By Emma Steiber

The goal was to redesign and expand on the passenger’s in-flight within the existing Fly application. We followed the double-diamond design model and created solutions using a high-fidelity prototype that centered on a comprehensive, all-in-one Delta mobile application.

The Project Basics

3 /UI Designers

2 Weeks:

  • Secondary Research: 1day
  • User Research: 2 days
  • Synthesizing Research: 2 days
  • Ideation and Prioritization: 1 day
  • Paper Prototyping: 1 day
  • Digital Prototyping and User Testing: 3 days
  • Iteration of Digital Prototype: 1 day
  • Presentation: 1 day

The Challenge

Delta wants to come up with a way to add certain features to their existing mobile application. Currently in-flight services are manual (food and drink service, summoning an attendant) and are dependent on built-in technology (movies, music, games, maps), or abstract (wifi, SkyMall). Our team had to expand on Delta’s in-flight mobile experience using our major insights from user research.

The Solutions

  • An interactive hi-fidelity prototype of a minimum viable product (MVP)
  • Future Solutions

Discover — The Airline Industry

Delta’s Foundation — Who is Delta?

Based on external research from Delta’s website, Delta’s 2016 annual report, and a 2018 Strategic Analysis Report of Delta, our team discovered the following:

  • Delta functions on a hub and spoke model to increase flight efficiency and reliability.
  • Delta is currently focused on domestic flights, but expanding their global network to hubs in London, Paris, and Amsterdam.
  • Customer service, employee care, and operational reliability are top priorities for Delta’s business model.
  • “Plan your next adventure”: Delta’s model focuses on the business traveler, but it is starting to focus on millennial travel because the latter is expected to increase significantly by 2020.
  • “Rewarding your loyalty”: Emphasizing another one of Delta’s mottos, the company has the SkyMiles ® frequent flyer program to increase traveler loyalty through miles and points.
  • Delta’s partnerships include Lyft and Airbnb, which allows you to earn more SkyMiles ® points.
  • Delta’s largest airline domestic competitors are American Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines, and Southwest.
  • Delta and its competitors compete over low fares, but Delta justifies higher prices by offering excellent customer service.

Competitive Analysis

Our team synthesized these findings into two competitive analysis charts for Delta airlines and its top domestic competitors: one based on the airlines in-flight experience and a second one based on their mobile applications’ features.

Mobile Application Features

Findings from Competitive Analyses

  • Delta and its competitors focus on the all-in-one mobile application.
  • All airlines have similar features: book trips, hotels, and car rentals, and check in to your flight; access booked trips, boarding passes, in-flight entertainment, baggage information, weather information, miles and points, interactive airport maps, and flight tracking maps in-flight.

Defining the User Research

We conducted:

  • 69 screen surveys
  • 7 phone interviews
  • 2 in-person interviews
  • 3 surveys

We sent out a online screener survey to find out people’s preferred airlines, digital devices used when flying, the importance of, on a scale from 1–5, in-flight entertainment, rewards, and seat choice, and frequency of flying in the past 12 months.

Survey Findings

Airline preferences
Device preferences
The importance of in-flight entertainment

From these responses, we conducted nine in-depth interviews and one in-depth survey with travelers, and two in-depth surveys with Delta flight attendants.

Affinity Mapping

We created an affinity map to make sense of the interview findings.

Affinity Map

Persona Maps

We found three main personas from our interviews and created persona maps for each one:

Glover — The Business Traveler

Glover’s Persona Map

Sara — The Adventurer

Sara’s Persona Map

Liz — The Flight Attendant

Liz’s Persona Map

Customer Journey Map

From these persona maps, we mapped out Glover, Sara, and Liz’s flight journey.

  • Yellow Journey Map: Glover
  • Purple Journey Map: Sara
  • Aqua Journey Map: Liz
Customer Journey Map Insights
Customer Journey Map Insights
Customer Journey Map Insights

Major Insights from Our Research Synthesis

  • Passengers need to be able to easily navigate airline applications because they rely on airline applications to accomplish all of their flight needs from check-in to deplaning.
  • Passengers enjoy the novelty of the in-flight map because it’s an interactive process that reminds them of their travel journey.
  • Passengers need to know the options they have for getting to their destination post-flight because timing and costs can play an important role in getting to their destination.
  • Passengers need clear visual cues and directions for boarding, deplaning, and connecting flights because inefficiencies can negatively affect travel and business plans.
  • Passengers enjoy complimentary perks and good customer service because it makes them feel taken care of.
  • Passengers need to be able to easily navigate airline applications because they rely on the app to accomplish all of their flight needs from check-in to deplaning.

Major Flight Attendant Pain Points

  • WiFi can be unreliable.
  • Boarding and deplaning can be chaotic for passengers.
  • Use of call button is unrelated to what is important for flight attendants (for emergency situations or for passengers who need special assistance).
  • Flight attendants would like it if if there was a way passengers could get automatic updates on flights and connections in-flight with the mobile application.
  • Inefficient flights mean poor NPS scores for Delta.

Developing the Solution

The Pain Points

Based on our user research we discovered the major pain points for passengers. We mapped them out based on operational and digital values along one axis, and feasibility of what can and cannot be changed along the other axis.

Axis Map of Passenger Pain Points


We ideated potential solutions based on our research findings and isolated major ideas based on insights from the axis map.

Ideation mapping and isolating major ideas (shown in the far right)

Major Ideas From Ideating

  • Messaging flight attendants in-flight
  • Getting transportation options and pre-ordering a Lyft
  • Boarding and deplaning by zones
  • Sharing itinerary with family, friends, partners, and bosses
  • AR feature to measure carry-ons
  • Ordering food options in-flight or within the connecting airport
  • Trivia games and shared games with other passengers

Delivering the Solution

From ideating and axis mapping, we prioritized ideas and came up with final solutions.

