Jun
14
2014

Virgin America rethought as a clean & focussed web app

Virgin America rethought as a clean & focussed web app

Virgin America rethought as a clean & focussed web app

Let me start by expressing my heartfelt appreciation for the new Virgin America web! As a UX designer, I’m aware of the challenges faced with the current generation of consumer centric web (or mobile) products. And when the product has to do with Travel, it’s easy to imagine an overboost of information at each step and screen. The rethought Virgin America website as a clean & focussed web app is unique and worth copying!

We have had (travel) clients, in the past, emailing us loaded instructions on information that must make their way on each screen (web or mobile) to lure and sell their consumer-to-be. I understand that such calls are taken by the business heads, with a clear focus to maximize business. This is where we (their UX agency) question our clients (all stakeholders included) to create a priority list. A list that explains their understanding on what matters the most – increase in upsold business, customer satisfaction, ease in making the primary booking amongst other actions.

Jesse McMillin, the creative director of Virgin America makes a simple yet brilliant point. Examining the analytics on the usage of last Virgin website was instrumental in rethinking the current Virgin America. He explained that it was evident through analytics that the consumers needed Power Booking. Just what the latest VA has to offer at outset.

Virgin America reborn in a fun avatar

Virgin America reborn in a fun avatar

Skip this if you may

Do you have a pen and paper around you? Mind fetching them if they’re not around? Let’s do a simple exercise (2 mins). List down steps on how to brew one’s early morning coffee.

  1. Find a boiler
  2. Add Water
  3. Boil Water
  4. Ground Coffee
  5. Add 2-3 dessertspoons of freshly ground Coffee
  6. Let it settle
  7. Add Milk
  8. Add Sugar to taste
  9. Pour it into a cup
  10. Sit back & enjoy the Coffee

Now that we have an exhaustive list, let’s remove the obvious (unimportant) points. My list looks like this:

  1. Boil Water
  2. Add 2-3 dessertspoons of freshly ground Coffee
  3. Add Milk & Sugar

Your lists might not be similar to mine. However, we need to make a choice while listing things for a third person (consumers in case of a product). The choice between idiot-proofing (yes, that’s what they call it in the business) and in the process including every possible step OR knowing the third person as a sensible human and removing the unimportant steps (in most cases, it’s noise). Making this choice is one of the most important step in the UX process of similar products as VA. Awesome, you learnt something new & important in User Experience (UX)!

Booking a flight reimagined at Virgin

Booking a flight reimagined at Virgin

Power Booking at Virgin America

The creative team at Virgin America must have followed a similar process! Select the Locations – it easies this step by guessing your departure location through geolocation and suggests arrival locations accordingly (you have the option to change the departure location, if needed). Select Dates using a big & sleek calendar as opposed to the tiny calendar widgets on other (travel) websites. Choose the number of people flying, pick the seats and book! All of this is interfaced in a beautifully casual color palette, accentuated by a dominant purple color that acts as a progress indicator through the process. The color gets darker as one gets closer to booking (finishing the process).

Another thing that enhances the experience are the smooth scrolling transitions between the steps, making this feel more like an application and less like a website. Though cute and fun, the avatars used on the website might not be a favorite with everyone. For me, they are a plus, adding to the casual & fun booking experience at Virgin.

You might want to try this website on your smartphone and tablet as well. It’s meant to mould itself to your device and give you the power to book on the go, just like the other mobile/tablet apps. One might want to call this as one of the most pleasing examples of Responsive Web Apps.

Final Words

Virgin America has tamed a mammoth (this is bigger than the ones in Game of Thrones) here and how! To simplify the primary functionality of any consumer platform and make it a beautiful experience is no small task. Booking a plane ticket just got simpler and more fun! I sure hope the travel industry takes a few learnings and follows with further innovations.

Choose the city

Choose the city

Who's flying?

Who’s flying?

Pick the date!

Pick the date!

Select the seats & power book through Virgin America

Select the seats & power book through Virgin America

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About the Author:

Himanshu Khanna is the founder of Pixelonomics and a senior designer at Sparklin. If you’d like to connect with him, follow him on Twitter: @SparklinGuy

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