Gulf Airlines

UX leadership & product management

Overview

As the User Experience Lead at Thales, I successfully collaborated with Gulf Airlines, the national airline of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Together we launched a new In-Flight Entertainment system for a fleet of 39 aircraft that is currently in operation today flying around the globe.

Through the entire product life cycle my role took on many forms with the single aim of delivering a best in class entertainment system for Gulf Airlines, below were 6 key initiatives I achieved over the course of the project:

  • Built new customer relations as the UX department focal, fostered account growth and defined product strategy.

  • Educated the airline about user-centered design best practices and showcased the business value it brings

  • Proposed new innovative software features to complement the approved design vision.

  • Published technical product documentation to Confluence Cloud that outlined the product road map and gains customer approval.

  • Lead in-house design & development teams to execute the approved product road map for final delivery.

  • Managed the software product scope, timeline, and budget.

Hats worn

  • Team Leadership

  • Customer Management

  • Strategy

  • Concepting

  • Information Architecture

  • Wireframing

  • Prototyping

  • Technical Documentation

  • UX Advocate

The Brief

  1. Provide a premium passenger experience on Gulf Air’s new fleet with the AVANT state-of-the-art Android-based In-Flight Entertainment system. 

  2. Offer the airline a highly customizable product creation experience and work with them to select desired features, applications and define the product vision through user-centered design practices.

  3. Deliver a final product that delights the airline's passengers, contains new innovative features, and retains the airline as a long term customer for Thales. 

Constraints

  • Working with a complex & rigid software stack required technical feasibility reviews for every UX feature & idea - even if it seemed status quo.

  • Balancing the desire to innovate for a better UX v. budget constraints & timelines

  • Working within an approved UX/UI design system & branding required discipline to keep component based standardization

  • The inability to release software in iterative phases to planes due to no live internet connection left little room for error and required a waterfall workflow

  1. Don't settle for simply implementing the base scope - "wow" both the airline customer and the passengers with a never before seen feature that solves a real in-flight user pain point.

  2. Ensure product design accounts for not only the basic "happy path" user flows but also handles the "unhappy path" and gracefully guides users to complete their desired tasks at every turn

  3. Conduct user testing throughout the entire product life cycle to iteratively improve the product and measure success through real user feedback 

UX Goals

Observed Painpoints

  • Bridging the gap between an approved design concept and production ready designs to support development implementation

  • The "far reach" environment in business class meant supporting a multi-screen experience and finding creative ways to utilize the handheld device to control the larger monitor

  • Passengers and industry veterans alike all agreed that it was bothersome when a flight attendant would wake you for a meal/beverage when you were trying to sleep.

Product Vision

UX Architecture 

Upon being handed the project, as a the UX product lead I looked to ensure the Macro UX was understood by our team. To help visualize the entire scope of the product and help plan out the roadmap to tackle each section I created the diagram seen here to lay out a path forward.

 

GFA UX_ GUI Architecture.png

eGuide Tech Documentation

To cement the product scope and gain customer approvals, all technical requirements were added to a singe online collaboration space in Confluence to foster a shared product vision & reach agreements.

Implementation

Solving UX Gaps in the Audio Player

During the implementation phase, our team reviewed the audio player design and determined that there was a gap in the user experience & software requirements. It was noted that the provided design forced the user to switch pages to use the audio controls based upon if the audio was playing or not - this switching was jarring and not standard with current music apps such as Spotify. Additionally, the audio player controls did not show shuffle and repeat inline with the other functions but only on the track list view. Lastly it was observed that the previous & next track icons used represented fast forward and rewind which was misleading while also redundant given the scrubber bar offered an ineraface control for the times when a user did want to change the audiotracks location within the playback.

To solve these problems we began with a open UX session to quickly white board possible solutions.

 

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Screen Shot 2019-05-24 at 11.29.44 PM.pn

Finalized Audio Player UX

After working through a few variations internally, we pitched an updated audio player interface that was adopted into the overall end product.

 

Screen Shot 2019-05-24 at 11.48.49 PM.pn
hero2.jpeg

Innovation

Sleep Mode Design Highlight

The customer requested that we bring in a new feature that would solve a real user problem observed by their flight crew during longer, over night flights.

Many times passengers would fall asleep and either be upset that a crew member disturbed them while they attempted to sleep or didn't wake them up when meals & beverages were served.

I lead the UX Design & Development implementation efforts of a never before seen feature that we dubbed internally as "Do Not Disturb" and marketed to the customer as "Sleep Mode".

By taking cues from the Hotel industry, we implemented a solution that would allow the passenger to set a simple status in the UI of their screen to inform the flight crew about their preference. 

 

Additionally, we allowed the ability for passengers to listen to previously playing audio tracks and set their Sleep Mode status at the same time. More often then not, passengers were observed listening to music to help them fall asleep - making this a secondary use case for this feature.

 

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Final Product

Flying Product Review

Be sure to check out this great article reviewing the entire passenger experience of  Gulf Air by the Points Guy that includes his feedback on the in-flight entertainment system, the multi-screen experience of business class and the newly innovated Sleep Mode feature as mentioned in this case study. 

Business class cabin
The new entertainment system awaiting passengers to board.
Multi-screen experience
Passengers could use a hand held device to control the large screen
Sleep mode
New innovative feature for the airline & industry
Business class seat
The final software integrated into the cabin
Alternate seat view
Over the should seat view of the system intergrated
Flying in style
Complimentary entertainment & drinks for the passenger
Show More

Takeaways

Working closely with the airline to really support their business objectives, leveraging user-centered design practices and keeping the passenger at the heart of every pivotal product decision can lead to a well-received software product that compliments the entire experience of flying with Gulf Air. 

This project was a giant collaboration and below are some of the folks that I worked with to make this fly.

Credit to my great Thales team!

Development Team: Jeremiah, Tony, Andy, John Li & Adrian Chan
Design Team: Karim, Stephanie Tong, Ryan Thigpen, Brian Johnson & Artifact Design

 

Allow me to introduce myself.

I’m a UX professional with 10 years of experience. I utilize user-centered design to craft digital products. My past work covers every type of digital product type: from apps for iOS & Android, to responsive websites, to smart home devices and in flight entertainment systems for airlines.

My favorite tools of the trade:

  • SketchApp, InVisionApp & Zeplin

  • Keynote, Google Analytics & Lighthouse  

  • Confluence, Jira & Basecamp

 

stay in touch.

Bye now!

Woodwardux@gmail.com

(949)-542-2491