This project was submitted individually as part of the Design Challenge by Zappos Inc. for their application for Summer Internship - 2016.  

Problem statement

You're travelling from Las Vegas to New York City in mid-January. You've just landed in Chicago for a 3-hour layover. Unfortunately, an hour before your flight is supposed to leave, a massive snowstorm blows into the area, stranding you and all the other passengers in Chicago for at least a day! Bummer! 
Your challenge is to design an app that will help future travelers in a similar situation.  (Tip: You’ll want to think bigger than airport maps and flight rebooking.) 


A detailed description of your idea for the app. Who are the users of the app, and what are their needs? What problems are you solving for? What kind of features does it contain, and why? What are the unknowns?
A low-fidelity overview of your proposed idea (wireframes/flows are fine)
A high-fidelity mockup of one of the screens or interaction

overview of the design process

Timeline of Design Process - Zappos - Layover Genie

design steps

    As I first started ideating about the process, as a design methods student, I started thinking about it in a whole different creative perspective. My thought was to come up with an idea that isn’t common place but yet would finally be very relevant to the context. I came up with the idea of an app that I would like to call as “Layover Genie”. The basic idea behind it was to design an app that would help users deal with emergency layover situations, relax during the stressful situation and make the most out of the time, “after all life is discovered in serendipity”. 

    The scope of the initial user research was very limited due to time constraints, etc, but I tried talking to a few friends who have faced such situations of layovers and when asked about what their most important concern was, they said, “I was so damn tired, I just wanted a place to sleep”. On those terms, I searched the internet and was able to find a lot of websites that actually list out the places in many airports around the world where someone can sleep undisturbed for a few hours. The places can range from chairs to free lounges and coffee shops. This made me add a feature to the app that would find all the nearby sleeping places within the airport, on touch of a button. This list would be added and curated according to the specific airport data and could also be enhanced by the user reviews. The other features includes alerting an important person about the emergency, have an online meeting, reschedule a hotel booking at the destination and meeting new people around.

    As an enthusiast of Value Sensitive Design (developed by Batya Friedmann and Peter Kahn at the University of Washington - Batya being my current Design Methods professor), I try to incorporate it's important aspects into each of my design decisions. I generally use a set of Envisioning Cards as prompts to identify the key direct and indirect stakeholders, assess the time factor & pervasiveness of the design to determine its long term effects on various stakeholders and design value scenarios to figure out possible implementation keeping the above points in mind. During this particular instance, the two envisioning cards  I drew prompted me to "consider children" and "consider people with disabilities". Though I was able to incorporate the first prompt successfully to an extent, I was unable to incorporate the second and identified it as a limitation to the current design. For people with disabilities, it would be a tough time to plan activities or get them help during the long period of wait. Also the app can get tougher to implement and coordinate when 2 or more people travel together because this app layover genie is designed keeping in mind the individual user and his solo trip.

 Envisioning Card Prompts to Consider Children during design of Layover Genie

Envisioning Card Prompts to Consider Children during design of Layover Genie

  Envisioning Card Prompts to Consider People with Disabilities during design of Layover Genie

Envisioning Card Prompts to Consider People with Disabilities during design of Layover Genie

    I had a lot of wild ideas for the app that kept popping up, series of "divergences" and "convergences". 

    I was trying to find ideas and incorporate it as per Don Norman’s thoughts in his famous book, "Design of Everyday Things". I was able to figure out the rough sketch of the the app design idea through affinity diagramming. I moved around the stickies on the wall, it definitely was an exploration experience. 

Shows the flow of events during the snowstorm at Chicago

Shows the resulting App trigger and activities possible using Layover Genie App

    I was able to come up with 4 scenarios based on the affinity diagram ideas that I created earlier. It introduces us to what exactly are the needs of the users and what they are asking for. It incorporates pseudo-personas for the purpose as designing real personas require extensive user research which was missing from my design process. These short scenarios show the possible emergency situations of a layover. The possible App use is demonstrated in later sections.
    • Scenario 1 : Business Trip

      For “Mark Steward” who is the CIO of DRM Inc., work tops the priority list. At the age of 30 he has reached the position of a CIO which is quite a rare feat to achieve. He is very professional and work oriented. Being the CIO means traveling most of the time to attend important business meetings around the country. Today he has a very important business deal to be finalized with a client in New York. He takes the Virgin America flight from LV to NY traveling business class but gets stuck at Chicago due to the snowstorm. Now he is worried about his important meeting and the consequent signing of his business deal. He is stuck with now way to complete his meeting and plan his layover.

    • Scenario 2: Business TripMeeting Family:
      “Bob Allen” is a 27 year old energetic and adventurous chef from LV who is traveling to NY to meet his family and kids over the long holiday. He is traveling alone and is very excited to be seeing his kids after almost a month but is also equally looking forward to meet people along the trip, make some new friends. He definitely finds life in serendipity and adventure. He has got a lot of toys and chocolates with him for his kids. He is a technology enthusiast with a lot of gadgets. As he gets stuck in Chicago airport he is definitely bummed with no way to pass his time. He is definitely bored and lonely.

    • Scenario 3: Business TripPost Vegas Trip back home:
      “Marie Francis” is young, energetic and lives life like there is no tomorrow. She works with a firm in NY and loves to travel places every chance she gets. She travels solo or with friends and takes a lot of pictures, tries out every adventure and posts her life onto social media every single time. She is single but longs to have a nice man in her life.  Las Vegas had been on her vacation list for ages and she finally got her chance to vacation in Vegas. She had a lot of fun, a few wild nights and she is on her way back to join work. She can’t wait to post all her pictures to facebook and brag about them to her friends. She is stuck at Chicago now and is aghast. She is looking for some activities to pass her time and is impatient to post her pics and trip to social media.

