Usability Evaluation: Skyscanner

This project was completed as part of the pre-work for the UX/UI bootcamp at Ironhack Barcelona. Some simplifications and assumptions have been made as this is a first look at the process.

The Situation

Skyscanner is a very popular application used for comparing flights, hotels and car rentals. Is became very popular for its “go anywhere” function that allowed users to put in dates and see the cheapest options to get away. It can, of course, be used for long-haul and more complex journeys as it offers users a variety of filters to refine their search. As Skyscanner is a comparison site it redirects users to third party platforms when booking. The experience of these third party sites varies. Users looking to book more complicated journeys including hotels and cars may be required to visit several third party sites.

User Feedback

I spoke to three users all female, ages 31, 35 and 41. They were all familiar with the Skyscanner and two of the users always used it when booking flights. None of the users had ever used Skyscanner to book a hotel or car. For this activity I asked users to imagine that they were going on a two week holiday to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The users were also asked to be “travelling on a shoe-string budget.” The test was conducted on a mobile-sized version of the site. All users were familiar with the interface and we able to quickly find suitable flights, although two users were annoyed that Skyscanner was offering very inconvenient journeys that did not offer great savings over other options. The users were quickly able to find a hotel that fit their budget as well.

This ease of use is no surprise for a successful site like Skyscanner. I spoke to users about their experiences using Skyscanner and all users agreed that having to go to third party sites to complete their booking(s) was tedious and sometimes they doubted the credibility of the site. Some users commented:

The Problem

Speaking to users it became clear that the problem that needs to be solved is a more streamlined booking process that requires fewer steps and inspires a greater sense of confidence. As the situation stands right now, the experience with Skyscanner is only as strong as the weakest link. That is to say, if users have a bad booking experience at the end, their impression of Skyscanner may suffer.

I am aware that there are likely many business needs that make this a difficult problem to solve — for example, these third party sites often make users go through a myriad of “add-ons” like bags, food and drink, priority check-in etc. that may be difficult to standardize within Skyscanner. However, for the sake of good design, I’m going to pretend that the sky is the limit.

“Just let me book my ticket!”

The Solution

I propose that Skyscanner create a feature that allows booking and payment directly in their platform. This would likely require some sort of API to communicate directly with ticketing and/or accommodation partners.

Partners who collaborate with Skyscanner would likely see more business as users pick that path of least resistance and once they have used the option once, inputting their information, subsequent bookings will be much easier.

I also recommend that users be able to add flights/hotels/cars to a “cart” where they can review their itinerary and pay for everything at once.

An example of combining flights and a hotel onto a single booking.

The above prototype shows a hypothetical of combining flights and a hotel onto a single booking. Upon pressing “Book” users would be then taken to a form to complete their information and billing if it is their first time using this booking method or will be able to log-in and use their saved details.

Looking Back

Completing this project gave me some insights into the difficult situations designers will face. Skyscanner is a generally well-designed site and I’m sure the problems and solutions that I have come up with would be no news to the design team there. As I am not privy to the actual business needs and constraints of Skyscanner and their booking partners, I was able to make a “simple solution.” However, as I was completing the project, I thought of the many challenges this solution would likely face “out in the wild” and got a taste for what lies ahead!

A student of UX Design completing a bootcamp with Ironhack Barcelona