top of page

Alaska Airlines Usability Testing

Overview

This is a usability test that I conducted on Alaska Airlines. The objective of the usability test is to evaluate the possible contingencies while using the user interface, assess the user flow of the system, and conduct a task analysis for which users can properly plan trips. 

Some information has been removed due to the confidentiality of the participants.

Role: UX Researcher

Duration: 1 week

Background

Alaska Airlines is a major American airline governed to implement advanced settings for modern airline travelers, such as providing more assistance for large domestic routes and focusing on customer experience. Alongside several other airline companies, Alaska is one of the most influential competitors that have the potential to optimize for future success through good protocol and logistical analyses. Separately, there are many other functions such as assessing the visibility of flight statuses, booking hotels, car rides, and necessary information for tickets. Irrelevant to the purpose of the website, Alaska Airlines creates updates to the visual appeal of the website. In turn, this gives users both a valuable experience with the aesthetic of the interface, yet increases the risk of slow buffering due to internet issues and desensitizing the purpose of the website. Capitalizing on this issue will prove a better user experience and greatly increase user satisfaction.  Thus, if a good user experience is captivated by constructing good user control on booking hotels and flights, this will increase the growing capacity of users and positive user experience.

Problem

Many users utilize different sites for travel services, making it very competitive for Alaska Airlines to build a user interface that allows for the best user experience. 

Objectives

  • Improve usability for problems with users on both mobile and desktop platforms

  • Identify possible pain points that users have while moderated and unmoderated

  • Research tasks that are likely to be critical incidents and task hardships that users have surpassed 

Process

In this project, I decided to take a mixed-method approach where I would conduct a heuristic evaluation first to understand UI issues that may surface before I conduct a moderated usability test on Alaska Airlines. For the heuristic evaluation phase, the methodologies I used consisted of heuristics created by Jakob Nielsen, specifically his 10 usability heuristics for user interface design. These heuristics were used with the user interface on the Alaska Airline website, which consisted of managing flight tickets, booking travel flights, and more. (Figure 1) To test the interface, I selected the violation of these heuristics as a way to capture detailed information about flight issues users may experience while traversing through the site. Each heuristic that has been violated was compared and recorded based on severity rating as shown below. Issues were given a severity rating from severe to cosmetic, on a 4 to 1 ratio.

  • Severe (4) = usability catastrophe; imperative to fix

  • Major (3) = major usability problem; important to fix

  • Minor (2) = minor usability problem; fix if there is time

  • Cosmetic (1) = cosmetic problem; no real usability impact

In the initial phase of the usability test, I decided that the scope would evaluate the UI interface and how difficult tasks were on the website when users were given a task ranked from easiest to hardest. The target population was mainly focused on people who have used a travel website or purchased tickets recently. To eliminate some limitations, I decided to diversify my demographics ranging from multiple ethnicities, ages, and educations. Several instruments were used as part of the usability interview. One of which was a script that detailed the entire session of the user test that included: questionnaires, task descriptions, and a task list. I also utilized both logging reviews and audio recordings with proper consent. Accordingly, due to the pandemic, the entire set of interviewees was conducted via conference calls. 

I selected usability interviews as a method in order to understand detailed information about people who had difficulties with the tasks. I conducted around 3 interviews over the course of 1 week. During the interview, I calculated task completion rates and task timing rates; additionally, post-test questionnaires were also included, which indicated the user's desirability of the UI system. After analyzing the data, I concluded that a lot of participant experiences could not only be calculated through the test alone; thus, I also did a minor debriefing session in other to establish a higher confidence level. 

After conducting all rounds of interviews, I focused on assessing specific data points that were crucial such as implementing a hierarchy for the heuristic violations and findings into a correlation. From there, I created concrete findings that would enhance user experiences. 

Screenshot 2022-01-25 005042.png

Figure 1. Screenshot of Alaska Airline Booking User Interface

Findings

When categorizing findings using the severity rating table, most users had difficulty accessing pages due to a poor buffering system and non-prioritization of search results that decrease user interaction. The user interface needs to be more indicative of what will help the user and initiate user attraction.

  1. Loading time is too long, especially with a subpar internet connection. (Figure 2) 

    • Severity rating: 3/4

    • Heuristic Violated: Visibility of System Status

    • Any information should be easy to search, focused on the user's tasks, and list feedback if there's an error rather than getting a buffer screen. This profound loading time is possibly due to the high volume of visualizations needed to buffer.​

    • Recommendation: Reduce amounts of visualization to reduce eye strain and grant efficiency for users who have less optimal internet connections.

  2. The search results do not prioritize keywords. (Figure 3)

    • Severity rating: 3/4

    • Heuristic Violated: Help and Documentation

    • Search systems are intended to speed up the ability to get users answers to questions while simultaneously providing the best results. In this issue, the user interface prioritizes other websites which may mean the filtering instrument in the UI system is subpar compared to other search engines.​​

    • Recommendation: Allow search engines to highlight keywords more frequently and filter by relevance.

  3. For tasks that required more critical thinking, there was less desirability to use the UI system and also took more time to complete.​​

For additional findings and learnings, please contact andrewhuwong11@gmail.com 

Reflection

The bridge between satisfying customer experience and simplistic UI interface is always a difficult line to connect, yet there are many ways that Alaska did well in terms of its more modern and visualization-focused product approach. However, in the long-term scenario, it is necessary to make tasks easier for customers based on usability and satisfaction. Supported by Nielsen's heuristic severity model, most users were dissatisfied with the loading time, inability to search for results in terms of relevance, and desired to use the UI system less the more difficult the task is due to menu clutter and inefficiency of the system. Alaska Airlines should include minor adjustments to menu clutter, updating visualizations, and redesigning the menu so that it can cater to diverse users. During the usability tests, participants also noted that certain functions are too complex for them to understand. One limitation of this test was that the sample size of this test was too small for a usability test; in terms of other travel websites, this test may not be a good indicator due to the small sample size. This can be improved in future studies.

The usability tests after the heuristic evaluation further demystified usability issues among the Alaska Airlines website. Based on the information that the participants assessed, companies should strongly consider finding a good balance between design and satisfaction. Overall, I believe that usability testing allows for more research findings that further the user interaction between users and stakeholders. With great users, comes a great user experience. 

Figure 2.png

Figure 2. Screenshot of Alaska Airline Loading Screen

Figure 3.png

Figure 3. Search results by "fare alert" screenshot

511mG_nrANL.png
bottom of page