Travel Apps for Seniors: A Redesign

For Ironhack’s last challenge of prework, I had to conduct research to redesign a travel app. I had to choose the type of users and the specific app to study usability on, then use my findings to offer solutions.

The persona

The first step was to choose a user type. We had a bunch of user types to choose from and I chose the 60 to 80 year-old couple going on a trip to enjoy their retirement. The scenario was the following:

I chose this age range because I think the questions of usability for seniors is important for the current “senior” generation who was not born with computers, the internet and it’s vocabulary. As @Mahsa Yavari said in her story “A Human-Centered Take On Seniors And Technology”:

While designers are constantly trying to innovate and create unique, forward-looking experiences, there is a large user demographic that still has not grasped the basic digital conventions.

For example, in an attempt to create a minimal interface, designers are getting rid of “Home” in navigation bars. They find it redundant and argue that to most of their users (millennials), clicking on the logo to get to the homepage is intuitive, and usability tests confirm this. While this is an established digital convention for younger users, a study conducted by Blink, an American User Experience Design Agency, indicates that 80% of participants aged between 48 and 66 years old are unfamiliar with the practice of clicking on the company logo as a way to return to the homepage.

Plus, I have people around me who match this user type and who don’t understand very well what I’m doing as a UX Designer: including them in my research would help me understand better how they interact or interpret the digital language, sure, but it would help them understand what I’ve been studying through concrete exercises. Because even the best analogies still makes UX Design extremely abstract to them.

After Usability Heuristics Evaluations on Hopper, TripAdvisor, Kayak and SkyScanner. I decided to execute the tests with SkyScanner because it was the best in user control & freedom, error prevention, recognition rather than recall, aesthetic and minimalist design, helping users recognise, diagnose & recover from errors and offering help & documentation. I also evaluated SkyScanner to be the most appropriate app for the user type I chose (Hopper probably being the least appropriate for a number of reasons).

5 seconds test

I was able to interview 3 people. The 5 seconds tests were pretty straightforward: I showed a screenshot of the dashboard screen for five seconds and asked the participants the following questions:

  • What did I just show you on the screen ?
  • What could you use this app for ?
  • What elements of the layout do you recall ?
  • If you wanted to book a flight/hotel room/car rental, do you remember where on the screen you would tap ?

Thanks to its simple dashboard, putting the emphasis on their 3 main sections with icons: Flight search, Hotel booking and Car rental, all 3 participants were able to immediately understand a travel booking app was being presented to them. All of them were also able to recall where the icons where on the screen (left, middle or right). There was absolutely no ambiguity about what the app could be used for or where to go to start a booking process.

Usability tests

Then came the usability tests.

I gave the participants the following scenario:

And the following tasks:

  • Find flights from Paris to Cusco for a two-person trip going from May 3 to May 13, 2021.
  • The flights are automatically sorted by “Best”, try to show the results that would best suit your own criteria.
  • Find a flight that looks right and add it to your favorites.
  • Now, you want to find this flight again to show it to your partner. Where would you go to do that ?
  • You would like to look at the hotel options. Find a hotel to add to your favorites under the same trip.

At the end of the tasks, I asked a few questions about what they would like to know to plan their trip and what they wished the app could help them with.

Pain points

  • When searching for a flight, the app gives you info on the way it sorts its flights and on the current pandemic situation affecting travels. These two sections take a good chunk of the screen and make it so that the user has to scroll down to see the first results. 2 participants, out of 3, were confused by this and said they first thought there was no results at all. All users have admitted not reading this part of the screen, but have identified it as an obstruction to the flight results. They also didn’t care much for the flight search info but the pandemic needed to be addressed for sure.
  • When adding a flight to the favorites, you have to add it to an existing category (called a trip) or you create a new one. The participants had to create a new trip and 2 out of 3 were confused about the sliding card that appears on top to offer to create Alerts. To activate alerts the app forces you to create an account or log in to an existing one. So, deciding to go back and not create an account will show you again the categories you could save your flight to, making the users feel like saving a flight isn’t possible when it’s actually just the Alerts option that requires an account.
  • 2 out of 3 participants did not recognise that when consulting your trips, you could directly add flights or hotel reservations by tapping on the plus icon. The users thought they had to go back to the dashboard and start a search there.

In terms of additional information, I was surprised that they all didn’t feel the need to search for visa, vaccination, things to do around (restaurants, museums, gardens…etc) and so on, on a travel app: they would rather buy a guidebook (like Lonely Planet) or maybe watch documentaries to plan this part of the trip.

Solutions

  • To avoid the results page to get cluttered with the info sections, I decided to bring the COVID-19 alert to the dashboard. This was also because considering the pandemic, I considered it an important information to display and more effective in the main page than on the results page.
  • So, once a search is launched, on this second screen I left the “About your flight search” section but reduced its text to 2 lines as the original section was too long to spark interest in the users. The link to learn more about it is there to offer extensive reading about the subject. This helped bring the results higher on the screen, letting the user know it’s time to scroll down to see more.
  • I also brought the Passenger, Sort and Filter options text from 24pt to 28pt as two users found it difficult to tap on it.
  • Once you tap on the heart icon to save a flight, the card slides up and you can choose with category you want to save it into. This is where I decided to integrate a toggle for alerts. So creating a new trip will automatically be Alerts-free, but if you are logged in or decide to create an account later the toggles are here to allow a quick editing if needed.
  • When you consult a saved flight or hotel booking in your saved trips, I decided to integrate two new buttons. One is for adding a new flight and the other is to add a new hotel booking. During my interviews I have noticed the participants have been very responsive to icons and seemed to find them easily recognisable. The plus sign icon did not resonate because they didn’t know what else or more was on the table. These icons are supposed to clarify the purpose and hopefully promote a more fluid navigation in saved bookings.

What I learned

This challenge was time consuming, that was big project for me. But I had fun going through its different stages.

I learned that tests are hard to conduct, you shouldn’t interfere even when you see the participant struggle but get more information on why they may struggle. I found that asking them to “think out loud” helped understand their train of thought. I was also very pleased to work with this user type, I was surprised at what they liked and what they were confused about when using a travel app.

I also understand why many iterations are necessary, this article only shows you a first draft of solutions and I’m sure they can be way better after new tests, prototypes and more studies on usability for seniors on my part.

UX Designer focused on creating meaningful & lasting bonds through technology. I want to design experiences that bring people together for real! she/her