Ryanair was, and is, famous for many reasons; cheap flights, luggage restrictions, perceived sexism, a crazy boss, a refreshing approach to PR, and the list goes on.

But perhaps Ryanair was most famous as the poster child for the upsell, and the doyen of poor UX.

All this might sound harsh, but it is thankfully all changing. Michael O’Leary has been all over Twitter recently talking about forthcoming improvements, particularly to the web, and luggage restrictions, too.

And today, via its Twitter account, Ryanair announced the first stage of its website rebuild, the homepage, is now live.

 Here’s the tweet, showcasing the homepage.

The Ryanair website isn’t yet mobile optimised, and although there is an app available, it is routinely reviewed as ‘not the best’ (see app store screenshot below).

We’ve looked at Ryanair before on the blog, and its a website that has previously struggled with user engagement.

But all that has to change at some point, and the change has to start somewhere on site, with the homepage a good indicator to customers of things to come.

The change is quite marked when you click away from the homepage to explore the ‘old’ site – with the new header menu present throughout.

The change is even more marked when one compares the old homepage with the new. Check out the screenshots below and you’ll see that Ryanair has significantly pared down the information on the page, in line with the widely held view that simplicity is what the customer appreciates.

The points of user interaction have also been increased in size, with buttons more obvious and looking tantalisingly like they’re being prepared for mobile.

Old homepage:

(click to enlarge)

New homepage:

(click to enlarge)

Still lots to do

There is still a lot to do, as performing a simple search for flights from the new homepage, our Editor, Graham Charlton, immediately ran into difficulties.

He searched for flights from Newcastle to Barcelona and was returned the page below. There are no flights available and a list of possible reasons why.

This is very frustrating for the customer, who shouldn’t really be allowed to search for flights that don’t exist – i.e the selection for destination should be tailored to departure airport and possible date of departure.

There is a link to ‘new route start dates’ and on this page one can see that the Newcastle to Barcelona route doesn’t commence until April 1st 2014 (making a fool of Graham?).

So the new homepage is a good step, but users will keenly await further improvements.