Challenge 3: redesigning Skyscanner

For the third challenge of our pre-work, we had to analyse four different travel apps, pick one and analyse it in more depth regarding its usability. The apps to choose from were Kayak, Skyscanner, Trip Advisor, and Hopper.

After a brief test with all four, I decided to go with Skyscanner. Kayak and Trip Advisor I had used before, and Skyscanner, although quite famous, I had no experience with; Hopper just didn’t catch my attention.

Full disclosure: when traveling, I myself use Google Flights for flight search and Trip Advisor for exploring destinations.

The evaluation was based on a scenario we picked — in my case, I chose to go with a 20-something that’s taken a sabbatical and wants to travel the globe for 6 months. I added some more infos about the persona: his name is Paco, he lives in Barcelona, works with IT, and wants to kick off his world trip by going to Mongolia!

The first step of the challenge, once chosen the app, was to conduct interviews with three different users.

They had to go through the following tasks using the app:

  • Look at the app for 5 seconds and talk about their perceptions;
  • Pick a flight from Barcelona to Ulan Bator, leaving in March or April, for three weeks;
  • Pick an accommodation for the same duration, with a maximum daily budget of 70€, and a place with at least 3 stars;
  • Look for activities in Mongolia using the app.
Skyscanner screenshots: home page, explore, flight search, flight selection, hotel search, and hotel selection.

The three people interviewed were the following:

  • Females, aged 20–23;
  • Living abroad — used to traveling (pre-Covid);
  • Did the test on a cell phone running Android.

Regarding the 5 seconds test, what most said was that the three information at the top of the screen called their attention: flight, hotels, and car rental — but this was because of the names, not the icons, which two found confusing.

The main points brought up from the tasks were:

  • Being a price indexer, being redirected to a third-party website feel weird, and safety is a concern, even if some of the options were known;
  • Using sliders to adjust values isn’t precise, specially if it work by the unit;
  • The filters option, at the bottom of the screen, is hard to read, and its language is different from the rest of the app;
  • Not having a navigation menu is terrible: user needs to go back at every step;
  • It was nice to have information about the Covid situation in every country;
  • Colors in the calendar, that should indicate when prices are down, are not clear;
  • In the calendar, it’s hard to change the start date;
  • Regarding filters: when picking the hotel category, it should consider from the chosen number of start up. Also, if you choose some filters and the search comes back empty, you need to start all over again, and the system doesn’t give you alternatives to your search; some of the filter options look like they have already been selected;
  • The search for accommodation also leads you to external website, which feel insecure;
  • Booking accommodation is confusing: the button doesn´t indicate it is to do so — it looks like an ad;
  • There is an “Explore” section, but it doesn’t display activities — it is used only to explore cheap tickets. This was misleading, since users thought they could look for things to do;
  • Users tend to look for information in the upper part of the screen.

So basically the app sucks.

Just kidding! What this does show is that there´s plenty of room for improvement!

Veeery lo-fi wireframes of the proposed modifications.

From all these issues, I picked three to (try to) solve:

  1. Having a navigation bar present at all times;
  2. Improving filters;
  3. Having an improved “Explore” section.
Mid-fi wireframes of the proposed changes: navigation menu always present at the bottom, explore section with relevant content, and filters for accommodation in the upper navigation menu.

I did the changes only editing the images, with some minor vector work to create new icons when needed. This saved looooads of time and, for the purpose of this exercise, served it perfectly well.

This shows that prototyping must be adequate for the step of the project we are at — sometimes, it isn´t necessary to spend a lot to time doing something whose outcome will not be worth the effort.

Key takeaways:

  • sometimes, minor changes improve greatly usability;
  • interviews are important! They provide insights that otherwise only one person would not have;
  • this made me think if some companies don´t do usability tests, or how they conduct them is questionable;
  • one of the design principles — letting users know where they are at all times — is very important!

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