In-flight entertainment systems, please grow up!

I travelled by Delta Airlines for the first time today; it was pleasant, nice seats, kind attendants, the usual good airliny stuff. I personally am not a huge fan of the airline infotainment systems and Delta’s was no exception. I don’t know if airline companies are ignorant of the importance of UX when it comes to their infotainment software or if they just don’t care about it. Either way, it is 2015 now and not 2000; it is high time they began giving more importance to the design of their software.

When entering the plane or even at the check-in kiosks, they ensure we feel welcome and confident in using their service. They ensure we think that we made the right choice in choosing their airline. This means a very streamlined and intuitive process of baggage check-in, boarding pass hand-over and directions to the proper terminal and gate. We are seldom lost or confused in this sequence, right?! Now, we mentally are convinced that everything in the plane is intuitive and straightforward and aren’t able to process even the slightest deviation from this mental conclusion. This could be the main reason we get so frustrated when we come into contact with the horrible UX on these infotainment systems.

This article will be covering the infotainment system on Delta flights in particular since I traveled in one today and clearly remember what I saw. The initial screen’s layout is pretty straightforward in most cases, large buttons with proper icons and words. No problem here. Once we select an option, the next screen pops up; again no problem here. The back button is present in the expected top-left corner followed closely by the home button. This is well aligned with the patterns on the most common OSes we are used to everyday – Android and iOS. Now, once a video option is selected, the layout changes. I found my finger hunting for the back button in the top-left corner of the screen only to find after a few seconds of frantic finger scraping across the screen that the button was placed in the bottom-right. Thats diagonally opposite its initial and memorized location.

Back1        Back2

Why would the designer do this – Moving the button to the furthest possible distance away from the initial location? Sure it is easier to press if it is closer to the bottom, but the mental effort to memorize a new location is annoying at the minimum. You might think this is only a minor inconvenience, but when you keep using it again and again and again, with your finger automatically moving to the top-left corner and then coming back all the way to the other end of the screen, it becomes a painful experience. Sometimes, I feel like the person who designed it just wanted to jumble the buttons around for fun, all the while laughing like an evil genius, hahaha! But seriously, why they cannot maintain consistency in their layouts is beyond me.

Patterns are formed through practice and as designers, we must give maximum importance to adhere to it, even if it means placing the button in the not-the-best-place on the screen.

What I learnt today? Consistency is key to a good User Experience. Lets keep that in mind in an effort to rid the world of such annoying UX designs.

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