Paper Plane heading picture
Your plane has landed!
Saved planes
My Role
UX Researcher
Competitor Analysis, Semi-structured Interviews, Survey
UX Designer
Ideation, Wireframe, Usability test, mid-fi to hi-fi Prototypes
3.5 months (Aug 2019 - Dec 2019)
Team Members
Victoria Green, Kevin Hwang, Rhea Laroya, Whitney Li
Problem Space
“How might we help travelers alleviate boredom during long layovers?”
A layover is a transitional waiting period between flights. While it sometimes happens as planned when people try to book flight tickets in lower price or there’s no direct flight to their destination, unexpected layover can occur due to flight cancellation or delay.
Our team is curious about how do travelers spend their time during layover and hopefully we can find design opportunities in this scenario to make their layover time less boring and more meaningful.

Research Methods

Semi-structured Interviews
Secondary research

Research Synthesis

What do people do during their long layovers?
Collected from Semi-structured Interviews
“I usually work on my homework and have a meal. I don’t remember having done anything special.”
“I didn’t get enough sleep on the flight, so I just found a place at the airport where I could get a quick nap.”
“I immediately go to find my gate and I’ll get a meal only when I’m really hungry. After I reach my gate, I’ll read and listen to some music. I always carry a book with me. I never go shopping.”
“I go straight to the boarding gate and then don’t leave there at all.”
“I usually walk really slowly inside the airport and look at all the shops. Otherwise I go to the gate, and sit there waiting while working or calling people.”
Data from Survey
What do you do during long layover? -Survey Results
How do people typically feel during layovers?
Collected from Semi-structured Interviews
“I usually work on my homework and have a meal. I don’t remember having done anything special.”
“I didn’t get enough sleep on the flight, so I just found a place at the airport where I could get a quick nap.”
“I immediately go to find my gate and I’ll get a meal only when I’m really hungry. After I reach my gate, I’ll read and listen to some music. I always carry a book with me. I never go shopping.”
“I go straight to the boarding gate and then don’t leave there at all.”
“I usually walk really slowly inside the airport and look at all the shops. Otherwise I go to the gate, and sit there waiting while working or calling people.”
Data from Survey
What do you feel during layovers? - Survey Data
What are airports currently offering for tourists?
Information collected from secondary research
Airports around the world are striving to create better experiences for travelers while they are staying at the airport. The various services and offers can be put into the following four categories:
Good Food: a variety of food including local specials
Entertaining Activities: game area, free movies
Getting relaxed: lounge, napping and showering areas, zen gardens
Culture and arts related: art exhibition, local art workshop, shuttles to the city.
Rephrase the problem statement
“How might we help young solo travelers connect with others at an airport during long layovers?”
Based on the initial interviews and survey, we can see that people are spending their layover time diversely. Despite the various activities, they still feel “trapped” and “wasting time” while waiting. And over half of the participants of our survey expressed the negative feelings like “stressed”, “anxious”, “bored” during layover.
Interviewees expressed their feelings of disconnect to people and to the world outside airports during layovers, while one interviewee said he would try to talk to strangers at his layovers and the conversation might turn to be fun. Considering the diverse background of travelers at an airport, we started thinking about potentials in turning this diversity into
meaningful interactions between travelers, and alleviate their stress or boredom through the interaction with people.
To better address the needs of users, we wanted to target on a specific user group, and we considered groups like parents with kids, business professionals, young solo travelers, etc.
We ended up on the group of “young solo travelers”, the characteristics of this group are:
they often travel on a budget, which is also the reason for why they often experience layovers;
they’re more open to meet new people and learn new knowledge;
they often travel alone.
User Persona
The key insights we found include:
We conducted five additional interviews specifically on people’s social interactions at the airport through convenience sampling by asking peers who frequently traveled. We wanted to keep the interviews conversational and casual, so we asked them to share a recent layover experience where they had a social interaction.
Proximity - conversations may happen at the gate, restaurant, or wherever the travelers are due to the density of people at an airport
Other initiate - travelers, especially those who tend to be more introverted, prefer to engage in conversation only if others start it first
Similar interests - there needs to be some common ground in order for a conversation to take off or be memorable
Open to connect - most travelers won’t specifically seek out social interactions at an airport, but said they would be open to the idea of connecting with other travelers
Knowledge sharing - conversation topics usually included travel experiences, and career interests
Beyond the airport - conversations also commonly occurred on the plane itself when sitting next to each other, sometimes even exchanging contacts (however, never really followed up with each other)
Safety - people usually are always concerned with safety, but we wanted to note in several of our interviews, they thought safety was not a particular issue because everyone had already passed through the security check
Everything still depends - interest in social interactions heavily dependent on mood, energy levels, physical appearance, airport layout etc.
Social interactions at
the airport
Design Alternatives


