ALASKA AIRLINES APP REDESIGN
UX Vision: Travel stress-free with the app that knows what you need to have a smooth flight.
New default home screen
New booking screen
New trip-watching function
People love Alaska Airlines as a company and enjoy the experience of flying with Alaska, but the company wants to find out about current usability problems of their app and get recommendations for improvement.
Additionally, Alaska wants to find out what would improve other areas of the customer experience to make the app indispensable for travelers.
The main aspects focused on during the project include:
- Find out current pain points for airline travelers
- Improve upon existing features and aspects of the app
- Learn about unmet needs airline travelers have that enhancements of the app could help
- Audit and amend the flow and visual design to improve experience
- Minimize confusion about boarding time and location
- Look into how customers can complete their flight experience even if their mobile device battery has died, or if they don’t have a mobile device
- Confirming functionalities Alaska app users like that should remain the same or get minimal improvement
- Prioritizing customer needs within the list of business goals, based on pain points from interview participants
- App audit
- Competitive analysis (Lead)
- User research material development (Lead)
- Sketching + iterating flow of save, share, and watch functionalities (Lead)
- Screener development (Lead)
- User interviews (Lead)
- Synthesizing research (Lead)
- Conceptualizing Checkout Process (Lead)
- UI Writing (Lead)
- Creating prototype in InVision (Lead)
- Usability testing
- Analyzing results + implications
- Drawing implements
- Google Forms
- InVision + Craft
Combined elements of the existing Alaska interface and looked to other travel app functionalities to improve the searching process and increase the ease of booking trips within the app.
The addition of the default low fare calendar was universally appreciated by users, increasing feelings of control and transparency.
Phase 1: Discovery
Process: We conducted initial research to audit the Alaska app, compare it to other apps, and establish a baseline for comparison.
Part 1: Unstructured conversations with app users
Part 2: Evaluation of app reviews in Apple store
Part 3: Competitive analysis with other flight apps
Part 4: Comparative analysis with other travel apps
I spoke with travelers at the airport about if/how they had used the Alaska app for the trip they were taking that day. Here's what I heard:
- “I don’t trust an app to keep my credit card information, but it should remember me when I log in.”
- “I want the option to have a credit card saved, but it shouldn't be the default option”
- “I booked my flight on my phone but it took forever. I probably won’t do that again.”
- “I use the Alaska app for my boarding pass only.”
- "I spelled my name wrong when I booked my ticket, which isn't Alaska's fault, but I was already logged into the app so it would've been prevented if they had just auto-loaded my information. I had to go to the desk to try and fix it at the airport, and they said 'it should be fine' but that TSA would have the final say."
MOBILE APP REVIEWS
The app reviews are largely positive, with a rating of 4.8/5
When users had complaints, they were based around:
Not getting notifications for flight delays, the annoyance of reentering mileage information and login when accessing the app, and not being recognized when they tried to input their information (name, mileage plan number).
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS (AIRLINE APPS)
I started by auditing every screen and flow from top airline competitors, and then created a spreadsheet of all functionalities represented across apps. I noted whether each was present in Alaska, as well as the other apps I was comparing. At this time, no value judgement was made about the necessity of each feature, only a catalogue of what existed and how it was represented (i.e. if it led the user outside of the app, brought in a web browser, etc.)
COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS ACROSS TRAVEL APPS
After completing an analysis of other airline apps, we also looked into other apps within the travel arena at large, starting with the ones we used ourselves, which were Hopper, Kayak, and Airbnb.
Among those apps, we found that concepts we had considered — sharing, saving, and watching — were represented in a variety of ways (depicted left). We used these features as reference when considering our design flows and functionality.
Kayak: save function
Hopper: watch function
Airbnb: share function
Phase 2: User Interviews
Process: From the initial research, we developed a screener interview investigating user behavior around mobile and desktop apps and airline ticket purchasing, then selected key participants for 1-on-1 interviews to further define behaviors around Alaska app use and needs.
Part 1: 45 participants in online habits screener
Part 2: 9 participants for 1-on-1 interviews diving into attitudes and actions
SCREENER INTERVIEW: 45 PARTICIPANTS
To discover our central user, I wrote a screener questionnaire in Google Forms, asking questions around: travel behavior, general app preferences, airline preferences, in-app purchasing behaviors, booking practices, check-in behaviors, recent travel experiences, tech device usage, and Alaska Airlines app usage.
From the screener responses, the pool was narrowed down to a few participants for 1-on-1 interviews. Reasons for participant selection were based on the desire to speak with someone with the highest need for a functional Alaska Airlines app: Alaska fliers, digital natives, those who had made major purchases in a mobile app, those who use apps for many aspects of their lives (including travel), people who use the Alaska app, and who have iPhones.
USER INTERVIEWS: 9 PARTICIPANTS
My team interviewed 9 participants, asking about the three main subsets of the flight experience: Booking, Check-in/Day of Flight, and In-Flight Experience
Three participants identified as "super flyers" who fly 5+ times each year on Alaska Airlines were also asked to evaluate functionalities we were considering adding based on competitive analysis. These questions were asked once the standard interview was completed.
