A designer's take on DragonPass app

Simon McCade

The background

DragonPass provides travellers with access to hundreds of airport lounges, dining offers and travel options to enhance the overall experience of travelling through an airport, whether you’re there for business or for leisure.

Established in 2005, it offers upgraded airport experiences via card access to over six million members with over 100 providers around the world, so it’s had time to bed in and grow into a useful and self-explanatory service.

Does it work for its audience?

As I write, DragonPass has been available on the App Store for over four years and Google Play Store for nine months and it’s fair to say that it hasn’t been well received at all in either community.

Two seems to be the not-so-magic number when it comes to star ratings; 26 ratings on the App Store leave it with an average of two out of five, whilst 194 Android users have barely crept over the same mark. It’s experienced a similar hammering on apptrace, too.

The consensus is that people simply can’t get beyond the sign-up process for memberships. Multiple forced closings and awkwardly stuttering confirmation techniques have compelled many people to leave their first-ever reviews, such was their dissatisfaction.

DragonPass’ developers claim to be on hand to respond to user complaints and they have responded to the odd bad review, but they keep on coming thick and fast – it would appear to be a long to-do list. One Android user commented in May 2018: “Even two-year-old comments show that most of the original issues are not yet fixed…”. Says it all, perhaps?

It’s easy to see the value proposition of the app itself and the promise of a personalised experience based on your local airport (after allowing your location to be shared) is fulfilled to the extent of seeing the geographically appropriate offers. In a data-sensitive, post-GDPR era, though, it’s strange that they don’t explain why they need your location, but I guess that’s an easy fix.

The navigation is relatively clear and functional and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, even if it isn’t easy to sign up for a membership to access some of them. The ‘Profile’ section feels like it contains almost too much information, some of which might be more at home in the main navigation.  

How does it sit in the market?

It’s not a particularly crowded market, but there are a number of players that are clearly getting closer to meeting user expectations than DragonPass is at present. LoungeBuddy, for instance, is clocking in at 3.8 out of five from 204 reviews on the App Store.

Unfortunately, the design and build don’t lend themselves to an experience that stands out from the crowd; in fact, it blends into the background with the basic appearance of a template – and the small typography doesn’t help either.

The branding and splash pages are OK, but the name sounds more like a gamer’s achievement in a fantasy RPG than a gateway to luxury airport lounge services.

However, Visa partnered with DragonPass earlier this year in a deal that aimed to provide cardholders with “an array of exclusive services to enhance the airport travel experience” along with seamless account verification, so there’s value and promise in it somewhere, it would seem.

Investment in airport lounges is on the rise with the likes of American Airlines recently pumping nearly £155 million ($200 million) into the renovation of its 60 locations, so apps like DragonPass operate in a busy and competitive arena.

However, the reputation it currently endures hardly stands it in good stead for keeping up with that market.

What are the UI and UX like?

Digging through the app on iPhone and Android at length makes it more and more obvious that little has gone into differentiating the experience from the competition.

It’s not a painfully bad experience as such, but the template-like feel and almost illegible font make it impossible to love.

Typos and inconsistencies in language make it feel a little clunky and ill-considered, whilst the decision-making process in terms of the user-flow isn’t exactly user-friendly. More emphasis is needed on helping people make quick and easy decisions about what kind of airport experience they want, especially when they are on the move.

The lack of landscape orientation functionality is another minor detail that could have made it just that little bit better.

iOS DragonPass app designs as of Oct 2018

How does it fit into the company’s customer journeys?

A number of inconsistencies between the app and the website leave a bit more to be desired, too; it flits between British and American English for one thing, but seems to prevent login on the website for customers of Barclays, Absa, Cooperative and Clydesdale for another (I’ll add that I’m not a customer of any of these, so I can’t test this).

In many ways, it feels like more TLC has gone into the website than the app, particularly on Android, so the journeys don’t quite connect together from a branding perspective as well as they could and should.

Room for improvement

If the core functionality of the app is to apply for a membership card to access airport lounge services, it seems to have failed dramatically for many users, so there’s a lot of room for improvement from the ground up.

DragonPass finds itself in the unfortunate position of having generated an uncomfortable amount of bad reviews, but the positive to take from that is that its users are giving its developers a very clear task list to work on.

The experiences on iPhone and Android are nowhere near the levels expected from modern-day users, so there’s a lot of work to be done before venturing onto other devices, such as developing a watch companion app, for instance. It would be an excellent benefit for DragonPass users to be able to make purchases with QR codes on a watch instead of having to fumble around with heavy luggage to get their phone out every time.

In terms of fixes, the last ‘What’s new’ update on the Google Play Store was described simply as “bug fixed” on 18th July 2018, so one has to wonder how much care and attention is going into this.

Its users are crying out for drastic improvements to its most basic of functions, so those reviews are the best – no, the only – place to start. Surely?

Reasons to be wary

The comparative experience on LoungeBuddy shows how such an app can slot itself into people’s lives with relative ease – and that’s what it should always be about: simplicity.

DragonPass could gain a lot from taking itself back to basics and re-evaluating how people expect to input data, what people expect to be told when they do and how people expect experiences to compare to their most-used apps.

The app itself might one day become obsolete if its services are completely merged into the user experiences for Visa cardholders, for instance, but it seems to have a lot of ground to make up on its competition first.

Final thoughts

The value proposition of DragonPass is clear and probably does what it sets out to do for members, but perhaps only for those who can actually get through the onboarding process to become a member in the first place.

It feels unnecessarily complicated and frustrating, so I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth after playing around with it for a while. When any service seems to ignore meaningful, bad responses from users, over a number of years no less, it’s a sure sign that improvements aren’t and won’t be coming quickly enough.

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