Crazy 8’s
After uncovering some key insights from our research, we used these insights to generate a series of “How Might We” (HMW) statements to prime us for our brainstorming.
We began our brainstorming process by having each of our team members do two rounds of ‘Crazy 8’s’, a rapid brainstorming technique where we had five minutes to come up with eight ideas with a five minute break between the rounds. This gave us a lot of ideas in a short amount of time. We then took turns sharing our ideas with one another, and many times we found that our ideas overlapped. We then combined and organized the ideas inspired by the ‘Crazy 8’s’ exercises.
How might we people make connections at the airport?
...promote social interactions during the entire layover journey?
...leverage existing social networks to create more networks?
...create an airport community of travelers across the globe?
Sketches from crazy 8’s activity
Grouping ideas with similar traits together and voted on them as a team
After voting on ideas, we converged onto three themes: game, knowledge exchange, physical space

3 Ideas

Language exists in the context of culture and the transient community formed by an airport is the perfect place for learners to meet and share knowledge. Using the ubiquity of mobile devices, travelers can easily connect with one another and share their culture and language.
People remember stories. Drifting Bottle is based on the finding that travelers may be concerned about their safety or are not sure how to initiate conversations at the airport. Enabling users to share their stories while taking control of how much information they want to share, who they want to reply to, and whether they should meet up gives them more security.
Play is innate within all us. Airport Escape is driven by the finding that many travelers are interested in exploring the airport and are open to meeting new people but may not be comfortable in initiating conversations. This game will encourage travelers to pair up and solve mysteries together and better understand the arts and culture at the airport.
In the end, we narrowed down our solution to the drifting bottle app for the following reasons:
Able to connect travelers at scale across airports throughout the world;
Positive reception from reviewers in terms of comparatively lower investment, safety concerns, and flexibility;
Relatively novel and uses a real life metaphor.
Design and Iteration

Mid-Fi Prototype

The onboarding process starts with our target user pain points. By clarifying the target group as travelers feeling bored during layovers, it gives the users the information to decide if he or she needs or is interested in the app. The following screens briefly describe the user flow of the app and aim at making it clear for users about what does the app do to alleviate their boredom.
The onboarding page explained the “Exploration” feature of the app where users pick paper planes sent by other users from airports all around the world, unfold the paper plane, finish reading, react to it, and flying it away to let more people notice it.
Write a story
This feature starts with choosing the category of the story, which determines the color of your paper plane. We decided on the categories though a Participatory Design session. For users who are creating a new paper plane, we want the categories to help with generating ideas about what to write and meanwhile control the content. For users who pick up a plane to read, we wanted them to maintain the same level of interest after selecting the plane by recognizing the colors of the plane.
The user would begin the process by selecting how the identify the mood of the story to be as well as some tags that they associate with it.  We wanted to keep the process of content creation fun by having different formats in the “letter”, and by choosing stamps to decorate the paper plane.
Make your plane
We wanted the users to have the entire paper plane making experience. Being able to create the aircraft out of their story should increase user engagement and make the overall experience more enjoyable.
They have two options to create the plane. (1) They can swipe different directions to simulate folding; (2) They can tap the “skip” button and skip to the finalized plane.
Throw the plane
Once the user is ready to share their plane, a screen appears letting the user know that their plane is ready to be “thrown”. In the prototype, the user chooses how they want to interact in the scenario, but cannot choose the landing location of the plane. This element of surprise may possibly increase the motivation of the user to create more planes to see where they land.
Explore the community
There are three ways users can search available airplanes around you, as represented in the top tab bar: map view, scan view, and list view. Users have limited information on the airplanes surrounding them: only their color (type) and distance. We hope limiting the info can give them an explorative experience of “hey, that romantic airplane looks interesting! I’ll go and take a look”
Map view allows users to see the location of different airplanes on the airplane map.
Scan view is used when people scan their surroundings to see nearby paper planes in AR.
List view allows users to read all the airplanes that are close to them in a list.
Read and
React to Airplanes
We want to increase users engagement by allowing them to send direct message to the creator of the plane. The reason for not having a comment area is to avoid hate speech and popularity contest in the community. We want users to initiate the communication with others only when they’re engaged in their stories.
Users can react to a story by “send it away” to other airports and allow more people see it in this way and by saving the paper plane to their collection and be able to check the location of the plane at any time in the future.
Save Planes
This puts the user in control of their plane inventory and lets them decide which stories are worth saving and tracking. And we hope that by letting users informed of the current location of the planes they saved will increase their engagement in the community.
By navigating to the My Saved Planes page the user can view a map of locations the planes they have saved or favorited have traveled. This allows the user to filter by location and get a more abstracted view of the saved planes.