    • Scenario 4: Business TripTraveling with Kids and family:
      Janice Tsai" has an aversion to technology. She wants to spend all her time with her family by minimizing her time wasted in interaction with technology. She has two little kids and a loving husband, nothing to complain about. She is travelling to NY with her family to have a great vacation. She has all her travel planned and hotels booked and her kids are excited to climb atop the Statue of Liberty. She is stuck at Chicago Airport due to the snowstorm and is very worried and stressed about her kids.

    Based on the identified problem scenarios, I was able to craft the idea for the app and the functionality it might hold to help the people stuck in emergency layover situations. One part of the user flow shows the app flow before the trip actually starts where it captures all the travel and booking information. Other part of the user flow shows the steps/flow during the actual emergency layover situation when the app is triggered. 

User Flow for the Layover Genie - Emergency Layover App  - Pre Travel Steps
During Layover User Flow for the Layover Genie App
    Based on my informal interviews with a few acquaintances and online research, I came up with 4 pseudo-personas as mentioned in the scenarios above. 
Persona - Mark Steward - Layover Genie - Business man
BOB Allen Persona - For Layover Genie
MARIE FRANCIS - Persona - Layover Genie
Janice Tsai Persona - Layover Genie

*Visual design of Personas created using Adobe Photoshop.

    • Scenario 1: 

      Mark gets an alert about the snowstorm & flight cancellation on his Apple Watch as well as his iPhone 6s Plus. The App asks whether he wants to alert his team in NY about the flight cancellation and the unfortunate event. Mark decides the alert his team. Then another alert pops up on his Watch, “You have a meeting with Mr.X and team in 1.5 hrs at Bell Towers, NY”, Do you want to reschedule it or complete it virtually? Mark wants to schedule the important meeting online/virtually. The app asks him if he wants to book/find any lounges or hotels in the Airport for the meeting. On agreeing, it shows a list of all the available places. Then Mark selects one of the virtual meeting options like “Skype” or “Adobe Conference”, etc and completes the meeting. Then he is prompted for further action. He selects any suggested activity as per his profile that he is interested in nearby in the Airport which might range from food to reading a book to meet new people and network.

    • Scenario 2:
      Bob alerts his wife about the layover and the storm using the app and then he goes around to find some food places on his app. He then fires up the app to find new people in the same situation around his and talks to them. He is able to meet many new interesting people around and has a lot of fun. He somewhere deep within thanks the snowstorm and Layover genie.

    • Scenario 3:
      First Marie sends an alert to her boss informing her about the event. She is relieved now. She wants to enjoy her layover time here at the airport, another excuse to shop and have social media time. She wants to meet people around and who knows she might bump into the love of her life. She fires up the app and finds shops around, shops till she is tired. The app suggest her to post her Vegas trip pictures to Facebook. Then she looks for some food places around and finds some Indian food. From the meet people around feature, she receives a request from a guy with a nice profile, they meet and find that they have a lot in common. They become fast friends and they discover that they live just a block away from each other in NY. She thanks the snowstorm and Layover Genie and her luck.

    • Scenario 4:
      Janice plans to trust technology for once. She fires up the app and reschedules the hotel bookings in NY first by talking to the hotel management. Then she is suggested with a lot of kid friendly places around her. She finds a Kid activity centre in the Airport and they all go there. Her kids are happy now. She takes them to the Disney store and Lego store and buys them some toys. They next have a happy meal at the McDonalds and then she uses the app to book a short term hotel for the overnight stay. She is happy and thanks Layover Genie.


I used Balsamiq to draw the wireframes for some of the screens. Balsamiq link can be found here.

This feature was inspired from and added after the Envisioning Card that said, "Consider Children" in the design.



Based on the Wireframe I went through the phase of Rapid Prototyping and came up with a few Hi-Fidelity Screens for the App Layover Genie. I used "Justinmind" application for the prototyping. As the time was limited, I could only design a few screens. I am in the process of improving the design and will be adding screens in the future. Here is a short video demonstration of the interaction.


lessons learnt : reflection

I feel reflections are an inseparable part of the Design Process and helps us improve the future designs. This section is a reflection of the whole design process I went through and lists out the areas that needed improvements, shortcomings identified and incorporates the feedback by the various classmates and friends. The Layover Genie being my first solo attempt at a design challenge has a lot of areas for improvement in the future and I leant a great deal from the same. "I believe this experience has helped me take my baby steps into the beautiful world of User Experience Design and I am not going back". I feel:

  1. User Research is key to the whole Design Process. As I was working under a very limited time schedule (just 4 days) to complete the design challenge, it was very difficult to perform user research in the real world. I resorted to interviews with a few  friends who faced layover situations and also scourged through a few internet forums to envision my pseudo-personas. I believe having time would have allowed me to conduct user surveys and interviews as I did with my team for the TravelNow! User Research provides a real understanding of the existing information issues and also indicates towards a series of solutions that can be derived from the scenarios to could help the designers address those pertinent issues.  
  2. A simplified User Flow provides a complete picture of the proposed system. I believe I could have simplified my existing user flow that depicts the app flow and use. I believe a simple user flow keeps the viewer engaged and helps her evoke greater detail about the design. I will try ways to organize the steps and simplify the user flow in the near future. 
  3. Usability Research is equally important. Due to limited time constraints I was unable to complete all the screens for the App hence I was unable to perform a usability evaluation based on the task-analysis. I believe usability evaluations and feedback would have helped me understand the way people traverse the screens and address the issues arising during navigation of features. 

The biggest lessons learnt : I agree I did not have extensive experience or exposure to User Experience and related fields given my background in Software Engineering. But my passion for creative design, little faith in myself and a giant leap with a big smile has gotten me this far, made me design my own portfolio and will get me further. I believe in myself now.