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Redesigning the self-service flight change experience


UX Researcher/Designer

Ideation Project Manager


Competitive Analysis

Heuristic Evaluations

User Research (survey, interview) and Analysis



User Flows

Low-fidelity Prototypes (Paper Prototypes)

High-fidelity Prototypes (Sketch)

Interactive Mockups (Sketch and InVision)

Usability Testing (

Company Presentations

HCDE 2019 Capstone Poster Symposium


I worked in a team of four undergraduates for my Senior Capstone project with Alaska Airlines. In this project, we used multiple research, ideation, prototyping, and evaluation methodologies within the User-Centered Design process to improve the online flight reservation change system. My primary strengths were conducting user research, visualizing and synthesizing research findings, ideating design opportunities based on research recommendations, conducting usability testing, and iterating low/high-fidelity prototype designs.


One of Alaska Airlines' goals in 2019 is to reduce Call Center costs through self service. Currently, many guests rely on calling an Alaska Employee to change their flight reservation instead of using online services. In this project, our team focused on designing a new flight-change experience that would empower Alaska Airlines guests to better utilize self-service tools and feel confident in using them.



  • Conducted foundational user research, surveyed 160+ Alaska Airlines Guests, interviewed and conducted rapid usability tests with 8 guests, and utilized other research methods. Gathered valuable insights that inform the website redesign. Delivered research reports and presentations to Alaska Airlines leadership. 

  • Redesigned the Flight Change website by organizing the information structure, improving terminology and adding additional feedback. During usability testing on our new design, all 8 participants ranked the task as a 1 (very easy to complete) on a scale of 1 to 5. Delivered high fidelity prototypes and presented in a meeting with company leaders. 


My primary strengths in this stage were conducting the heuristic analysis, synthesizing research findings, and translating data into visual representations.


Our research question was:


How do guests prefer to change their flights, and why do they choose these particular methods?

To address this question and understand the current reservation change system, we completed the following:

  • Heuristic analyses to identify potential usability issues following GUI guidelines

  • Competitive analyses of four different airline companies (United, JetBlue, American, Delta) on their online reservation change process

  • A Visit to the Alaska Airlines call center to identify motivations for customers to call

  • Survey (161 respondents) to learn about guests’ rationale for changing reservations on their preferred platform

  • Interviews with rapid usability tests (8 sessions) on the current system to scope down the problem and understand user perspectives

We designed a survey using Typeform to learn about user preferences from the largest user base possible. We gathered demographic data about age, travel purpose (business or leisure), and mileage plan to see if these were important factors that affected their change preferences. From this stage, we saw a general lack of confidence in the guest’s ability to navigate the online change system. 

We found that guests under the age of 35 have a higher preference for the mobile app and computer, whereas guests over the age of 35 prefer the Call Center over self-service tools. I created the below graphs using Tableau to better visualize the survey findings.


Survey respondents were asked to select their preferred method for when changing reservations

Another interesting finding is that in general, people prefer to talk to a real person, like using a call center, when they feel like a situation is out of control; however, most people did not feel like calling was more convenient than using self-service tools when changing their reservation.

Interviews were helpful in narrowing down the problem and enabling us to focus on what the current self-service system lacked. In our 45-minute interviews, we asked open-ended questions and included mini usability sessions on the current reservation change website pages. We provided tasks for participants to follow and record their screens with their think-aloud voiceover.


From our interviews we found that guests want more feedback, intuitive language, context for change fees, and less redundant information when changing their flight. Below are key issues we found on the current website for changing reservations. 

Issue #1 Lacking Feedback

Guests want more feedback throughout the change process (tabs are not intuitive)

“Nothing's happening. I see it shows the fly-out menu, but there’s no confirmation for the keep flight.”

-Interview Participant (P7)

Issue #2 Redundant Information

Guests were confused by the meaning of terms like “credit” and “My wallet”

“I’m unsure how the credit works. I think that's the thing that confused me the most. I wasn’t sure like how much credit I had to spend. What happens if my flight costs more than my credits?”

-Interview Participant (P6)

Issue #3 Lacking Intuitive Language 

Repetition of the original reservation on the new flight selection page is confusing

“Seeing repeated information about my return flight is reassuring, but also annoying because it shows the same thing over and over again.”

