Whichever way you look at it, Windows 8 is one of the largest launches in recent IT history. There are estimates flying around stating the potential install base being over 1.1B devices by the end of 2013, spanning from corporate IT systems to gaming on Xbox to mobile consumer devices, and of course the 700M desktops currently running Windows 7.
Frequent followers of our work read a few weeks back Teppo visited Microsoft in Redmond on some training on how to develop Windows applications right. Obviously that is not all — since the summer we’ve been working on a few concrete cases as well and first one to see the light of the day is Finnair Windows 8 application. The Finnair app will be one of the centerpieces of Microsoft’s Scandinavian Windows 8 launch campaign.
“We at Finnair are always excited to find new ways to bring our services closer to users as well as make sure our offers and fantastic destinations are presented in fun and innovative environments. When we started to build the first version of our app just a couple of weeks ago, I was sure we will create something really cool and I was not wrong – it has been great to work with these guys who are not afraid of challenging customer’s views as well as make sure customer’s wishes turn out exactly as planned” says Anssi Partanen, manager for digital marketing at Finnair’s Global Brand and Marketing Communications.
Designing tablets first
The world is changing, and mobile is fast becoming the dominant medium people will browse the web. This is why we designed our app tablet first, optimized to swiping and direct touch.
The app is obviously just a part of a longer journey towards a comprehensive mobile airline experience. When we started the project in early September, one of the things we realized soon we’re dealing with something completely new in terms of usage, behaviour and content; while the desktop/tablet/mobile -arch of Windows 8 platform opens up a whole new possibilities for brands and services, it also challenges the way current content management structures work.
For Finnair, we solved this by doing quite a bit of proprietary content based on their current content structure online. And as an app should have a a few viable use cases, we even managed to get our app talking to Amadeus backend so the Finnair customers can book flights and manage their checkins effortlessly from their tablet or a desktop. For the development, we partnered with a Helsinki-based software house Futurice.
On being best at something
Every Windows 8 app should be best at something, and the thing Finnair app v1.0 excels is bringing the Finnair experience to a completely new platform. Finnair hasn’t had any online mobile apps before Windows 8, so our app is designed to be a proving ground for dedicated platforms in general.
The absence of chrome on the UI means the content has a whole new different role: for example, using full screen images feels quite natural when designing the platform.
In our app design we analyzed the core tasks of looking for, booking and preparing
for a trip and brought the current online elements into a coherent and above all enjoyable experience. In addition to these functional aspects, we took advantage of the platform’s capabilities to communicate key stories to Finnair’s customers in a new and exciting way.
As platform, one thing Windows 8 does really well is the visual experience. The absence of chrome on the UI means the content has a whole new different role: for example, using full screen images feels quite natural when designing the platform. Also, designing the Modern UI is actually fairly similar to designing print in terms of significance of considered typography and visual hierarchy on all the screens.
As a long term aficionado of music I’d like to like this on playing guitar: the basics are quite easy, and its very easy to hide your mistakes on distortion (chrome) and volume, but the true craftsmanship is on the details: proper, well designed typography, careful and considered editorial process on the content and of course, the over arching thematic and composition of the whole piece. It’s fun to jam sometimes, but it’s always the classics that live on. The former Windows Phone creative director Mike Kruzeniski (@mkruz) argued a while back how the print is actually the future of interaction, and I have to agree. Every detail that matters in solid print design does so even more on a pane of glass nearing 300ppi. How details feel on it is like print on steroids. For brands and designers, this means Windows 8 is a blank canvas waiting to be painted with beautiful and meaningful pieces, using the building blocks the platform provides wisely.
With our new Finnair app, I think we’ve succeeded quite well. A big thanks goes to our client Anssi Partanen at Finnair — it’s always great to work with a client who engages with the design team 110%. Our team consisted of Akseli Anttila, Ilkka Haavisto and myself, and naturally huge credit of this goes to Futurice developers Erkka Peltoniemi and Juha Ristolainen for building the software in scope, and on time.
Towards and exciting future
The version 1.0 going live now is obviously just a start. Future uses of the app include more comprehensive service experience on managing flights, browsing destinations and bringing the Finnair quality experience to every windows 8 desktop as well. Watch this space for more developments on Finnair and mobile platforms.