How would we redesign movie-booking apps on mobile? — Part I

Despite the increasing popularity of online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, Singapore remains as one of the countries with the highest per-capita cinema attendance last year. Watching movies in theatres is one of our favorite past-time activities, but why isn’t the experience of booking a movie as enjoyable as the movie itself?

What is a complete movie-booking experience?

A complete movie-booking experience refers to the entire decision-making process that a movie-goer goes through, starting from deciding which movie to watch, purchasing tickets and all the way to verifying his tickets when he arrives at the theatre. While this seems like a rather simple routine which we have all gone through many times, none of the existing tools, not in Singapore at least, are doing it right.

There are different ways in which a user can book and purchase a movie ticket — you can book online via web browsers or mobile apps, or directly at the respective cinemas. Despite the abundant choices of methods, the experience remains broken and no one seems to care about it.

Preliminary research and user interview findings

To find out current users’ behavior and satisfaction level, we conducted short interviews with friends who we deem as frequent movie-goers (watch at least once a month), and also asked them to bring us through their booking experiences. Generally, our interviewees are young adults aged between 20 and 30 years old.

Preliminary research and user interview findings

To find out current users’ behavior and satisfaction level, we conducted short interviews with friends who we deem as frequent movie-goers (watch at least once a month), and also asked them to bring us through their booking experiences. Generally, our interviewees are young adults aged between 20 and 30 years old.

We consolidated both good and bad experiences in existing solutions and translated them into a customer journey map as shown above. We also came up with 3 possible causes for the problems raised in the customer journey map.

  1. Outdated operators and broken services

After testing with third-party apps such as Popcorn, Honestbee (Yes, they allow users to book movie tickets too!) and also on web browsers, we saw a huge gap between movie selection and purchase. Regardless of the apps we are using, once we have decided to click on purchase, we will be directed to the respective cinema operators’ websites.

This does not only leads to a loss of context as the user has to re-orientate himself to the new interface, but to make things worse, both Golden Village (GV) and Cathay websites are not mobile compatible and the user has to zoom in and out of the page while completing the purchase process.

Such an unpleasant user experience has caused 5 out of our 7 interviewees to turn away from using the mobile app. “I downloaded Popcorn and GV app a long time ago but I stop using them quickly afterwards because they (the interface) are ugly,” said one of our interviewees.

2. Inefficient user flow and bad user experience

Looking into the design and flow of the applications themselves, we can also see many unnecessary and incoherent steps in the process. Similar to the previous test, we decided to use the number of clicks to complete an entire flow as the rough gauge of efficiency. We like to use the number of clicks by a user as a measure of success because we always want the fastest way to complete something (i.e. we are lazy).

APP 1

19

Clicks
APP 2

16

Clicks
APP 3

17

Clicks

Generally, the booking process took more than 15 clicks for all the apps we have tried. This excludes the steps to key in your credit card information if you are a new user and also potential navigation errors due to bad user interface. In our opinion, most of these steps could be reduced by minimizing user input and incorporating a better user interface.

For example, in the iGV app, a user has to click 2 times when selecting the movie timing. In this case, the ‘Next’ button neither serves as confirmation nor provides any additional information.

A badly designed interface would also increase the user’s cognitive workload and require his/her extra attention to complete a simple step. This is especially prominent when it comes to steps like seat selection.

Referring to the screenshot above, while it only requires one click to select a seat on the screen, a user usually has to zoom in and out of the screen to choose a seat. When the layout is too small, it also increases the chance of mistakes by a user. This begs the question, how can we display the overall layout of the theatre and allow users to select a seat easily?

3. Absence of social element

One interesting point that was brought up in our interviews and discussions was that most people usually watch movies in cinemas with other people — their friends, partners, or family. This essentially means that watching movies in theatres has become a social event rather than an individual activity, especially in today’s context. However, it is clear that no app has addressed this point and people are finding it as a pain point. One of the pain points we have gathered is when a user books tickets for multiple people, only one QR code is assigned the receipt. This means the group usually has to wait for each other before entering the theatre.

The objective of our solution

Based on the findings in our interviews and research, we identified that there is low usage of existing movie-booking apps among young working adults due to a lack of focus on user experience and outdated service providers.

With that in mind, we want to test if a better in-app experience would attract more people to download and use the app, which in term would provide more usage data and potentially higher revenue for the service providers.