Virgin Atlantic — Redesigning the inflight experience

Grainne Kay
Jan 23, 2018 · 10 min read

This was a concept project I carried out during the User Experience Design full-time immersive course at General Assembly:

  • Sprint Duration: 2 weeks
  • Team members: 3
  • Output: a native mobile app for inflight services
  • Tools: Sketch, InVision, Sharpies, Post-Its & paper, Google Surveys, KeyNote

THE BRIEF & PROBLEM

In 2016, Virgin Atlantic flew 5.4 million passengers on a total of 21,883 flights.

The Problem: Virgin Atlantic wants to make their inflight services available to passengers on their mobile devices. Currently the inflight services are:

  • Provided manually e.g. champagne ordered in person by summoning and paying cabin crew; and
  • Dependent on built-in technology i.e. for movies, music, games, maps

and Virgin Atlantic wants to come up with a way to add these inflight services to their existing app.

OUR TEAM

Our UX Design team: Me (Grainne), Nik and Helene

OUR UX DESIGN PROCESS

We split the design process over two weeks using the Double-diamond design process:

  • 1st Week: Discover and Define sprint. This included developing a project canvas and plan, followed by business / competitor analysis. Also a survey, experience maps, user interviews, affinity mapping, developing personas, and a design studio workshop i.e. initial sketches of the possible design.
  • 2nd Week: Develop and Deliver sprint. This included designing paper prototypes, low/mid-fidelity prototypes and delivering a high-fidelity clickable prototype in Invision. We carried out usability testing and created several iterations of the prototype.

Our aim: create a mobile app that excites users and provides them with the ultimate, hassle-free inflight experience. Simultaneously, it reflects Virgin Atlantic’s brand and personality whilst meeting the company’s business goals.

DISCOVER: RESEARCH

Virgin Atlantic: Values/Brand

We started by researching Virgin Atlantic and learnt that its core values are the backbone to its brand identity and personality. We kept this at the front of our minds throughout the process, particularly in the design phase.

Moodboard we created reflecting VA’s brand & values

“We always aim to go beyond the norm to deliver unforgettable experiences for our customers.” — Virgin Atlantic

Competitor Analysis

We began researching, carrying out a detailed analysis of Virgin Atlantic’s main competitors and found that other airlines, such as Quantas, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines were already offering an inflight services app.

Snapshots of analysis of competitor booking apps & inflight entertainment apps

Summary of key information from our competitor analysis:

  • A few have a flight booking and inflight services all-in-one app.
  • Some make inflight services accessible to customers on the app prior to take-off, e.g. to browse and create lists of movies and music.

Contextual Inquiry

In order to gather further industry knowledge, we interviewed a sales consultant at a Flight Centre store in London.

Contextual Inquiry at a Flight Centre

We gained some really useful information, the key being that Virgin Atlantic’s core customer base is: Baby-Boomers; the financially independent (late 20s/30s); and young families.

This helped us develop our personas in the Develop stage of our process.

Survey

In order to recruit relevant users to interview, we created a survey and shared it across our social media channels. We received 85 responses (we excluded 17% as those users hadn’t flown long-haul in the last year):

  • 67% were between 26 to 35 years old
  • 60% were women
  • 81% used smartphones when they fly.

For the full results of our survey, click here.

Snapshots of survey

Experience Maps

Once we had collated our initial reserach, we created an experience map to help us visualise the entire end-to-end experience and understand pain points in the users current journey. We started their journey from the booking stage right through to flying to give us an idea of where improvements could be made, e.g. when needing a drink but can’t get out of their seat to ask cabin crew and finds pressing the button above their heads embarrassing as it draws attention to themselves.

Experience Mapping

User Interviews & Affinity Mapping

Once we had a clear understanding of Virgin Atlantic’s key user groups, we began contacting the relevant survey participates to conduct interviews.

We interviewed 15 people (five from each user group, both in person and by telephone) to learn about their inflight experiences and discover pain points.

Using this info, we affinity mapped the users’ needs, pain points and goals.

Affinity Mapping

Key user interview findings:

  • Price, safety & airport location are top priorities when choosing an airline
  • Users mostly travel with a smartphone
  • Users prefer an all-in-one app, i.e. for booking, checking-in, boarding passes and accessing inflight services
  • Users want to be comfortable, entertained and feel special
  • Users get frustrated queuing for the toilet

DEFINE

Personas

Using the info from the user interviews, and based on Virgin Atlantic’s key user groups (mentioned above), we came up with three personas:

As mentioned above, our survey results showed that 67% of our respondents were between 26 to 35 years old and 60% of were women. We therefore decided to focus on the young, financially independent key user: Lucy.

We carried out a further five interviews with people who fitted Lucy’s persona and created a second affinity map, narrowing our scope and pain points.

Main Persona

Using the information from the two affinity maps, we defined Lucy’s persona. Below, you can see her goals and frustrations. Overall, while travelling, Lucy wants to feel well looked after and cosy.

Feature Prioritisation

There are a large number of inflight services that could be incorporated into the app, but as this was a 2-week design sprint, we prioritised the features for a Minimum Viable Product and narrowed the scope to the ‘essential’ and ‘low-expense’ features only.

Feature Prioritisation

Scenarios

We came up with three scenarios to help us design a solution to the problem. These are discussed in more detail below.

DEVELOP

The final few days of our sprint were dedicated to developing ideas, designing, testing and iterating on the designs and finally producing a high-fidelity prototype.

