ux / product designer

© karena vongampai

flyflow @ Alaska Airlines

student project manager / ux designer | 12 weeks

Flyflow is a mobile application intended to help infrequent travelers move through the activities of traveling to a new place. From deciding when they must leave their house to get to the airport on time, to finding their boarding gate travelers must balance many stress points to catch their flight on time.

Flyflow was designed in collaboration with Alaska Airlines as well as my three other teammates in the UW HCDE program. Throughout this project I was the project manager who maintained communications with our sponsor and managed our timeline. I also contributed to the overall application design.

How can we relieve infrequent travelers from the stress of traveling?

The user experience throughout a day of travel is often taxed with uncertainty, stress, unexpected changes, and frustration. With the need to create plans for driving to the airport, checking in bags, going through security, or even finding charging ports at the airport, travelers must do many mini calculations to determine whether or not they will be ready for take off . Day of travel activities are stressful, because of the mental math that must be done in context.


To prioritize certain aspects of the project, my team and I scoped the project by targeting the most stressful time periods and activities in a day of travel. Our survey also screened respondents for our future participatory design session. We asked respondents to select their most stressful time period of travel and rank activities in that time by how stressed they felt while doing them. Additionally we evaluated whether users wanted a proactive, or reactive form of guidance.

We collected a total of 157 responses and found a total of 52 respondents fitting our definition of an infrequent traveler.

  • 75% of survey participants said that the period before they board the plane was the most stressful part of their day of travel
  • Top 3 activities that caused stress: getting through security, arriving at the airport on time, and checking in your bags
  • 63.5% of respondents favored reactive notification systems over proactive systems for receiving guidance for their trip

After scoping the project, we had a clear definition of who our target user was, which problems we were specifically targeting, and what medium we were designing for. The second activity that we did in our Ideation phase was a participatory design session with 8 infrequent travelers. The purpose of the session was to engage with potential users in a collaborative setting that would generate and inspire design solutions. It also gave us first hand experience with empathizing with real user problems.

The session followed the following format:

  • Journey Mapping
  • Brainstorms + Sketching
  • Concept Ranking

Summarized journey map created from participatory design session.

Participants brainstorming and sketching ideas.

Participants ranking different concepts proposed in the session.


After conducting the participatory design session, our team sketched storyboards to help us think about the different contexts and use cases our application would be helpful with. For my storyboard, I focused on the time period of leaving home for the airport. This storyboard heavily focused on how we could design a solution that would help travelers prepare for the moment they leave their house.


We began by first individually sketching ideas after our participatory design session. Most of these first concepts were inspired by participant sketches, which helped me think about the traveler’s day in a new light. Specifically, I was interested in where the day of travel took place. All participants highlighed that the majority of their travel takes place in an airport, a place that everyone utilizes differently.


Once our sketches started to reflect more detailed drawings, we each took on one of the 4 experiences that we outlined previously, and fleshed out their respective screens. While prototyping in Figma, we encountered design consistency issues, and it became difficult to keep track of all the changes and implement changes into someone else’s work flow. For the sake of time, I volunteered to recreate the prototype with a single set of conventions for the purpose of maintaining a coherent look and feel.

Initial Figma wireframes made by different teammates

Unified wireframes created in Sketch

Flow 1: Finding a way to the airport

Flow 2: Navigating through an airport

Flow 3: Searching for a specific amenity in the airport


After creating our wireframe click through prototype, we were able to evaluate our prototype at the Seattle Tacoma airport with current flyers. For the guerrilla usability tests, we split into 2 pairs, to make testing much more efficient. The session took place beyond the security checkpoint at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, due to the access provided by our Alaska Airlines Sponsor.

In order to quantify qualitative testing results (pertaining to ease of use), we adopted the Pragmatic Usability Rating by Experts method to make sense of the prototype’s ability to support participants in completing the task scenarios. Although did not follow the traditional PURE method, the note-taker and facilitator rated the user’s ease of use based on their live observations.

  • Filter button on the map was useless
  • Map gestures were preferred over "Search"
  • Finding transportation was effortless
  • Choosing a security line based on their preferences was easy
Search Rather than Filters

While testing the prototype with real users, we observed that participants relied heavily on "Search" in the bottom nav bar, rather than the map filters. This told us that many people preferred searching rather than panning through the airport map.

Display of Information on Timeline

On the timeline, we decided to showcase the time next to a location/activity that they would be doing, since these were the 2 prioritized details about a trip. Users wanted to see a schedule of their day of travel, to know where they are in their list of activities and what they need to do next.

Search Quick Access

Implementing Quick Access area on the Search page, to allow users a fast way to find amenities that they needed. Rather than having filters on the map, making their ability to search through results/recommendations helped make their experience much faster in the app.


The identity of Flyflow came together as we brainstormed the following values of our app:

  • Calms users while traveling
  • Never alarming / stressful
  • Concise and Brief

Once we made changes to our prototype we moved into evaluating it. This final usability test was important to our overall process because it was an evaluation of our entire product. By evaluating the product in high fidelity, participants were able to imagine how actual interactions would look, and dig deeper into the details presented.

For this period of evaluation we screened and recruited 4 participants. The structure of the usability study includes a few preliminary questions about traveling 3 tasks related to their day of traveling to a new destination, and concluding questions about the overall experience. After each task we also asked a few follow up questions to gain more insight into their experience with Flyflow.

  • Security wait times were a well received feature
  • “Alerts” seemed out of place
  • Information accuracy is important
  • Display of transportation options was effective
  • Airport navigation appeared beneficial, but user would not use
  • Zoom and move are the most common methods for finding stuff

Once we made changes to our prototype we moved into evaluating it. This final usability test was important to our overall process because it was an evaluation of our entire product. By evaluating the product in high fidelity, participants were able to imagine how actual interactions would look, and dig deeper into the details presented.


Completing this capstone project was an experience for me to understand my abilities as a leader and teammate. I wanted to be ambitious with my role in this project, and felt that I was able to create a team and outcome that we were all proud of. I began to understand my ability to communicate with people of different experiences and passions. I was able to share my skills with my teammates and vice versa. Below are a few of my takeaways.

Designer Intuition

You never truly know how a product will perform unitl you user test it, properly. The process of determining what the next best step is, is something you learn over time. Being able to trust your designer intuition and listen to the research findings is a balance that all designers must learn.

Rapid Test

There will always be constraints in a project, meaning you cannot always conduct research that is well thought out. Instead getting to a place where you can rapidly evaluate your project will bring you some user feedback that can significantly drive your design changes.

Take Ownership

Despite your role in a project, you should always take ownership over the product you are working on. Rather than stating that something is not part of your responsibilities, try creating and owning something that will inspire others on your team to do the same.


We used an iterative design process that heavily relied on user feedback. Our team came to a consensus that we relied too heavily on user feedback to drive our design decisions. For the future, I would try to revise this by taking more time into ideating on our preliminary understanding of the problem space, prior to going to users.

Additionally, we utilized a map of the Seattle Tacoma Airport, and tested with people living in Seattle. As a revision for the future, I would reframe our application and create our prototype for a different airport, since native Seattle dwellers have a bias about their home airport. Another aspect would be testing the scalability and attempting to test this product concept with different users.