One Day at Disney World: A UX Perspective

Disclaimer: I was not compensated by Walt Disney in any way for this, although I hope to be. This is not an all-encompassing review. That costs extra. I also did not have access to Disney data and process information, so many of these problems might be known or being addressed. It’s purely with the intent of getting work, and because I can’t help myself.

One of the first things we did when we moved to Florida was visit Disney World. The last year had been rough on the whole family, as had the move back to the east coast. So we hopped in the car and went a-Disneying. The following are just some process improvements I came up with while visiting the parks as a guest.

Guest Relations. We had to visit Guest Relations at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. I don’t know why, but that’s always the longest line at the parks. Not numbers of people, but wait time. I would love to improve that process, because as a guest it seems unusually long. But I also know sometimes the delay is unavoidable as guests can be difficult.

Both parks only had three windows available to use. usually one window is taken up by someone who wants something ridiculous, so we have two fully functional windows. At Epcot they had someone who would work the line and weed out people who were actually at the wrong place. That was helpful, but other than that he couldn’t really do anything. Hollywood took it a step further and had someone with access to a tablet who could help with most issues, and that is where I think Disney could shine. Have more cast members with access to those tablets and have them helping people already in line, much the way fast food restaurants take orders when the drive through in very long.

In many cases these tablet folks might not really be able to help, but they might be able to triage guests in a way that gives the illusion of being helped, which makes the wait much more palatable.

Queues. This is the bane of all successful theme parks. In Disney’s case, if the ride is popular the Fast Passes are gone within an hour, and the stand by lines can go over 2 hours. So someone who has forked over thousands of dollars might never have a chance to ride Disney’s signature rides. I have a few ideas about how to address that, but the really good ideas I’ll save for after the job interview.

Some other examples: We had a 90 minute wait for the Seven Dwarves Mine ride. Two areas for improvement popped up. One was the interactive games. On the plus side they entertain people who have been getting antsy in the lines. That’s a good thing. But the drawback is that it creates bottlenecks in the line. People are so focused on the games that they don’t notice when the line has moved on without them, slowing things down and annoying the people behind.

The games need to have constant reminders to check the line in front of you, have a frequent reset period, or in some way, or only be in places that force guests to only play for short periods. The Mine ride has them flat, so guests focus only on the games. Other rides have them on the wall, which works a little better.

People also get hungry and thirsty in a long line. Sending someone in your group for supplies causing problems as they try to go against the flow, or return upstream. Many of the rides have spaces for small kiosks that can sell food and drink. The Mine ride had several such bends that could have fit something small. Even a drink machine that was band operated.

IT. Another problem I’ve had is with the Disney App and websites. Although the specifics have been different, the root cause is really the same. Testing. The app gives me problems when my wireless or cell connection is poor. This is something that was probably missed in Disney’s QA process because it’s not something that is usually considered when designing a mobile app the traditional way. But it’s a real-world user issue.

The websites have been a problem off and on for us for years. Possibly with my account, possibly with my security, possibly with something else. One problem that was recently solved was that I had multiple accounts. They were from years and years ago when my kids played the computer game Toon Town. They had been randomly created and there was no way for me to even access them until Support merged everything. We’ll see if that solves the problem, but user testing with real morons like myself could have found some of these glitches. As well as periodic re-testing as technology and users grow and change.

Annual Passes. Lastly, guests find it difficult to find out where they get their annual passholder discounts. Cast Members aren’t always friendly enough to say more than “No.” Although that girl at the kiosk outside Star Tours the other day tried to explain. I don’t remember her name because I’m a self-absorbed jerkface.

One easy way to address this would be to have little “Passholder Discount Accepted Here” stickers, similar to the credit card stickers in store windows.

And while I’m on the topic of stores, let me ask a question about the Starlight Cafe. Are modified ping pong paddles the best way to get a manager’s attention? Because it didn’t seem to work very well, and looked like something someone would come up with at the last minute. Again, I’m out of the loop on that one, but it was a comment I heard several times while in line.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading, and keep on keeping on!

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Chris OKennon

Award almost winning author and Content Creator. 14 years working under cover as a triple-double-agent.