Design Studio Workshops

In order to come up with ideas to form solutions to the problem, our team ran two design studio workshops. This helped us sketch ideas and develop them.

We started with idea generation, individually sketching six ideas for each of our key screens. We then critiqued our ideas, voted on the screens/features we liked, merged the good ones and expanded on them, prioritising and converging until we came up with one final design for each key screen.

I facilitated these workshops to ensure we time-boxed each phase and stayed on track. We chose the best ideas to move forward with to validate with users.

I facilitated the Design Studio Workshops

Wireflow

I sketched the wireframes for further screens, creating our initial wireflow:

Sketching the wireframes for our initial Wireflow

Paper Prototype

Once we were happy with these initial designs, I sketched out the paper prototype for testing with users.

Paper prototype

User Flows

I created user flows for each of the scenarios to get an understanding of how the user will carry out tasks within the app.

Mobile App Site Map

We ensured we updated our mobile app site map. Here is the final version:

Mobile site map

User Testing & Key Iterations

We recruited 15 users who matched our persona, Lucy.

After testing the paper prototype, I uploaded our designs to ‘Marvel’ to enable users to test on a smartphone.

Here is a link to try our Low-fidelity Prototype.

Through user testing, we gained great insights and feedback and were able to quickly iterate on the design. When designing the UI, we kept Virgin’s brand values in mind:

“Providing heartfelt service, being delightfully surprising, red hot, and straight-up while maintaining an insatiable curiosity and creating smart disruption”.

To be consistent with the Virgin Atlantic brand, we created a Style Guide. We also ensured the design had plenty of white space so felt clean and easy to use, with fun features such as the toilet tracker and a “Call the Cabin Crew” button to ensure ease of communication with staff.

Here are some of our key iterations from paper to high-fidelity prototypes:

Key Iterations: Inflight Services

Key Iterations: Inflight Services screen
  1. From our user research, we learnt that a lot of passengers don’t like to call the cabin crew using the button above their heads. One of our users said:

“It feels like everyone sees you — I don’t like drawing attention to myself”.

We initially designed a feature for requesting items from a list, e.g. water, a pillow or a blanket through the app. But on testing, most users said they’d simply prefer to press a button within the app to call the cabin crew — this was subtle and straight forward. Therefore, we kept it simple.

2. Users found the ‘Crew’ button confusing in the first iteration. Therefore, we moved this feature and called it ‘Your Cabin Crew’. Users really liked that under each photo was the cabin crew’s name and a fun fact about them. One user said

“It makes them more personable and its on-brand for Virgin.”

3. We initially had a map of the passengers’ journey on the Inflight Services screen, but users said they’d expect this to be in its own section ‘Your Journey’, along with other information e.g. time to destination and altitude.

Key Iterations: Toilet Tracker

Key Iterations: Toilet Tracker

We learnt from our user research that another frustration is queuing for the toilet on the airplane, not realising that other toilets are available. We decided this was a great opportunity to subtly gamify the app and add a toilet tracker. The toilet tracker allowa users to see where they are sat on the plane and where the nearest free toilet is. Our initial version of the Toilet Tracker was too small, therefore we simplified it and designed a bigger version. Users found this feature fun and novel.

Key Iterations: Navigation Bar

Key Iterations: Navigation Bar
  1. We initially used the current booking app’s navigation bar, adding ‘Inflight’ to it. However, we discovered when testing the early prototypes that users couldn’t easily navigate from the Booking home screen to the Inflight Services screen. Therefore, we redesigned the current navigation bar, simplifying it to three categories: Bookings, Inflight Services and My List.
  2. We added a ‘My List’ feature as users wanted to make a list of things they’d like to watch/listen to before take-off.

Key Iterations: Onboarding Screen

Key Iterations: Onboarding Screen
  1. Some users didn’t realise that they get access to the inflight services on the app as soon as they board the plane. Therefore, we added a feature where the app notifies the passenger when they board the plane, reminding them to enter inflight mode. They will be prompted to turn on airplane mode, connect to wifi and enjoy the inflight services from their mobile.
  2. When testing the low/mid-fidelity prototype, some users expressed concerns about using their phones whilst flying. This onboarding feature satisfied their concerns about safety as they were being advised by the app.

Feature: Purchasing Champagne

Feature: Champagne Service

As requested in the brief, we added the ability to purchase premium services within in the app (such as champagne) during the flight. Users found this seamless to use and liked that the cabin crew knew which seat to go to.

DELIVER

Following the testing of the prototypes, we implemented user feedback, designed a high-fidelity prototype and used InVision to test it. I played a big part in designing the UI.

Here is a link to our High-Fidelity Prototype!

Our final screens:

Screens in ipad / smartphone
All final screens

OUTCOME

We created a mobile app that excites users and provides them with the ultimate, hassle-free inflight experience. Simultaneously, it reflects Virgin Atlantic’s brand and personality whilst meeting the company’s business goals.

NEXT STEPS

For next steps, I would propose that we:

  • Test the app onboard a Virgin Atlantic flight to understand how the app interacts with the current inflight features and with the cabin crew.
  • Live tracking feed that provides passengers with a travel guide of the countries it flies over, to provide a more interactive experience.
  • Screen syncing ability with your partner/family etc. and also with the onboard screens so you can view the same thing at the exact same time.

Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to read my case study! If you’d like to see some more of my work, please have a look at my website.

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