• Alessio Ferracuti

Step by Step UX methods on how to design an application from scratch

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

Today I am going to share with you real life methods and insights from an airline application I have designed. I will introduce to you airline apps, and show you what research, strategy, and validation methodologies I have used. This Is a complete long project that took many months, and unfortunately I will not be going into too much details on these methods, but I will give you a short and sweet summarize that will give you enough of a good understanding on UX methodologies. I will also share with you the data and results I gathered thanks to each method.

Know the product or the application you are designing inside out

Our product in this case is an airplane application, and I can share with you this projects as it is a personal project I have worked on for my own portfolio. Booking a flight can be frustrating if the user is overwhelmed by information and if they cannot find what they are looking for; users are required to insert a lot of data such as locations, dates, times, personal information, credit card info, and they need to select many options such as fare types, flights, seats, and so on.

If the user feels not good about one of the features, does not feel in control of the application, can’t go back, does not understand our information, he will leave our app and never come back. With this in mind, I will show you how through my research, I have prioritized users needs, and gave them what they need, when they need it, and helped them achieve a much smoother and more enjoyable booking experience. The rest of this article will show you the methodologies I used for the project.

Research the audience and define the design target

Competitive Benchmarking in UX

There is no UX Design without Research. You simply cannot design, build, prototype and test a product that has not been researched and analysed first. Before I engaged with users to gather data and understand the main problems of a native application, I had wanted to analyse our most successful competitors first, and mark down their pain points, as well as their best design techniques.

So I compiled a list of the most 6-8 successful airline companies, I defined their homepage, their buttons, their propositions and if their system is easy to use… if yes, why? if not, why not? and so on. At the end of my bench marking, I gathered all the data and placed it on a Power Point presentation.

Online Survey Research methodology

By running online surveys with airline users, I was able to validate some of the pain points I had found, and also identify users’ main goals, behaviors and contexts.

I asked 3 key important questions, all the rest was additional information to me. I wanted to know when was the last time they used an airline application, what they were tring to do, and if they were able to achieve their task.

I gathered qualitative data, and found that most people go on an airline site because they want to book a flight, check prices, dates, check in, or get their boarding pass. 90% of users are weather looking to book a flight, check in, or download their boarding passes. I also discovered that people are bothered by up-sells in the checkout area, don’t enjoy pop ups as well as many changes on the screens, can’t find baggage allowances, get confused, don’t want to pay for seats on short flights, and so on. On the other hand, while gathering quantitative data, I found that 80% of people have used an airline application in the past 4 weeks, 95% of users would not book a hotel or car with the airline company, and that 68% received an average service of information while being on the site.

This is very specific data you have access to, and I hope you are understanding the importance behind a simple online survey.

Usability Testings and their relevance in a UX project

I observed and interviewed users while they were booking a flight with two different airline companies, and noticed that nearly all of them encountered confusion and were annoyed by lack of information in more or less the same areas. By also implementing in depth interview methods, I identified more of our users’ needs and issues with airline applications.

I also found out that most people travel for leisure about 2-3 times a year.

I asked users what is the first thing that you will be looking for when booking a flight: and they all told me that is it is to get the cheapest flight possible at the best time with no stopovers. I learned that the most valuable things in this project were time and money

I perceived that users became frustrated when unavailable flights and dates showed up, fare types were too long to read, or impossible to find out more about it at all. Users want to know right away what they will be paying for, they expect the application to remember their data if for some reason the app shuts down, they need help often, and so on.

I discovered how important it is for them to book a flight quickly, check prices rapidly, but also find flights that will get them to their destination as fast and as cheap as possible.

After interviewing users, I came to the conclusion that price, time, and visible information are extremely important for airline users, and will affect their booking experience, their mental model towards the airline company itself, and the desire to purchase a ticket. Not only I validated their needs, but I also got to know them as humans, and discovered more personal information they had in common, which helped me get deeper insights for the project.

Analyzing all the UX research

An affinity diagram is a perfect method to organize data

After completing the user research, I was ready to gather that unstructured data into a more complex structured representation, called the affinity diagram. I shared the research with a classmate of mine, he also shared some research with me as he knew someone that worked for airlines and was familiar with aviation legalities. We brainstormed issues and the pain points of the application. Once I had enough key points, we grouped sticky notes into categories and groups, gave them a name and a structure. Thanks to this method we got our first user flow and pain point analysis

Strategy for dummies

Identify goals and mental models with Costumer Journey maps

After doing research, and creating an affinity diagram, I used that data to make a costumer journey map. A journey map is a representation that visualizes what costumers feel when interacting with our company and products during their actions. With this highly structured data, I summarized and highlighted all users’ goals, behaviors, context, pain points and mental models, which are always different in every state of the application. I highly empathized users, and the right research led to me to get a really good understanding of their feelings throughout their booking experience.

Use a flow diagram to determine variations and user paths

People have more than a thousand of navigation options while using an airline app, and there is an unlimited number of flows or “booking paths” that our users might take while on an airline application. So, I decided to take in consideration only the 4-5 most popular user flows so that their needs could be prioritized, with their according screen states, actions, micro actions, feedbacks and variations; i drew them on paper first, and then developed them even more on Adobe XD. Thanks to user flows I got a very deep understanding of human actions a machine controls in action. Throughout the research I also discovered that if I made flows easy for most users, also people with different unique needs will be accommodated as well. This concept is called paradox of specificity in design.

Interaction design thinking

The importance of sketching before prototyping

After months of user research, I started a high fidelity mockup on paper. I had enough information and confidence to proceed, and It was time for me to validate all the research I had done. Sketched low fidelity mock up in the beginning, almost a draft. Then when I felt I was solving the problems I had found, I sketched a medium- high fidelity mock up. I'd go through the sketches, interact with them, look back at the case studies and re-sketch again. Once I was satisfied, I was ready to convert it to a digital prototype.

How I did prototypes for this project

I built a medium fidelity prototype, which gave me the possibility to get a real feeling of the application and easily redesign it in a short amount of time. I chose to do a medium fidelity prototype because is fairly detailed, it has all the concepts we wanted to validate, it does basic interactions, it’s cheap and you can gain many insights from it.

I hope you understand how different areas of UX design can be applied to the designing of an application. If you have any question, or if you know any methodology I should be aware of, or you would like to share some design thinking with me, please contact me by e-mail as I am always looking for feedback and discussion

Thank you for reading this!


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