Department of Design

January 5th, 2010

A completely different use case for the redesigned boarding pass

This is an addendum to the boarding pass redesign I posted earlier today.

My friend Andy pointed out a completely different use case than the one I’d designed for, which was, essentially, me: a single adult traveler who confirms my reservation and checks baggage at the ticket counter or a nearby self-serve kiosk.

Andy’s primary use case is a family traveling together with small children, with pre-printed boarding passes and self-checked luggage. As a result, certain things that aren’t important in my use case become extremely important:

  • The traveler’s name. A single adult traveler will likely never need to double-check their own name on their ticket. The TSA will double-check it against a government ID, and a gate attendant may glance at it briefly.
    In contrast, a traveling parent will likely need to check ticket names and seats several times to make sure everyone boards at the right time.
  • Bar code positions. Bar code positions only matter to travelers that are self-checking baggage. According to Andy, my design wouldn’t work well on the rather temperamental scanning machines, which even now require awkward paper folding and fiddling. To be honest, I’m not sure if any letter-paper sized self-printed ticket barcode would be easy to scan. The much better solution is to let the user enter a simple five-digit ID code or use a credit card for identification, like self-checkin kiosks.
    (Gate attendants will also scan bar codes as travelers board flights, but my original design is serviceable for that use case.)
  • Airport city names. This is primarily a problem on flights with multiple stops, and one that I addressed—minimally—in my design. As Andy pointed out, the passengers you’re in charge of, the more important a clear ticket sequence is.
    Rather than emphasize city names, I favor a simple numerical approach (labeling tickets flight one, two, three, and so on). Color-coded numbers would be even better, of course, though likely not practical.
  • I’m sure there’s other use cases I haven’t thought of yet. Justin also mentioned that the information hierarchy on my ticket still doesn’t make it immediately clear what the traveler should be looking at at any given time. Unfortunately this is because the traveler’s needs change as they progress through the airport; in this comment, I talk about my grand vision to have every stage color-coded.

—Timoni

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