-Interview Participant (P5)

Issue #4 Unclear Change Fees
unclear fee.png
unclear fee.png

Guests were unsure if they would be charged a change fee

“[There is] a separate $125 per person change fee … I don't know whether I will be actually charged that fee.”

-Interview Participant (P5)

Design Hypothesis

Based on our research findings, we developed the following hypothesis to guide our design:


We believe that by improving terminology, information architecture, and feedback, we will increase guest confidence and trust in the change experience.


From research findings, I focused on creating storyboards based on different user scenarios to highlight usability issues and opportunities for improvement in the current website. For example, this first storyboard highlights a situation in which a complicated change is necessary; the user gets confused and calls the Call Center instead of completing the change on the self-service tool.

The storyboards depict scenarios that guests encounter


Ideation session in identifying personas 


Using sticky notes to reorganize page flow

I worked on brainstorming and creating a new flow for the online change process. A user flow chart is helpful for us to see the architecture and organization of the site. For ideating the user flow, I wrote out the steps that a guest would experience on sticky notes and rearranged them based on how guests would complete the change process.  


Final user flow of the online change process

Paper Prototyping


Paper prototypes allowed us to create the first low-fi iterations of the redesign. It is fairly easy to test out and iterate on the design based on feedback from our participants. We demonstrated two different versions of the cost breakdown and created interactive screens with pop-outs using sticky notes. 

Design Guidelines

From our ideation phase, we decided to focus on the following design principles to inform future iterations of the change process and guide the work of designers, reminding the desires and needs of Alaska Airlines guests.


Provide Context

The language in Alaska’s reservation change policies was not intuitive for guests. In our redesign, we added pop-ups and links for terms like “credit” and “My Wallet” to explain their meaning in context.

Be Transparent

Guests were confused by the cost of their new flight, change fees, and the way credit could be used. We chose to display an explicit cost breakdown and explain the cost difference based on their new flight and change fees.

Break It Down

Redundant information about flights makes it challenging for guests to feel confident while changing their flight. Our redesigned process is broken down into multiple parts to make each step easy and manageable.


Using Sketch and InVision, my team and I incorporated the above concepts into our interactive high-fidelity mockup. I focused on designing the flight selection page. Below are examples of the screens with some design features removed for NDA purposes.

We separated the passenger and flight selection process into multiple pages; each page had a discrete action, reducing information overload for the user.

Key Features


We created a clear cost breakdown that shows the cost differences between the old and new reservation change fees

We added question marks, where guests can see information about terms like "cost difference"

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 9.49.50 AM.png

We implemented hover features that enable guests to see information about terms like “My wallet” in context


The high-fidelity mock-up design was iterated based on the feedback we got from our 8 usability test participants. Our team used to conduct unmoderated usability tests. Overall, participants thought our system was simple & easy to navigate. Participants described our redesign was “straightforward”, “clear”, and “self-explanatory”.

All 8 participants ranked the task as a 1 (very easy to complete) on a scale of 1 to 5. We were able to present our final prototype to the Alaska Airlines product team, and they were excited about our redesign.


I designed the visual of our capstone poster for the HCDE Open House 

Reflection and Next Steps

In this capstone project, addressing guests' needs and pain-points were my sources of motivation. Working with Alaska Airlines has enabled me to learn more about creating a user-centered solution that also addresses the company's needs/goals.

Three takeaways from this project:

  1.  Don't lose sight of the original vision, always come back to our users' needs and desires.

  2.  Communicate design decisions using concrete data, such as participant quotes.

  3.  Know the audience and tell a story when presenting.

If there is anything I could change about this project, I would facilitate more communication with our sponsor's point-of-contact, who is an experienced UX researcher that provided us great feedback on our design process. Under his guidance, we were able to narrow down the focus of our redesign and construct well-defined design guidelines for future prototype iterations. Additionally, he provided us with valuable resources for synthesizing data and forming informative design decisions. 


The next step for our design would be conducting more usability testing sessions across different demographic groups. This will help ensure that our design is universal and responds to all customer needs, and can be effectively utilized by all guests to change reservations confidently. 

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