Reducing pain points at the airport

Air travel is a hassle, there’s nothing seamless about it. The client offers faster air travel by using fingerprint or iris (biometrics) at special kiosks to confirm traveler identity rather than waiting for the manual ID check.

To further ease air travel, the client wanted to offer their members the opportunity to purchase food or beverages from the kiosk as they went through airport security.

Once through security the member could pick up the order at the vendor, no waiting in line to order or pay.

Can the airport experience be improved by allowing travelers to order and pay for snacks or beverages using their fingerprint?


My Role

UX Designer. Responsible for designing the proof-of-concept, including research, scenarios, mapping user needs and product requirements, sketching flows and wireframes, and designing comps.


  • Allow travelers to purchase food or snacks when users verify identity before security.
  • Limitations of kiosk interface.
  • Must be a fast interaction. Target transaction time: ~ 15 seconds.
  • Tight POC turn around: one week.
  • Maintain simplicity & speed while fostering trust and personalization.



This project required an extremely tight turn-around, one week. As a result, there was little opportunity for extensive project-specific research, though I was able to use existing user research that revealed general usage of the service. Additionally, I interviewed several frequent travelers in an effort to determine their pain points at the airport and to get a sense of their individual behaviors, needs and practices when traveling.


One of the reoccurring findings from this research was air travel as a “process.” (stand here, wait in line there, show ID, walk to there, take out laptop, wait again, put laptop away, get in line again). A large portion of that process revolved around taking stuff out and putting stuff away (boarding pass, ID, passport, credit card, laptop, shoes, mobile phones, electronics, etc.)

When speaking about the emotional experience of air travel, themes included dread, hassle and impersonal. There was sense of being “treated like a number, like we are all the same.” From these insights, emphasizing a process-free, subtlety personalized experience was key.

User Goals

I created high-level personas and scenarios to better pinpoint factors that would influence user engagement. This quickly revealed the most significant design challenge.

Concept Development

The project requirements called for purchases to be made at the kiosk but its primary function is traveler identity verification to get through security faster. This meant the food purchase interface and experience had to be very simple and fast to avoid users queuing to complete identity verification.

As a result, the number of items available for purchase had to be very limited to meet interface constraints and the target transaction time. A small screen with lots of options would not only be bad UI, but would inherently increase transaction time (see Hick’s Law).

The flip side was that a limited, generic menu didn’t meet the needs of users as shown through research and emphasized in user scenarios. In general, people need time to rationalize the decision to make a purchase — that’s much harder to do under time pressure and with non-optimal choices . In such a situation, the easiest decision is to order nothing. In addition to data showing the value of an experience that felt subtly personalized, the client’s service is entirely about individuality; the member uses their unique fingerprint or iris pattern to identify themselves. A generic screen with four to six non-optimized food options was incongruous with the rest of the member experience.

Several solutions were explored, but ultimately to solve the problem of speed and limited menu, I moved the transaction complexity to a web app. The website allowed members to create and save several custom orders from a larger menu. The orders would display as a purchase option on the kiosk screen. This accomplished several things:

  • Got around the menu limitations on the kiosk interface
  • Offered personalized experience
  • Potential benefit of user ownership and fostering stickiness (see IKEA effect) — by investing time and effort, there would be greater emotional connection to the experience.
  • Maintained a fast kiosk experience
  • It’s use wouldn’t be a blocker to generic menu.


Based on research and understanding stakeholder and user needs, I created rough wireframes of the interface. After getting client and user feedback, I created site maps and created comps to illustrate the entire flow.

Initial wireframe of kiosk screen for selecting items to order. This would appear after completing ID verification.
Wireframe mocked on kiosk screen
Wireframe of login screen for selecting and saving food orders
Wireframe of main screen for selecting and saving food orders.
Wireframe of menu screen
Landing/Login page
Menu screen for adding items to orders.
Item options selection


The design helped illustrate the potential for kiosk-based concession sales and convinced airport stakeholders to push forward with the project.  In that respect, my work had real impact and and was a driving force for new product verticals.

This product was developed, though with some modifications from what I designed.  For the purposes of iteration, I argued for testing mobile phone based purchases — the kiosk didn’t feel like the right interface for purchases. I felt they offered a better experience and didn’t create the same conflict of user goals – use the kiosk quickly vs. make a food purchase that delights users.  Particularly in light of mobile order apps from companies like Seamless and Starbucks, exploring other interfaces seemed worthwhile.

Finally, due to the very tight project timeline and abbreviated discovery,  more research could be valuable.