Usability Test

We then conducted a task-based usability test to gather insights from users on features. We recruited five classmates to participate in these tests.
Task Scenario # 1
Completing the onboarding process
Most participants were confused at what they were looking at when they received the first story and wondered who “Alice” was.
All but one participant chose to ‘fly the plane’ again once they received the story, but not sure what this meant.
All participants would not want to sign up with their full name
All participants would prefer not to use their actual picture, but okay with some sort of avatar.
Design Implications
The onboarding should be explicit about the context of the app and features that it supports, in the prototype, however, it fails in delivering the message and users are still confused about what to expect from the app.
Task Scenario # 2
Viewing your profile
Some participants were confused about the license date, but inferred that it is probably when they first registered.
Some participants asked if there would be followers of their profile, and one participant asked if they could view other people’s profile
Most participants responded positively on the stamps collections.
One participant found the amount of information displayed overwhelming
Design Implications
The onboarding should be explicit about the context of the app and features that it supports, in the prototype, however, it’s still vague in delivering the message and makes users confused about the infomation presented.
Task Scenario # 3
Writing a paper plane story and sharing it to the community
All participants did not pay attention to the relationship between the airplane color and the category when selecting a category.
Some participants said they would probably write about their travel experiences, but none of the participants wanted to share anything personal.
Some participants were not sure what the crayon icon meant and all participants did not know what the color palette icon was.
All participants were okay with text and image input, and some participants felt the drawing input was unnecessary, one participant mentioned possible video and audio recordings.
Most participants responded positively with folding the paper planes, but would probably only use it a few times at the beginning, and skip afterwards.
Most participants were confused about what “physically” throwing the plane meant
Most participants preferred throwing digitally as default
Most participants were okay having their plane being sent to a random destination
Some participants thought they were sending the plane to someone instead of to a community
Design Implications
The design should consider the experience of regular users: how might we make the excitement of the experience consistent in the long run.

Should modify the icons and wordings easier to interpret.
Task Scenario # 4
Searching and reading a paper plane story
All participants responded positively to the AR view because they said it was a fun and interactive feature. Some participants said they wouldn’t keep using it though if they just wanted to read stories
Mixed responses on what the default view for searching for planes should be.
Most participants would read anything as long as it was “interesting”, but specific topics that were mentioned included travel and culture
Some participants were confused about what the airport name was trying to convey:
"Where the airplane was created vs. where the airplane was located at?"
Some participants would want to read other people’s comments, while one participant was particularly adverse to read other people’s comments
Some participants were unsure of what the ‘Report’ icon meant, and some people felt the "report" button is too prominent.
Most participants liked the feature of seeing where the plane has been but mixed response on how it was displayed:
"What if it has been to many places, any list view."
Most participants were not particularly inclined to connect with the author of a plane.
Design Implications
The comment section to stories should be customizable.

The layout should be modified considering different situations, like the amount of content displayed.
Task Scenario # 5
Saving and viewing your saved paper planes
All participants knew how to save a plane and found it straightforward
Most participants would only save planes if the story they read was personally valuable or meaningful to them
Design Implications
How might we make the saved planes more toward the users' personal experience?

Prototype Iteration

onboarding process
The redesigned on-boarding pages have more descriptions about the main features of the App. By the heading texts, users will be informed of the context of using and key features; with the body texts, they can learn about more details of the features.
Profile Page
The profile page is rearranged to display the information more clearly. Wordings that are confusing have also been changed.
The menu tab has also been rearranged to make the “exploration” the priority for users.
Comments to Paper Planes are only visible to the creators of them. When a creator replies to a comment, it appears in the "DMs" list.
Create paper planes
No more Color codes for the planes. Organized the steps with progress bar displayed on top of the pages.
Send planes
The folding steps are skippable. We removed the physical interaction option in "Ready to take off" page based on users feedback and context of using the App. Planes will still be landed at a random airport.
Discover paper planes
We kept the three views of the paper planes, with Map View as a default one as it visualized the airport map and is more accessible compared to the AR feature. Users are able to see the tags attached to the planes through a preview block and decide if they want to unfold or not from there.
Unfold planes
Actions to the plane are simplified to "Save" and "Comment". Users can send of planes to another location when they click on the "Tracker" button to see the plane tracks.
IntroductionResearchDesign AlternativesDesign and iteration