I want to help people. I designed experience to help them learn. Today, I design to solve their problems.
I love solving problems: puzzles, video games, arduino kits, you name it. I want to solve people’s problems with products and services, and make their experiences a better one. And because people make up a business (whether working in it, paying for it), I want to solve their problems too.
I’ll listen to your problems. And to show you how, I’ve added a project I’ve worked on recently.
Abandonment in Flight Booking
“the average abandonment rate for people leaving an airline’s website without making a purchase is 86 percent” (PRNewswire)
Why users abandon?
First order of business – secondary research (data, data). Turns out folks abandon for 3 reasons:
- they’re not ready yet (huge commitment – aren’t we all afraid of that?),
- they found a better price elsewhere (competition – darn CheapOAir),
- they were having second thoughts (“maybe I should not do this…” – neither should I but I can’t control this one)
So I had to get out there and chat with the folks, the real users of these flight booking sites.
What did I need to understand?
My dad was a tech nerd and loved data. My mom, education and design. And my sweet grandmother’s, she was so caring to all animals and orchids. So I grew up wanting to help people understand digital products (even parking meters) that made them feel good about themselves.
How could I make flight booking users feel better about themselves? I needed to get in their heads. I wanted to understand their intents, goals, thought processes were while booking their flights. I started off with an online questionnaire (a.k.a. survey) to gather a bit more data about their flight booking behavior, then followed with in-person interview/observation study to see what they actually did. I also used a card sort thinking it could help me understand how they associated tools.
Questionnaire (33 responses)
Interviews [script / User Research Observation Results]
Card Sorting (5 people)
My user is a vacationer who wants to find the cheapest flight on July 4th holiday that is convenient for them.
- Price was the leading criterium for a particular site choice (48%), ease of use came in second (39%)
- They use Kayak mostly for price look up (69.7%) but purchase is made when they go directly to the Airline’s website, Kayak and Expedia trailed in second
- Flexible dates is the most commonly used feature 54.5%, followed by Comparison to other websites 48.5%
- 51.5% Never book hotel and/or car with their flights
- … of users did not travel for work int he past 6 months
- Participants navigated away from Expedia because its flexible dates features only showed alternative dates forward, and not backwards.
- Expedia Users did not realized they were searching for flight and hotel as a default selection which returned no results. The site did not show any recommendations on recovering from error.
- Participants took their time to user filters and sorting to find flights that matched their preferences (number of stops, duration, home airport)
- Don’t listen to users Even if people say they want one thing (“the cheapest price”) that’s not necessarily what they WANT (a convenient flight for a low price). What I observed was that they didn’t click in the cheapest price. They sacrificed “cheapest” prices for convenience.
- Granted those hefty rescheduling fees are pretty intimidating. What were other sites doing right and wrong in that sense? Looks definitely played a role. Kayak looks nice and cleaner compared to other sites. Price: they also offer flights with different airlines for departing and returning. But what brought Kayak ahead was the price comparison feature (flexible dates) which saved users’ time in searching multiple dates.
- Most users use Flight Booking OTA’s when they’re traveling for leisure. Work-related travel is usually dictated by their employers.
I created the following documentation
I didn’t want to redesign Kayak. My focus was not improve Kayak. It was to improve the user’s experience of searching for a flight. And that was my puzzle. When I’m solving a puzzle, jigsaw or design, and I get stuck I pause. I get up my chair, away from the screen and look at Mr. Charles (my pup). He keeps me sane. He is an all-source of cheerfulness and excitement. Any day and time, he’d bring me his ball asking to go play. We’d go outside for a bit and that definitely helped me get over designer’s block. A sketching print will do to.
When I played Portal, where you’re given the idea that you’re in a test chamber with freedom to roam around, I realized that in fact you’re following a linear story. I wanted to create this same feeling to users. Give users the excitement/thrill of discovering lower prices but without really giving them all the tools that would overload their working memory (something you learn as an instructional designer.) I wanted to think for them and save them time.
I also wanted to give them the ability to know how much freedom they could possibly have in rescheduling or cancel their flights within a certain time period or even for a nominal fee.
Flight booking OTA’s will probably get uncomfortable with me right now. But here’s the deal, it’s expensive. Penalties scare users. So It’s okay to abandon. But we’ll help users come back by thinking for them. And these ideas are to help them feel comfortable.
- choices – I eliminated the date field. The idea is that the calendar will automatically come up once users input FROM/TO. That way, they have the freedom to look at any date they’d like by looking at the prices for each day.
- only tell me what I need to know – Setting up Alerts to notify users only when the price hits their target range, as opposed to emailing them everyday might save the annoyance.
- need time to think – As the great Don Norman would say, User Experience is about how the user feels about a particular product. I wanted them to feel comfortable and confident. Allowing users to hold it for a small fee is an option that many flight companies already offer but are hidden in the fine print. So providing them the freedom to save a particular flight (not the search which is tracked automatically) or hold it for a small fee for some time.
- freedom – In the user’s account page, the site offers a “reschedule for $” option next to a saved flight. They don’t have to book
- deals / in-season – also showing in the user’s dashboard what the deals of the month are and what is in season. You don’t want to go to Indian during monsoon.
- don’t make me work – The system would do the comparison work for the user.
As I started prototyping, I felt like I was forgetting the users and getting into my own “crafting” zone. So to reality check-it, I ran Gorilla testings with users for a couple of iterations. And wow. There was so much good and constructive feedback. When I was finally happy with a solid prototype, I ran a usability test.