Solutions should…

  • …provide clear updates on any changes to itinerary because people need to be able to easily plan their next steps.
  • …clearly guide users to their pre and post flight transportation options and connections because travel experience shouldn’t stop at the flight.
  • …improve the perception of good customer service because it makes people feel taken care of and it aligns with Delta’s values.
  • …improve efficiency with boarding and deplaning because any delays can affect travel and business plans, as well as connecting flights.

Main Features

  • Re-Organization: We condensed the footer tab to get rid of repetitive buttons and brought other features out from the “More” button that were of significance to the in-flight experience (ex. “Baggage,” “Airport Maps,” “Flight Status,” and “Delta Studio”). We added the “Sky-Tinerary” button to the footer tab.
  • Comprehensive Itinerary: We focused on creating a feature called “Sky-Tinerary,” an itinerary feature that maps out a passenger’s flight experience that automatically updates with flight status changes, and allows the passenger to edit and add to their itinerary (Lyft rides, Airbnb reservations, and other pre and post-flight transportation options).
  • Delta Messenger: Since Delta has in-flight text messaging, we created a messenger feature as an alternative to the on-call button that would allow passengers to message flight attendants about connecting flights, baggage, and flight statuses.
  • Food and Beverage Tab: Delta allows the passenger to start a food and beverage tab on their screens in-flight. We added this feature to the mobile application, which allows passengers to use existing points, credit cards on-file, or Apple Pay to either pre-order or order during flight.

The Wireframes

We started by sketching out the wireframes for the mobile solution.

In-Flight Food and Beverage Tab
In-Flight Itinerary

User Testing

We conducted five usability tests and received the following feedback:

  • Font was hard to read.
  • Some word choices were confusing.
  • Secondary navigation was confusing.
  • Users wanted a tutorial on how “Sky-Tinerary” works.
  • Do I have to share everything?

Based on this feedback, we made a more readable font, kept Delta’s current name for the itinerary (“My Trip”) and changed “Message Board” to “Delta Messenger,” made a new screen for the secondary navigation (“Sky-Tinerary” screen), created a tutorial for how “Sky-Tinerary” works, and created an editing feature for passengers to choose what to share from their itinerary.

Original “Sky-Tinerary” screen on the far left; Updated secondary navigation and “Sky-Tinerary” screens on the right

The High Fidelity Prototype

From the home screen, it will take you “My Delta,” which will notify you of your trip. From there you can sync your flight itinerary, Google Maps, and allow for push notifications to get updates on your flight.
On your “Sky-Tinerary” screen you can access your trip, in-flight features, airport maps, baggage tracking, and your boarding pass. You can access the tutorial on the “Sky-Tinerary” screen to learn what each button houses.
Each info button on the right of the “My Trip” screen allows you to see transportation options to and from the airport, and security wait times. It also allows you to start a food and beverage tab, and pre-order a Lyft before deplaning. The times on the left of the “My Trip” screen automatically update with flight delays (yellow to red) and let the passengers know when their plane is on-time (green). You can add your Airbnb reservations and Lyft rides to your itinerary.
You can share your itinerary to your boss, family member, or partner through your contacts list on your phone.
You can order food or beverages from the “In-Flight” or “My Trip” screens. You can choose to start a tab or pay right away with Apple Pay or linked credit cards.
In Delta Messenger, you can ask your flight attendants about connecting flights, flight updates, and baggage carousel updates.

The Clickable Prototype

You can watch how the prototype works here.

Future Iterations

Delta’s Partnerships

In order to compete with other airlines to become a more comprehensive mobile application, more user research should be conducted on car rentals and hotel booking. While this wasn’t a priority in passenger pain points during our user research, in the future it will be important to ask users why they do or do not use Delta for post-flight booking and renting needs. Delta can stand out more by highlighting their partnerships with Lyft and Airbnb, two companies that cater more to the millennial business traveler and adventurer.

Bag Sizing Feature

Competing airlines like Southwest have an AR (augmented reality) feature that allows passengers to check the size of their bags pre-flight. Our team did not explore this feature because we discovered through interviews that there was more of a priority on solving the stress of airline travel through one’s itinerary. However, technology that interacts with one’s view on reality is a big part of what the future is going to look like, not just in gaming but in real life. Below is a low-fidelity prototype of what this feature can look like in Delta’s mobile application.

My Roles

Research: I created the competitive analysis charts and worked together with my team on screener surveys, phone interviews, affinity mapping, persona mapping, customer journey mapping, ideation mapping, and feature prioritization through axis mapping.

Design: My team and I each worked on sections of the sketched wireframes and the high-fidelity prototype. I finalized the final prototype to make sure it was cohesive throughout.

Testing: I helped conduct three of the usability tests.

Future Iterations: I researched future iterations and created the low-fidelity prototype of the baggage AR feature.

My Reflections

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” When conducting user research, it is important to keep in mind the pain points of the in-flight experience and applying those insights to a more intuitive mobile experience.

What the user is not saying. It is important to research and uncover what users are not saying. Even if a user does not care for a feature, this does not mean it is worth ignoring.

Going beyond mobile solutions. A solution to a problem, such as deplaning, may not be a mobile solution, but a physical or operational one.

Team collaboration. When working with a team, it is important to consistently share Sketch files and create one cohesive wireframe for all team members to use for the prototype’s foundation. It is also important to have daily meetings to communicate roles and updates throughout the process.

About the Author

Emma Steiber is a UX/UI student in the UXDI immersive course at General Assembly in Chicago.

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