User Experience & The Importance Of Continuous Development

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Author Image - Lyle McCalmont

By Lyle McCalmont

Lyle is our CEO and brings key knowledge and a solid understanding of the digital sector from his roots as a Developer and Project Manager.

As you may have seen on Twitter, I've had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the the Airline Information Summit in Barcelona over the past couple of days.  A fantastic event that brings together airlines from right around the world, I was asked to speak on a topic that is not just one I'm personally passionate about, but one which we excel with at Leighton - user experience.

I don't think it needs to be reiterated just how important the user experience is today.  Most organisations are fully aware that if they please their audience, that audience will spend more of their money with the brand.

What I do think needs to be reiterated, however, is that developing a great user experience and customer journey isn't a one-time process. The expectations of the audience are continually changing and developing and as such, it's vital that organisations truly understand the importance of adapting their user experience to meet the requirements of the audience.

Continuous development

We're proud to have been the digital partner of British Airways for 14 years now, and throughout this time we've been involved in a huge array of projects. All of them, however, have been focused on improving the user experience in some way, shape or form.

BA understand the importance of investment in their digital strategy and the need to reinvent themselves online; to utilise technology to their benefit and to remain competitive. They have a strong technical foundation that is flexible enough for them to continue to produce innovative front-end features that improve the user experience - a user experience that, I'm sure you'll agree, is first-class.

But this isn't something that's happened overnight or all at once. has changed considerably since 2001. Initially a site dedicated to flight-only bookings, we have seen the site continually improve and develop as customer requirements have, and the site now brings in billions in revenue for the airline via a number of revenue generation applications and channels.

And this has all been achieved through continuous development. Changes of all types and sizes - some seemingly minor - have all contributed to the on-going success of

What's important to note here is that small developments don't mean a small overall impact. We talk a lot at Leighton about '1% marginal gains', a term that came about from Sky's cycling team.  It's all about making small changes here and there in order to achieve a high number of individual gains, which when brought together, amount to a considerable impact.

Adapt for the audience

We haven't once taken the approach of wanting to overhaul an entire aspect of the site. Instead, we've always focused on looking - on a real granular level - at how the audience interact with the brand online and how we can improve where necessary, so to impact on the overall experience.

For example, we've worked closely with BA to develop buyer personas.  We know what type of content they're each most engaged with, how they like to digest it and when and where it should be displayed. We know through testing that customers wanted more options available to them when booking flights, as well as additional information that would compliment their flight choice, such as hotels or car hire.

And through the implementation of tools to see to these needs, we’ve not only helped improve the experience users have with, but we’re proud to have been part of projects that subsequently exceeded revenue targets and brought in additional income in the tens of millions.

The user must come first

In today's digital world, there can be a tendency to lean towards implementing every piece of technology that you feel the audience needs.  Drones.  Beacons.  Virtual Reality. There's little doubt that technology such as these - and many more - can greatly improve a brand's offering, but the simple truth is they can't be implemented if they don't have the end goal of improving the user experience.

Regardless of anything else, users want a great experience. How that's delivered is undoubtedly important, but it doesn't often come in the form of completely reworking a brand's entire offering. Instead, in our experience it's about making continuous developments - often in what can seem like minor ways - in a wide variety of different areas to make the customer experience on a segmented basis as fantastic as it can possibly be.