Ironhack Prework Challenge 3: Usability testing and Redesign [Kayak]

6 min readJan 6, 2021


The past 12 months in a global pandemic have been something else for everyone in the world. A big question that has been lingering for many of us is : When are we going to be able to travel again?

As we are now entering 2021 with hopeful hearts, I am going to evaluate some of the most well-known trip-planning digital services for all you travel fanatics for planning your next trip in the most time and cost efficient ways.

In this article, I am going to share how I :

  1. benchmarked Kayak, Skyscanner, and Tripadvisor mobile services using Nielsen’s usability heuristic evaluation
  2. ran user testings with four of my interviewees to scope out some pain points
  3. redesign Kayak mobile app to potentially improve those pain points.

Planning a trip can be very tedious and nerve-wracking. So much information and decisions to make with high risks of inconveniences that are costly and sometimes life-threatening! But I believe good design can make any experience delightful. So Let’s dig in and see what we got here.

Who are we designing for?

I was given several persona groups to choose from for this activity. Among those I chose:

Young couples between the age of 20–30 with a good amount of saving, looking for a special get-away while staying organized to enjoy everything 100%.

Which one is better?

Now, let’s evaluate some digital apps for traveling to decide which one would offer the most time and cost efficient trip planning tools for our persona group. Nielsen’s Heuristic Evaluation methodology is going to guide us through it.

Nielsen’s heuristic principles for good usability

I chose Kayak, Skyscanner, and Tripadvisor to compare.



  • Visibility of system status : a clear view on what users are looking at and what they can do
  • A minimalistic design and aesthetic : a simple design
  • User Control and Freedom : many filter options and pre-set buttons that allow users to explore and easily navigate
  • Match between system & real world : a viral map that instantly updates and show lowest fares on a world map


  • Visibility of system status : a good overview on the flow status


  • A minimalistic design and aesthetic: a good design with necessary functions visible
  • Consistency and standards : good color consistency and overall elements

Overall, Kayak scored the best in my heuristic evaluation because it had better structured view with clear grids and understandable visual elements that allowed faster and more natural flow.

Skyscanner got my lowest eval score because it was hard to navigate, too much information was presented in one screen without any guidance, and the result updates were very slow which got me impatient.

So, now we will run some user interviews to see if Kayak can do even better than now and whether there are any pain points in users experience.

User testing

I conducted 4 interviews with two couples who are world travelers (before the pandemic of course..) and each lasted about 20 mins.

As a user myself, I enjoy the idea of service Kayak offers. The look and feel of its interface evolved over the last few years as the company grew bigger with wider audience. I was excited to learn more perspectives from my interviewees to explore room for Kayak’s potential growth.

Prior to the interviews, I asked my users for a permission to record our shared screen so I don’t miss any critical information. I also asked if they could “think-aloud” when they are navigating the interface. All of us agreed to enter the interview with shared goal: 2021 Summer Vacation, July 15th to August 15th in Bali, indonesia.

I jotted down a couple tasks for my interviewees to perform so we could have some structure.

Task 1: Search flights for you and your partner that fit your budget.

Task 2: Search two accommodations each for two week that fit your budget.

Task 3: Land on the payment page after selecting your flight and accomodations.


All four interviewees did not have major issues in navigating and executing the tasks but there still were some areas where Kayak could be a bit more empathetic to my users’ need.

Here are a few pain points I observed

  • Too many booking sites with little to no information: When users select a flight or an accommodation based on the price and date, a list of booking sites pop up with an icon “View deal”. Most of the booking sites’ names are mixture of bank names, website address, tour companies..etc. that I never heard of.
  • Mixture of English and Native language on the app: The whole interface was a messy mixture of Korean and English. For non-English speaker (which is not ignorable number of audience in countries like South Korea), this could be an obstacle for users to achieve their goal.
  • Vague wordings for hotel ratings: When users search for hotels, ratings were one of the things they utilize in their decision making. 4 out of 4 of them were more likely to click on the listings that have higher ratings. But 4 out of 4 of them existed out when they found out things that they did not know before clicking on the list. Maybe there is a way to organize information better in the first search screen so that users can save more time?
  • Small filter button: Because buttons and information is densely located on the top of the screen, users tend to miss the filter button on the bottom. A filter option is critical for users to land on the right page with right information.


With all this findings, I drew some low fidelity wireframes that could ease these pain points for our users.

low-fid redesign with pen and paper

1. Too many booking sites with little to no information → A pop up screen before directing users to the booking sites

Allowing users to view details of the booking sites and the deal before getting redirected to the website would offer more freedom in their decision making.

2. Mixture of English and Native language in the interface → Language settings to make the whole interface consistent in one language

For non-English speakers, having the option to unify the language in the screen is important to make the interface usable

3. Vague wordings on Hotel ratings →An organized and simply categorized reasons of the rating, options to view the reviews, and some direct quotes on the initial snapshot of hotel overview.

It is already overwhelming to see everlastingly uploading results of hotels. It would be helpful to show direct quotes from ratings by users who previously purchased the deal.

4. The filters button is not popping out for users to see → Located on the top of the screen right below the default options such as recommended, cheapest, and deals.

I think this would be an easy fix that will lead a great change in user experience.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this challenge overall. The interface itself was something that I was familiar and interested in. Chatting with my interviewees who share similar passion but with different reasons was very insightful as well.

Everytime I do user research, I always find something new. User testing is a humbling experience for me because it always show me something that I never thought of. In that sense, I consider each participant a guidance to better design thinking and fuller view of what is actually going on.

Thanks for reading! :)




Kayla is a curious and empathetic Product Designer who loves building seamless design that offers users and businesses easier ways of life