Ironhack’s Prework: Usability Evaluation in Practice

Introduction

A good, successful product is one that is intuitive enough that users know how to use it from the get-go and fulfils and satisfies all its users’ needs. Designers and researchers can use a variety of methods to gather feedback and iterate on their product to improve it. One such method commonly used is Jakob’s Ten Usability Heuristics.

In this article, we will be performing a usability evaluation of the Skyscanner app and investigate what could be improved based on users’ pain points.

Image from PR Newswire

User types

The user types have already been created for us, so let’s get acquainted with them:

Young couple — 20–40 y/o

You and your partner decide to go to a special place next summer. You realize you have both saved enough for the tickets and are planning to save as much as possible for the next 6 months to do this trip. You want to be efficient and have everything you need organized to enjoy at 100% while there. Even if you’re young, you want to have special moments to celebrate being together.

These young couples have decided to climb Mount Fuji in Japan and are therefore looking to book in the most efficient way a return flight from Amsterdam to Tokyo.

Preparation needed for the trip

  • Nearest airport: Tokyo Haneda
  • Currency and exchange rate from €: as of January 6th 2021, €1 is equal to ¥127
  • Documentation & visa needed: a valid passport, confirmed return ticket (e-tickets are also accepted), relevant documentation concerning your itinerary and proof of sufficient funds. Dutch passport holders are not required to obtain a visa for a short-term stay of up to 90 days for tourism that does not include paid activities
  • Medical needs: travellers to Japan should be up to date on routine vaccinations (i.e. measles, chickenpox, flu, polio,…)
  • Wardrobe recommendations: the official climbing season on Mount Fuji is1 July to 14 September so whilst summer in Japan can get very hot and humid, it is recommended to wear warm clothes and be prepared for a sudden change in weather. Pack therefore sweater, raincoat, sunglasses, and of course, climbing boots
  • Days needed to visit attraction: 1 day could be enough as on average, it takes between 5 and 7 hours to climb Mount Fuji. However, to truly appreciate the experience the fullest, it is advised to reserve a hut and spend the night there

Now that the details for the trip are nailed down, our couples are looking to book a flight. And for this part, they have a lot of choice on the app to choose from.

Benchmarking & testing

I have interviewed 2 couples and asked them to simulate the booking of a flight to Tokyo using the apps Hopper, Kayak and Skyscanner.

Hopper

Hopper was by far the app that underperformed for both couples. They encountered many points, starting from choosing the dates of the trip. Seeing the most pricey dates with a colour code is a nice touch, but having to click twice to eventually choose the dates doesn’t seem to be the most efficient way.

Once the dates have been chosen, a new screen comes up indicating the lowest price for the time period, and completely at the bottom of the screen, a button to access the flights available.

Finally, the screens to choose the flights for the outbound and return look similar that one couple mentioned they were ready to leave the app and use a different one. There is unfortunately indeed no hierarchy in the information and nothing really stands out. The prices and the airline companies are crammed on the left side, whilst the flight details are on the right, leaving a big, awkward white space in the middle. The inability to change the flight details easily adds onto the struggle.

Kayak

The positive aspect about Kayak was the level of details regarding the type of flight and the type of layover.

Despite entering the departure destination as Amsterdam, the prices were displayed in dollars. For such a purchase of flight tickets, the couples I interviewed mentioned that they were not willing to look for the conversion and were therefore likely to use a different app.

There is the option to change the currency (at the top right-hand corner) but it is odd that US dollars are the default currency — no matter where you are geolocalized.

Skyscanner

The last app that was tested, Skyscanner, still had some flaws such as the small button to set the departure city as well as the sliding view for the flights options. This makes it not so intuitive.

Once these (minor) hurdles passed, both the couples I interviewed qualified the experience as extremely pleasant. The process was very clear and the overall experience very smooth.

Insight

OK, so the flight tickets are sorted but both couples then mentioned that they would find it useful to be able to book the rest of their expedition right from the Skyscanner app, allowing for a seamless booking experience.

Adding in some machine learning would help in detecting some famous attraction spots for the chosen city. What about, when the destination is selected, adding in some extra steps at the end of the flight booking process inspiring users to book common attractions in that city?

Learnings

Talking with users and making them talk over what they are doing is always interesting because user flows are always put to the test. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, a good, successful product is one that is intuitive enough that users know how to use it from the get-go and fulfils and satisfies all its users’ needs. Well, we saw that despite the apps tested being big names in the travel app area, they all could do with some improvement.

I can completely empathize with the teams who had to make compromises for the sake of readability, brand consistency or just internal decisions, so long as they respect the end user and the overall flow of the app. As a very beginner in UX/UI Design, I can only look forward to tackling such challenges!

Thanks for reading!

This article was written as part of the the UX/UI Design Bootcamp I followed in January — March 2021 at Ironhack.

UX/UI Designer with 3 years of experience in Consumer Research & Data Analysis | www.marieballivet.com