#WIP: In-Flight Entertainment System
iOS (iPad & iPhone), November 2018 - ongoing, Graphic and Media Design Year 3 Project, Individual
NB: This case study is a continuously updated to reflect work being done on the project. Will be fully completed upon submission in May.
Meanwhile you can check out the Figma file
Create a universal in-flight entertainment system, which can be used by every airlines, across all devices and screen sizes.
Living abroad and having a soft spot for cheap travel means that I find myself on a plane quite often (about 30 times in 2018). Most of the flights I've been on are operated by the so called 'low budget' airline, meaning that there is probably no flight entertainment at all. The other ones where there was one, I've always thought that the interface and experience could be so much more efficient and better-looking.
Back when I first started flying, in-flight entertainment was better than anything you could bring onto a plane and it was also considered a huge luxury to have onboard. Now, those systems are often outdated, hard to upgrade and very expensive to support. Not to mention that they're prone to error and not as sensitive to touch as modern touchscreens are and should be. Oh, and they don't support accessibility. Great.
To start the process, I conducted a poll with my friends and followers across social media, related to flying and in-flight entertainment. Results are as follows (not full survey):
Deductions from the above user survey:
18-25 y/o fly with cheap airlines with no IFE and they would prefer to use their own device.
A lot of people struggle physically and/or mentally during a flight.
The main feature passengers use the system for streaming Movies and Music.
30+ y/o still prefer the integrated tablet
What current IFE Systems lack
Apart from plain UI issues, IFEs turned out to have a lot of gaps and holes to fill.
Amongst the people I interviewed, a big percentage shared that they have physical and mental struggles during a flight / related to flying - something that current systems don’t have. Despite them focusing on ‘entertainment’, the wellbeing of passengers should be something airlines are thinking about. On the same note, none of the existing IFEs offer any settings towards accessibility - practically making it completely useless for a significant amount of passengers.
Here’s what I added to the IFE system and why
Assist page (mentioned above): Offers stretches and cabin exercises, as well as meditations/casts/animations etc. to ease anxiety/claustrophobia/fear of flying etc.
Accessibility features: As part of the app settings, provides options for colour themes, voice control, colour filters, dynamic type etc.
Connected Experience: Different passengers have different expectations. There is no need to completely omit integrated hardware. Devices can work collaboratively - connecting them will allow them to excel at what they do best, but also have a fallback for passengers who don’t have a phone. By introducing a ‘connect’ feature, the user has the ultimate freedom to decide how they’re using the system - on a provided device, on a personal device or on both.
Personalised Home Screen Recommendations: Home screens are usually very random - there’s little to no hierarchy and no particular reason you’re seeing what you’re seeing. Adding recommendations based on different properties would utilise the page and make it more valuable to the users.
Time Based Recommendations: Day/Night (ex: Good Morning! Raise the blinds? Morning News. Coffee Playlist?)
Flight Pattern Based Recommendations: 40min to meal. See menu? Order drinks?
Flight Time Based Recommendations: You have 3hours. Watch this. Or that.
Geographical: You’re flying over Greenland. Learn facts about Greenland. Watch movie.
Shared Movie Experience: Everyone’s tried to sync a movie with their friends/family/travel companions at least once (and probably failed) By stating if you’re travelling alone or in a group, users can select the option to share the watching experience with their chosen group.
Branded Themes: The idea of a ‘universal’ IFE system probably wouldn’t appeal to airlines, as it will strip it from the brand identity. Having the option to apply brand customisation to a monochromatic UI will create a consistent system in terms of flows and use, while still keeping the airline’s brand in tact. It’s the best of both worlds.
One of the biggest issues with existing IFEs is the confusing, multi-layer navigation. Whether it’s a sidebar with 3 layers of nesting or a top and bottom tab bar or a dish mash of all of the mentioned, they put the user in complete discomfort - since the global nav is mainly used to navigate to your content or adjust the experience in a momentary need.
The first few rounds of iterations did look clean, but still used some type of nesting, which ended up taking way too much space on the screen. Another problem I encountered was that there were too many levels of alignment, which made the interface feel busy.
After a few more rounds of iteration and adding in content, I realised I don’t fully like any version, but I prefer the one that has bigger icons and a slimmer overall look. I put it against another screen I was simultaneously working on, to get a feel of what the design would look in context. I ended up going for a smaller horizontal secondary navigation, which not only took way less space, but also was less intrusive to the other part of UI and had a visual consistency to the primary nav.
Expanding Flight Progress Bar
Looking at existing IFE Systems (Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa etc.) one UI flaw that reoccured was the way the flight progress/details was accessed. Usually it’s part of the main home screen or is accessible on a separate page, which is often hard to access. Although I have decided to keep this information as part of the home screen as well, I decided to include a global flight progress tracker at the bottom of the screen which could be expanded to display full flight information. This not only makes the feature accessible from any screen, but also helps ease flight anxiety - instead of wasting time navigating to that specific page, a worried passenger can calm down immediately by pulling up the flight tracker.
While designing the music page, I realized that the flight progress bar might open up a problem with having space for a music player. Due to project limitations and time constraints I decided it’s not wise to revisit the entire concept of the tracker, so I experimented with different ways of showcasing a music player. I tested both options that limit the user to listening to music only in that page and ones that are global.
After that initial iteration & a quick ask on an Instagram story, I made the decision to go forward with the mini player concept - it’s draggable, so the passenger can put in anywhere on the screen for easy access to the tracks they’re listening to & just tap to interact with the music.