In particular, these "super flyers" were asked to rate on a scale the likelihood of their use of functions such as: built-in app entertainment; an on-demand customer service avatar to answer questions; flight watching and saving functions; and a grid of low fares and dates as a default search capability.
Pain points and process:
I usually have to switch back and forth with the app and desktop to find easy to see prices, and I go to a bunch of sites and apps, like Kayak and Hopper to look for low fares and track price changes. I’d always prefer to fly Alaska, but it’s hard to get that same information.”
I travel with my husband and sometimes need to find childcare for the dates we’re going. So, I have to coordinate dates with him, my parents, and finding availability for where we want to stay. I want to be able to save and share easily, but it’s mostly screenshots, emails, and texts, and it’s hard to track.”
I book through mobile apps exclusively, but mostly it’s Google flights for the trust, unbiased view, and clear layout; Hipmunk because they rate flights by convenience; and Hopper, for how it lets me follow price changes.”
Key habits and conclusions:
- Price is the largest deciding factor when choosing to book a flight
- Users want information on deals within the app, or were surprised when clicking a “deals” email on their phone led to a mobile website rather than the app
- Users want a clear layout of dates and prices as the norm
- Users share data during the booking process with screenshots and would like a better share functionality, as the majority of participants plan trips with others
- Users don’t book their flight the first time they search, so they have to reenter information from scratch every time
- People want clearer information about where they are in the buying process during the entire booking and purchasing process
- Entertainment and in-flight experience is not important to anyone we interviewed
PLANNING AND DESIGN GOALS
With so many factors to focus on, we chose a flow that emphasized clarity of information, convenience, and collaboration specifically in the booking process.
Existing functions: Rework booking process to integrate a cleaner interface with a default low price grid immediately visible upon choosing a destination.
New functions: To address the redundancy of reentering information, we added a recent search option, intuitive origin, and back button
New flows: With a focus on collaboration, we created save, share, and watch functions, creating screens to draft the flow within the app.
Design aesthetics: Consistency with Alaska look and feel.
Sketches: Drew several versions of key screens, revamping navigation to address added functionalities. I sketched several models for the new save, share, and watch functions, then conducted usability testing to iterate on language and placement.
Virgin: home screen personalization
United: recent search function
Hopper: watch function
Airbnb: share function
- Home screen
- Booking screens
- Low fare calendar
- Watch function
- Save function
- Share function
Once basic sketches were chosen as models, we used Sketch to create low-fidelity wireframes of each of the key screens.
During initial usability testing we found that:
- Language was a bit unclear in the flow
- The continue button was hidden
- The home screen had room for improvement
Alaska App Cover
Concept drawings for save, watch, and share functions
Low-fi wireframes for home and choice screens
Full fidelity: Sharing itinerary
Using InVision, we uploaded wireframes into a hotspot-clickable prototype. We led 10 users through the prototype, instructing them on the parameters of the search (location, timing), as well as the background story of Allie's travel needs. We took notes of problem areas, pauses, and questions. We were able to gather data on the overall booking process as well as the success of the newly added functions.
After testing with multiple users, we found that users:
- Were able to go through the search and booking process with minimal confusion
- Enjoyed the experience more than they remembered enjoying the booking experience on the previous Alaska app
- Were delighted by the sharing via text and email options
- Had questions about the differences between save and watch buttons and functions
- Weren’t always immediately able to locate the continue button to move through the process, but were able to find it without help from the usability tester
- Rated any confusion they had as “mild”
With this feedback in mind, we made changes to a few aspects of the experience, which are illustrated below:
Iterations & Testing:
- Test the Continue button in our current version and iterate on feedback.
- Implement our changes and new features into Alaska’s current app.
- Introduce a Tour to show users the new features of the app and test understanding, along with an attrition study: Do users remember the functionalities and locations of new features a week later, without the tour?
- Iterate on the Alerts feature, with added screens to illustrate the Notifications and Deals information availability
- Explore Alaska’s goal: “Minimize confusion around check in and boarding"
- Users say that Alaska’s notifications are either too late (ie they’re already on the plane) or are sent via email instead of the app, with no alert appearing in the app.
- Added Alerts section in navigation bar to remedy confusion about where to find notifications for boarding gates, times, and delays.
- Alaska needs to sync alerts in real time within their system to make use of this feature.
- Alaska also defined a goal to create a solution for users when their phones die or they don’t have a phone.
- As everyone we surveyed had a smart device, this was less of a priority during this sprint.
- In the future, we could examine ways to integrate needed features into existing Alaska kiosks at the Check-In area as well as in Alaska-designated gate areas.
As this project took place entirely within a two-week sprint (8 working days), the extent to which we could address all areas of concern was limited. However, in this very short time, we were able to address 3 user stories that were not considered in the current app, which derived 10 additional functionalities.
- a default low fare calendar
- informed and intuitive origin and destination data
- sharing feature for email, text, and more
- save feature for flight legs
- watch feature for flight routes
6. clear review and checkout process
7. personalized experience
8. recent search feature in initial booking screen
9. easy to share itinerary in png form (reduce ads)
10. deals customization within app