Creating a holistic digital experience for a state-of-the-art vessel
From Antarctica to the Norwegian fjords, cruise operator Hurtigruten takes people to some of the world’s most uniquely beautiful – and remote – locations.
Hurtigruten turned to Reaktor to meet a specific goal: ensuring that the digital passenger experience is on par with their hybrid-powered state-of-the-art ship, MS Roald Amundsen, and the unforgettable voyage itself. With Hurtigruten’s long-term sustainability vision in mind, we created a holistic digital experience that would match both the exceptional nature of the vessel and the voyage.
- We worked closely with Hurtigruten throughout the process to understand the needs of both the crew and the passengers – including taking a cruise to Antarctica for a first-hand experience.
- We made wide use of prototyping in the early stages to discover and iterate the idea to find a solution that resonated with both passengers and the crew.
- Digitalizing the operational processes on board means the crew can now spend more valuable time with the passengers and focus on other important tasks.
- Building a digital service for a vessel that is being built at the same time is a challenging task. Our solution had to consider internet connectivity limitations and requirements from other vendors – and be failure-proof in case of other potential technical surprises.
Making a great passenger experience
A great passenger experience is context aware: it knows the status of the passenger’s journey and tailors information accordingly. By providing the right information at the right time, we remove stress and reduce workload, creating peace of mind. And when customers are at ease, they’re more likely to have a great experience on board.
Working with Hurtigruten, we had the chance to focus on solutions to make that happen and let both passengers and crew members focus on the things that truly matter. We aimed to deliver a world-class digital passenger experience that also supported the sustainability vision of the company. There was also a lot of paper used on board on a daily basis, so designing a digital alternative was of the utmost importance to us.
Exploring and validating findings
Our number one goal was to create a useful digital tool for Hurtigruten and their passengers on the MS Roald Amundsen, building our service around the existing digital systems that Hurtigruten used on board. We started with a three-week proof of concept phase to explore and define the needs of all users before creating multiple interactive prototypes to validate our ideas.
Understanding the most important issues was necessary for having a solid base for the project. Defining end goals, user needs and the value that end product is expected to have was critical for all the months of heavy work that would follow after the proof of concept stage ended. Thanks to validating our findings early on, we could stay on track and justify the decisions we made to other stakeholders during the design and development phases.
Establishing ways of working
This was a multi-site project, meaning well-organized and smooth remote working was essential. We coordinated between a team working in two different locations and the crew, who were on the vessel at sea most of the time. Ensuring good ways of working in a project with a high level of uncertainty is critical for creating a successful result.
During the course of the project, we established a set of habits that helped us to keep things in order and ensure the transparency of our progress. In practice, this meant that all the user stories, design work and features under development could be accessed online by any stakeholder at any time throughout the project. Such a set up is easy to achieve with modern collaboration tools.
However, due to the natural complexity and vast range of challenges that remote projects have, using only collaboration tools would not have been enough to ensure success. Here’s our advice for ensuring that work progresses smoothly, quality doesn’t suffer, and the team can operate as a single unit:
Lessons from a remote multi-site project
Make sure that your communication is continuous, tailored and well planned.
Starting from the first days of the project, try to establish and agree on communication channels which are convenient for everyone. Every person has their preferred means of communication and using those can streamline the conversation significantly.
Ensure shared understanding of the critical aspects of the project and keep track of it.
We continuously revised the project goals in alignment with changes that inevitably took place from time to time. Keeping track of those changes helped us to never lose track of a decision or agreement that we made.
Bring transparency and visibility to every member of the team regardless of location.
When possible, have the right people in one place – for us, that meant having developers and designers working together to facilitate discussion and the iteration process. And when needed, we’d fly to Oslo or go on board the ship.
To decrease the downsides of remote communication, always validate assumptions and check how everyone in the team is doing.
It helps to not take anything for granted when the project set up is complex. Always discuss together the matters that could otherwise be brushed under the carpet and cause problems later.
Creating an unforgettable voyage
Thanks to the app we built, passengers on the MS Roald Amundsen can get all the personalized info they need while on board from one place – including the excursion catalog, their booked excursions, and the daily program – safe in the knowledge that the information is always close at hand and up to date.
The primary idea behind the design was to create a useful tool. The goal was not to create a fancy visual experience that would detract from the beauty of the locations being visited, but instead to design something that enhances and improves the passenger experience. This meant a functional and minimalist design.
Less busywork for the crew
The app and the tools we created are not just for the benefit of passengers while on board the vessel, they also reduce workload for the crew. To accomplish this, we discussed with the crew about how they worked. We then introduced tools that make information entry easier and more streamlined than current processes while acting as a central source of information for all the related screens and vendors. With our solution, information that is displayed on multiple digital channels only needs to be updated by the crew in one place.
Solving unique challenges
Since Hurtigruten travels to remote locations, we had to design an app that could work without access to a fast (or indeed sometimes any) internet connection. That meant creating a concept and technical solution that caches content on board and utilizes the internet when available. Passengers connect their mobile device to the ship’s Wi-Fi to get the most up-to-date info, and the app is only used during the voyage.
- Service Design and UX
- App Development for Android and iOS
- Visual Design
- Development of the admin tools and onboard server software for the app