One Week Design Challenge: Redesign Lufthansa’s Inflight Infotainment Interface.

Designers (like myself) like to complain a lot about the poor design solutions we’re confronted with in our everyday lives. But instead of complaining I rather provide constructive feedback and suggest improvements. On my trip to San Francisco earlier this month I was confronted with Lufthansa’s recently redesigned Inflight Infotainment System and I was very disappointed. Pretty much all Inflight Infotainment Systems been bugging me for a while. So I challenged myself and my team to come up with a better solution within one week of time.

The Problem

Lufthansa recently redesigned their inflight infotainment system and I had the chance to do some heavy testing (ok, you can also call it binge watching) on two flights from Munich to San Francisco and back. Lufthansa only updated the interface of their infotainment system, they didn’t update the hardware. And there was really no need for it, the current touch-screens are doing a decent job. While I appreciate the approach to move away from their skeuomorphic design they took the “flat” idea too far. With the new interface it’s hard to tell the difference between interactive and non interactive elements. Removing the labels on most buttons and using indistinct icons instead isn’t helping either. Also those icons are visually very inconsistent and vary in size and quality. The icon which I would identify as a “user” icon implies that it opens your profile page, but I believe you actually call the flight attendant with this button. I didn’t dare to touch it, because I didn’t want to bother the attendants. ;) Simple features like changing the volume are also harder to handle than before.

Lufthansa Infotainment System — Main Menu
Lufthansa Infotainment System — Movie Selection

Besides the fact that the UI wasn’t improved, they also didn’t add any new features or managed to simplify the user flow. The most common usecase is to browse through the list of available movies and series to find the right selection for your flight. But in order to do that you need more then the title and a very short describiton of each movie. Why not add the ability to watch a trailer, see more info about the cast, see similar movies or show a rating? (this could ideally even come from a third party like imdb)

You can argue that the trend is moving away from stationary screens in airplanes anyway and sooner or later you’ll use your own device to stream the content via the internal Wifi. This might be true, but it’ll take some time to get there and not everyone is always carrying their tablet with them. Lufthansa is actually already moving in this direction and offers an inflight entertainment app and website: http://www.lufthansa-inflightentertainment.com/en/ Surprisingly this new webapp looks and works much better then their current inflight system. While the new website is definitely an improvement, it still isn’t going far enough. It also raises two important questions:

  1. Why create a new responsive website/app with the same content as the inflight system and don’t use it throughout all platforms?
  2. Why not add obvious new features and content to improve the user experience?

The Suggestion

With our concept we don’t want to reinvent the wheel but we are trying to introduce some very obvious features and functionalities that are well known and learned from similar systems (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, etc.). We mainly focused on a movie “window shopping” experience. It should be easy and fun to browse through the entertainment selection while having additional information handy whenever you need them.

We also developed the interface on a responsive grid so it works throughout all screen sizes (Economy, Premium Economy, Business) and devices (Seat-Screens, Tablets, Phones). Here is a short video walking you through some features of our interface concept.

Needless to say, we don’t believe this concept is a final product ready for implementation. It’s mainly meant to identify existing problems and suggest solutions or alternative approaches. But even within the short timeframe we worked on it (one week on the side while still working on multiple client projects), we believe that our concept would already dramatically improve the user experience.

Here are some more screens from our concept. 
Watch the full case study on Behance

I’d be happy to see big companies like Lufthansa taking more time before redesigning an existing product. First identify the flaws of your product and consider your users needs. A redesign should always be much more than just a visual update, it should take your product to the next level.

Thanks for reading!

Martin Oberhäuser
Founder & CEO Bureau Oberhaeuser

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