Ironhack’s pre-work Challenge 3: Usability Evaluation and Site Redesign

This case study is part of my third challenge for Ironhack to evaluate and redesign a popular travel application.

Have you also ever imagined visiting at least one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Petra — a historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan is surely at the top of my list. But for now, let us continue dreaming about travelling while looking through the eyes of a backpacker going to this beautiful destination. For this task, we will try to identify and solve some of the pain points they have encountered while using one of the popular travel apps to plan the trip of their dreams.

User Type

Julie is a 30-year-old enthusiastic globe-trotter who loves going on backpacking trips. Despite that recently she decided to go back to university for a career change which is rather expensive and time-consuming, she cannot spend a year without going on an adventure. In about 6 months she would love to finally visit one of the Seven Wonders of the New Millennium — Petra in Jordan, that has been sitting in her dreams for a long time now. Julie knows that the best adventures do not have to require much money and time to plan — all you need is a backpack and an optimistic mindset. She wishes to have the most affordable, genuine and exciting experience with an opportunity to meet interesting people along the way.

Research

Here is some relevant information about the destination:

  • Nearest airport: King Hussein International. However, Julie will be flying to AMM Amman Queen Alia airport as it is more convenient to reach from Amsterdam due to lower costs and better public transport connections to Petra.
  • Currency: Jordanian Dinar (JOD)(Exchange rate: 1 EUR = 0.859 JOD)
  • Medical needs: vaccination, visa, etc.: some of the recommended vaccinations when travelling to Jordan include MMR, DTaP, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies which are not mandatory. Visa can be obtained upon arrival, it will cost a total of 40 JOD.
  • Wardrobe recommendations: especially for women it is recommended to wear more conservative clothes in accordance to the local culture. Ideally avoid sleeveless shirts, shorts and dresses below the knees.
  • Days needed to visit attraction: at least 2–3 days in Petra. Including the travelling from Amman the trip could be about 5–7 days.

Benchmarking

In order to select the best application to work with I have compared Skyscanner, Kayak and Hopper by applying Usability Heuristics evaluation with Nielsen’s Principles. Skyscanner performed the best in accordance to the below principles which are relevant to our user type:

Principle 2: Match between system and the real world

Principle 3: User control and freedom

Principle 6: Recognition rather than recall

Principle 8: Aesthetic and minimalist design

First of all, considering that our user type is a backpacker who does not have much time to plan and is on a tight budget, Skyscanner seems to be the best in terms of value and speed. It allows you to quickly compare the best deals for flights and hotels without unnecessary extra steps and even to create price alerts. Moreover, the app speaks the user’s language and employs nice illustrations and simple design which relate to young users such as Julie. Skyscanner also seems to be quite efficient in terms of tips & actions visible to assist users in their search such as an option to save the hotels.

Testing

After the Heuristic evaluation, I have performed usability testing to understand how this application could be further improved to help people travel the world. I interviewed 4 people (ages 29-32 years) who are rather close to the analysed user type since all of them seem to prefer adventurous budget-friendly trips over luxury travel.

5 Seconds Test

At first, I used the 5 Seconds Test — Usability hub to test the look and feel of the Skyscanner’s search page (because the home page did not seem to contain much except from ‘Explore everywhere’ option).

I asked the users the following questions:

  • What do you think this tool is for?
  • What options did you see?
  • Where would you search for a flight?

In general, most of the users correctly identified that this app is for planning trips. Their eyes seemed to be caught by big ‘plan a trip’ font instead of ‘Flights’ button. The option to explore was remembered more often than the options to book flights or hotels.

Completing a task test

Afterwards, I asked each of the participants to complete 5 simple tasks within the app:

Task 1: Find the cheapest return flight for a week from Amsterdam to Amman (Jordan) within the next 6 months.

Task 2: Can you find only direct flights from Amsterdam to Amman within the next 6 months?

Task 3: Save a flight

Task 4: Can you find an option for local transfers — how to get from Amman to Petra?

Task 5: Find the most affordable hostel in Petra (Jordan).

Note: I asked the users to complete the tasks using their own phones for their convenience.

Insights

One of the things that surprised me during the tests was that the interface of Skyscanner (including the availability of certain options) was rather different on android and iOS devices. However, since the majority of the interviewed users (including myself) are using iPhones, I decided to focus on improving the layout of the app on iOS devices.

During the usability tests I took notes and videos (with permission from the users). After summarizing my findings, I found a few common pain points for my user persona:

🔴 The location and layout of the home page is not very clear.

🔴 There is no option for local transfers if you cannot afford to rent a car.

🔴 On the iOS version of the app (differently from Android) there is no option to view the prices in advance or to compare them by month.

🔴 ‘Direct flights only’ option is difficult to find and sometimes unavailable if there are no direct flights on the selected dates.

🔴 Finding the accommodation type is a bit time-consuming since you have to scroll down & sorting by price option is often missed.

🔴 Save a flight option is difficult to find (did not seem to be available on Android device at all)

Redesign wireframes

As we can see from the above pain points some of the processes of Skyscanner application could be faster and more intuitive to allow backpackers to plan the most affordable and genuine experiences without having to waste too much time. In order to solve as many problems as possible I chose to focus on redesingning the — home page layout & selecting the cheapest flight.

Here are my proposals for the application redesign:

Home Screen

Design proposals of Local transfers & Explore screens

Selecting the cheapest flight Prices by month • Direct flights • Saving a flight

Conclusion

While doing the research for this case study I further understood the importance of performing usability tests with real users. Filming interviews proved particularly useful since I could get way more information from them in comparison to only taking notes. It helped me to better understand mental models of my target audience.

Despite that the app already seemed quite intuitive and user-friendly, I learned that there is always a room for improvement. This somehow inspired me even more to study hard and to become a UX/UI designer so I can contribute to shaping the world around me and improving how people experience it.

Thank you for reading! I am very curious to hear from you if you have any comments or feedback to help me on my journey.

Don’t forget to check out the prototype below! 😉

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