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Golden ticket

It’s a common adage that good IFE design should be intuitive, easy to use, and adhere to rules such as having a short path to playback. Yet to deliver a truly exceptional experience, there are three golden rules that every IFE designer should follow.

1. Keep it fresh

With consumer expectations moving at such a rapid pace, IFE must evolve beyond the static screen-by-screen-based experience they once were. Today’s IFE needs to keep pace with the changing consumer technology market, currently driven largely by smartphones and tablet devices. It needs to be extensible, dynamic and fluid. Critically, it must also be supportive not only of varying passenger needs and wants, but also of airlines’ need for a powerful communication channel with which to continually engage and delight their passengers. Designers should be creating mechanisms to support the airline to showcase new content, or highlight features or services as they are introduced over time.
IFE designs are also no longer constrained to the seatback, or even one screen. Increasingly you will be designing for a multiscreen environment including additional devices bought on board by the passenger, and new-generation handsets such as Panasonic’s Karma or Thales’ TouchPMU. 
As designers, we must evolve our view of the user interface being fixed to the seatback, into a more fluid, multiscreen experience. Passengers want to use screens in different ways and at different times during a flight. Establishing clear design principles and screen relationship rules at the start of the project can assist greatly, and help turn what could be considered a design overhead into a design opportunity.

2: Be aware of the passenger experience eco-system

Prior to boarding, the passenger would likely have interacted with an app or airline-branded user interface via their smartphone for check-in, way-finding, boarding or pre-flight entertainment, which they may well also do post-flight. The mobility of services is only going to increase, so look for these links and include these additional services in your core design strategy.

3: Don’t let the airline’s brand values be skin deep

I believe what takes IFE beyond the obvious intuitive, easy-to-use essentials is when the airline’s brand and values are reflected in all aspects of the IFE design. I’ve seen many IFE systems (and other user interfaces) where once past the welcome or home screen, any hint of the brand beyond a logo has disappeared.
The airline’s brand personality is one of the few things that will remain a truly unique point of differentiation, whereas IFE features, functionality and content often cannot. Use this to your advantage – let the airline’s core brand values and personality shine through in all aspects of the IFE design, in the interaction model, and on all screens from the movie detail to the help screen.
The integration of the brand values and promise in the core design of the user interface can often be that X factor that repositions an IFE system from an average experience to an exceptional one.

Derek Ellis has directed and designed creative projects for some of the world’s best-known companies. Co-founder and creative director of Massive Interactive, he leads the UX and Design teams across the company’s dual-hemisphere headquarters in London, UK, and Sydney, Australia, working with clients such as BBC, Panasonic, Samsung, BT Vision, Cisco, Telstra, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic. Contact Derek at or see for more info.


28 November 2011


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