Skyscanner App: Usability and Redesign Case Study
Skyscanner is a leading global travel search site, a place where people are inspired to plan and book directly from millions of travel options at the best prices. Their highly-rated free mobile app has been downloaded over 70 million times. They’re global but local and their products are available in over 30 languages and 70 currencies. Source: Crunchbase
70 million downloads! As a UX Designer, I was curious about what makes the app so popular and if there is something I can do to make it even better.
My Role and Process
This project is part of the studies at Ironhack and allowed me to gain insights into usability evaluation and redesign. It is worth noting that I am in no way affiliated with Skyscanner. I have started by defining the users. Skyscanner is an app used by a broad group of people. In order to obtain meaningful results in time, I narrowed down the users to a specific group. After defining the users, I conducted a Usability Heuristic Evaluation. Next, I performed a set of usability tests with 2 users from the target group, gathered the pain points and other insights and proposed solutions. In the final step, I selected the most prominent solutions and designed a prototype.
My target age demographic is 30–50. Adults, married and with children (2).
Usability Heuristic Evaluation
I conducted a Usability Heuristic Evaluation using Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics with two Skyscanner’s competitors, Hopper and Trip Advisor. The goal was to asses the Skyscanner profoundly and benchmark it against other metasearch apps. This evaluation came handy later on during the usability tests with the users as I could focus more on their behavior instead of the functioning of the app.
As a way to compare the three apps, I implemented a 5-point system where 5 points represent the most positive result and 0 points least positive.
Skyscanner is a fast, consistent and flexible app with clear user controls and clean aesthetics. It comes with in-app support and extensive documentation.
Trip Advisor lacks visibility of system status on screens with a background header image. Being an app focusing on user reviews and tips results in a too complex information structure.
Hopper has a minimalistic interface that is sometimes disrupted by a too flagrant color palette (e.g. in the calendar view). The system asks for user validation at points where it is not necessary.
I asked 2 testers that fall within the target group to perform 2 tasks and answer questions. Participants were reminded of the purpose of the study and performed each task on my iPhone.
The following equipment was used to facilitate the testing sessions:
- iPhone 5 with record screen feature
- Pen & paper for making notes of the answers
The usability test was tailored to the main feature of Skyscanner which is Search and Book a Flight.
The goal of the test was to assess how users interact with the Skyscanner app on a mobile iOS device. I wanted to observe and measure if users understand the app, and how they complete the feature function.
In order to put the user into the context while testing, I created a simple scenario:
A family with 2 children (7 and 5 y/o) living in Amsterdam plans to visit Rome. They want to stay for 2 nights. The vacation starts over three months. Thus enough time to make arrangements. However, the schedule is not flexible. Only period possible is Fri-Sun, 1–3 May. Their budget allows for spending €900 only in total for the return flight. As they travel with children, they aim for direct flights only.
The first test conducted was the 5 seconds test. Each user received the iPhone with the Skyscanner home screen visible. The task was to view the screen for a period of 5 seconds and then answer 3 questions:
- What did you see?
- What can this tool do for you?
- Where would you search for flights?
In the next session, I asked the tester to complete a task, namely, look up and book a flight ticket within the scenario mentioned earlier.
I need to mention, that I underwent this test as well during the Heuristic Evaluation. Falling within the same target group, and having no prior experience with the app, I consider myself being a legitimate tester and did include the outcomes among the test results.
5-Seconds Test Results
Both testers recognized the main purpose and features of the app. Their primary action as of tapping the “plane” button would correctly take them to the “search for a flight” screen. Based on this result, no further changes to the home screen are necessary.
Task Test Results
The test revealed major issues that testers face on the Trip Details screen. To stay focused on what’s really important for success, I created an empathy map.
I decided to wireframe Issue #7 - alternative #2. See the result below:
In the final step, I created a functional prototype in InVision (see below). I consider the proposed solution more of a mix of content priority, Copywrite and visual design than a mere user-flow, therefore I decided to make the prototype a high fidelity version using the current graphics as opposed to a mid-fi wireframe.
Involving more testers in the usability sessions would bring more insight and more precise results. However, I think that even at this stage the tests successfully revealed the most important issues that — if fixed — will lead to higher user satisfaction.
I further suggest conducting a priority guide test for the screens Trip Details and Check Offers. Results might lead to even more fluent user-flow.