When pilots fly aircraft, there are a number of standardised procedures that need to be followed at different stages of the flight. These are normally taught to student pilots either in a classroom environment with a whiteboard and some markers, or they get taught in the cockpit itself during a lesson. Further to this, the main resource that a pilot has to remember or revisit the procedures are checklists. These checklists are a fantastic way of ensuring that the correct steps have been taken in the correct order, but aren't necessarily the best revision tool. The industry has been lacking good training materials which allow for flight procedures to be easily viewed and remembered.
We were approached by Fabio Toyama, who has been flying aircraft as a private pilot for over a year now. He had been working on this very problem, by creating a number of "cards" which can either act as visual revision & training material, or as a reference just before each flight. This dual purpose poses an interesting challenge, in that the content needs to be in-depth enough for revision purposes, whilst also being quick to access and understand at a glance.
Research & Design
The cards that we received from Fabio were put together with a lot of thought about how best to display the complex procedures and information. The issue with content like this in an app is that it isn't designed to work across a wide range of screen sizes. We went through several iterations of design and testing, and ultimately landed on an intuitive interaction model, which allows for the user to zoom and pan the image. Whilst we plan to look into breaking the content down into a more "scrollable" format, these fixed cards work wonderfully when viewed within the cockpit, as they quickly visually show different components of the aircraft.
From a visual standpoint, simple and clean was always going to win the day here. Letting the content shine through is achieved with a simple typographic design and minimal interface elements.
Getting feedback at all stages from Fabio was critical, as we needed to understand how best to implement features for a unique set of users.
For this project, we made use of React Native as the main framework. This makes it simple for us to develop custom applications that work across iOS, Android, and the web. Ultimately, this means that we can get products out to market quicker and with fewer iterations. It also worked well for Checkflight, as we wanted to combine some custom UI whilst keeping the main patterns used by iOS and Android.
Another platform that we like to make use of is Google's Firebase. This lets us manage testers and release early builds out to a trusted set of partners to test and get feedback from. The analytics and crash insight tools built into Firebase are also an invaluable addition that lets us make data-driven decisions on how best to further develop the app.