issues (deemed detrimental to the experience) submitted by colleagues across the business – generating both significant financial benefit (tangible), and contributing to our improvement in customer satisfaction. Employee engagement has increased significantly as well. Really happy to share more on this with you or other readers if you would like!

    Ian Golding
    Head of Customer Experience

    Shop Direct Group (the UKs largest online retailer)

  3. Ray, I love the 2/3/4 hole punch story.

    Craig, I am thrilled that this blog is helping your family business.

    Ian, it’s great to hear some of the things going on at Shop Direct. There appear to be a lot of good things going on there! You’ve actually been on my list of people to chat with. I’ll be reaching out to you.

    Thanks for all of your comments!

  4. Bruce, thank you for your eminently practical approach evidenced by your “Design of Little Things”. You continue to contribute useful and easily accessed information to corporate consumers interested in improving their customer experience.

    Ian, kudos to Shop Direct for adopting a similar approach to that Bruce named. There is opportunity to benefit doubly by better serving your customers AND more completely engaging your employees in healthy process.

  5. But wait…. doesn’t the devil live in the details!? That sounds like a hellish place to focus attention.

    Jokes aside, your advice is good. I’m a web designer with some experience in user experience design, or “usability” and can underscore how important it is to pay attention to the details. Though, I don’t believe one can or should obsess about catching all the details at “the first bat”. Rather, I believe in the popular web developer mantra “to release early and iterate often.”

    It is in the iterations of a design that the small stuff grows bigger. And the small stuff that NOBODY in your organization can even begin to recognize might become unbelievable apparent after a few weeks of data from your web analytics.

    Hey, thanks again for the great article.

    Glenn Friesen
    Impact Learning Systems

    Oh btw, ever read John Maeda’s “Rules of SImplicity?” I think you’ll find it highly relevant to your “Design of Little Things” approach.

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