Conceptualizing Virgin America’s App
Imagining a new and improved way to fly
Why A Virgin America App?
Virgin America is one of the coolest airlines out there, both in terms of their branding and in-flight experience. However, one area that they seem to be lacking is in their mobile app. In fact, they don’t even have one. How could this be when every other airline seems to have its own app? Well, it might be because their responsive website was meant to be a catch all for all of its users. But in today’s world of over-reliance on mobile apps and devices, users are increasingly demanding information at their fingertips in the form of native apps. So we thought it would be a fun exercise to conceptualize what that might look like.
The User’s Needs
The first thing we do before we start any project is to identify user personas, so it made sense to do the same for this exercise. Virgin America skews towards a younger demographic and we wanted to reflect that in our hypothetical users.
“I fly a lot, and want an app that takes care of the logistics for me so that I can just sit back and relax.”
Our first user persona is Hank, a young professional who frequently flies with Virgin America. Not only does he want an easy way to access his boarding pass without having to print it out each time, he also wants to keep track of his Elevate points without having to open a web browser.
“I take infrequent vacations to visit friends and family. Sometimes in new cities I don’t know where to go or how to get there.”
Our second user persona is Judy, a vacationer that infrequently travels to visit friends and family. When she’s in unfamiliar cities, she wants to find things to do around her and get transportation options.
With the user personas defined, the process of designing the app is much clearer as we put ourselves in their shoes. We can easily identify what’s most important and helps keep our thoughts and opinions grounded.
The Home Screen
The home screen is the hub of every app, so we spent a lot of time thinking about what we should show users. If you’re a traveler on the go, the first thing you’d probably want to see is your flight info. Ideally, a user can just take out their phone, view their boarding pass, and scan at the boarding gate without tapping through too many subscreens.
Below the main boarding pass button, the user can view flight details, upgrade their seat, check bags, or see in-flight entertainment options. We decided to use an open tab structure where each section was only a tap away so that the user can easily navigate to their rewards, book a new flight, or change settings.
One thing that Virgin America pushes pretty hard is Elevate points, which you earn whenever you fly and can be redeemed for free flights and other perks. We knew there had to be a section in the app that lets users keep track of their points and Elevate status. We kept the UI pretty simple, highlighting their points and progress to the next Elevate status level. The user can also quickly view their recent activity and points gained.
Booking A Flight
Being able to book a flight through the app makes sense not only from a business perspective but also from a user’s perspective as their booking and flight experience should be as seamless as possible. Why would a user book a flight through an app when they can already do so on their website? (especially since Virgin America has a pretty nice responsive site.) In terms of functionality there isn’t much of a difference, but nowadays users are accustomed to doing everything through native apps without having to launch a web browser. So even if it may seem a bit redundant, it’s important to cater to user’s expectations in today’s mobile-first world. As company’s like Google and Apple can attest, user experience plays a big part in how a user perceives a brand, and having a mobile app only adds to that perception.
In the booking screen shown above, the user’s nearest airport is auto-detected and pre-filled in the “Departing” field. It would then automatically display pricing to the most popular destinations. The user could manually search for a destination as well. “More options” would expand to reveal toggles like roundtrip/one-way and number of passengers.
Post Flight Experience
After the user lands at their destination, most people proceed to request an Uber or look for things to do if they don’t have a set itinerary. What if our app automatically presented these options upon landing?
The idea with this post-flight screen is to serve as a personal concierge for travelers, whether its hailing an Uber, or finding a great restaurant. By providing great service end-to-end, the customer will more likely re-engage with Virgin America for their next trip.
In order for an app to go from good to amazing, it needs to have well thought-out user interaction and delightful animations. We wanted the app to feel fluid, fast, and responsive. With the open tab navigation, the transitions had to feel seamless between sections. Here’s a quick prototype of how it works.
When designing an app, the visual UI is only half the battle. The devil, as they say, is in the details and is made up of things like nice transitions, cool animations, and meaningful content.
So what did we learn from all of this? Well, first of all, we wanted to do this project because it was fun and we had a yearning desire to do some non-client work. We also wanted to explore how we could improve the airline experience through mobile apps. There’s a lot of apps out there already from United, American Airlines, and Delta, but none are exceptional or outstanding in any way. Here at Y Media Labs, we always strive to make the user experience better through a mix of new ideas, best practices, and a little bit of magic.
Y Media Labs is a future-thinking mobile agency. We work with a lot of clients that share our vision of a mobile-first world. You can learn more about us and see more of our work here.
Full disclosure: Virgin Airlines did not hire myself or Y Media Labs to create this concept