UX Case Study: Designing a powerful B2B web application for Airlines

Background

Being working as a UX Designer I came across many challenges but this project has changed my perspective of solving problems. When I joined this wonderful organization I was appointed to work on an extensive and intensive product that needs to revamp from scratch.

This widespread enterprise application has been used by 10+ Airlines, 1000+ Agencies, and 10000+ Travel Agents across the world for the past 13 years and the idea was to break this huge product into 4 different micro products. Each micro product represents a respective department.

Below are the primary functional areas of this widespread enterprise application to give highlight the complexity.

  1. Making and managing reservations
  2. Manage travel agencies and accounting system
  3. Ancillaries (Seat, meal, baggage, Insurance, and much more )
  4. Pricing
  5. Alerts and Notification system
  6. Flight Reprotection and Reschedule System
  7. Customer Management

Here began our journey of designing a world-class UX for enterprise application.

I was supposed to lead 2 micro products (Reservation System and Agent Management) and the rest of my colleague Abhijit should lead. We decided to combine our discovery session and gather qualitative material as the target audience was the same.

We realize that we are in the middle of systematic failure because many enhancements were implemented on this application by developers. There wasn’t proper UX thinking involved to solve the actual problems. For each problem, they invented a workaround that wasn’t the actual solution. To handle this situation we decided to conduct detailed discovery sessions and validate each information with experienced stakeholders.

In this case study, I’ll give you the highlight of the process I followed to deliver a valuable product that solved the core problems.

Design Process — Design Thinking Approach

Design Thinking is a user-centered design methodology that offers a hands-on approach for analyzing complex problems to come up with innovative solutions.

Empathize

The first step was to gather as much research as possible in order to better understand the design problem. This step is necessary to deeply empathize with our target users. Within project constraints, this process could last anywhere between an hour to a couple of weeks.

  • Observational study: Before jumping on “one to one” discovery sessions with target groups one thing is very important to understand that we are creating a B2B application here, and the user is not looking to pass his time or carry out an activity that can be done using any other application at any other time of the day, it’s his daily job and even if the system has usability issue they somewhat use to it. We were afraid that we might get biased opinions from users if we just had an interview session with them to understand the current flaw. So we included an observational study.

Observing users interacting with a product can be a great way to understand the usability of a product and to some extent the overall user experience. Conducting observations is relatively easy as it doesn’t require a huge amount of training and it can be relatively fast — depending on the sample size of users you intend to observe. www.interaction-design.org

Author/Copyright holder: Mdd. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Example

Define

  • Empathy map: a visual which maps out what the user(s) said, did, though, and felt as well as their pains and gains.
Source — www.interaction-design.org
  • Persona: a representation of behavior patterns or attitudes of the user; this can come in the form of provisional personas before research as well as a hypothesis of who the audience may be.
  • Sitemap: more specific to website-building, this is a collection of pages for one or more of the main tasks and how they are linked together.

Ideate

After understanding users and defining the problem based on research, the ideation process begins! This portion is interactive and collaborative to explore all of the possible solutions, good and bad, before narrowing down what ideas to move forward with.

  • Brainstorm: an activity that can be done individually and/or as a group to generate and build ideas; some methods also include Crazy 8’s, Powers of Ten, etc.

Design — Start Creating Solutions

The aim is to identify the best possible solution for each problem we found. This is the time to produce some inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product (or specific features found within the product) to validate as fast as possible better to simply sketch out the proposed solutions.

I prefer using my iPad for sketching the initial wireframe. Default “Note” app is ideal to quickly draw your ideas, validate with stakeholders and iterate the design at the same time.

Yes, I have bad handwriting, especially when I use an Apple pencil :(

Test

According to the Interaction Design Foundation study

The end goal of a Design Thinking work process is to create a solution that is desirable, feasible, and viable. This means that your product or solution should not only satisfy the needs of a user but be easy to implement and have a commercial model as well.

https://twitter.com/UXstudio/status/813460119203840004

Before validating the design with the user we should also make sure that the solution we are providing to the end-user is Feasible and Viable.

I have noticed many instances where we design a solution but when it’s going to development we came to know that it’s not achievable due to some technical reason. If we validate the feasibility beforehand we can iterate the design or think of another possible solution. This might help us to avoid end-moment surprises that lend to delay in delivery or solution which we think valuable for the user based on our technical reach.

Success Metrics

  • Time to complete a booking: Reduced by 73%
  • Error rate: reduced by 55%
  • Ease of use: Rated 8.3
  • The average number of errors during booking: 8 Errors
  • Availability of documents in the system: Increased by 90%

Take Away

​I really enjoyed working on this project. I was able to dive into the design process with my team and analyze the design problem like never before. Talking to users, crafting personas, scenarios, and user flows helped me understand the problem space better and eventually led us to find a viable solution to the problem. Also, change my approach to look at the visible problem and understand its background.

Thanks for the read! If you have an opportunity in mind for me, or just want to chat, please shoot me an email at furqan.sam@gmail.com or connect via Linked-In.

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UX Designer at Air Arabia | Food Nerd | Crypto Trader

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Furqan Ahmed

Furqan Ahmed

UX Designer at Air Arabia | Food Nerd | Crypto Trader

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