Usability in a Guest Service Environment

As some of you probably noticed, I’m a bit of a Star Wars fan. However, I have put off trying the latest Star Wars-related attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios because a) the lines have been too long and b) I have not heard good things about the “virtual queue” system Disney has been using to board people on the ride. This past week, I thought the appearance of Tropical Storm Elsa would reduce the crowds and increase my chances of boarding the ride. I was wrong about Elsa and soon discovered why the virtual queue is not a fan favorite.

How the System is Supposed to Work

As I understood it, the “virtual queue” is akin to the Fastpass, in that you sign up in Disney’s app to ride the attraction. Depending on when you get online and into the electronic queue, the system will assign you a group number. When the attraction is ready to board your group, you get an electronic notice that tells you that you may now stand in the physical queue, after which you finally get on the ride.

The complaints I’d heard early in the ride’s appearance included the need for guests to be at the park and inside the gate by 5 a.m. because the virtual queuing system only recognized people signing on from inside Hollywood Studios at that ridiculous hour. And even if you got into the park by that time, the queue filled up so quickly that you could end up with a return time late in the afternoon or evening…or even discover that the groups were already full.

Not being much of a morning person or terribly patient, I decided to wait a while for the hoopla to die down. By this time, I was told, you could get into the queue by 7 a.m. and do so from the comfort of your own home–you don’t have to join the queue from inside the park.

My Actual Experience

I set my alarm for 6:45 a.m. Tuesday to give myself a little time to wake up and to get myself into said queue. Because I’d never done this before, I trusted the search function on the Disney app to point me in the right direction. I typed something straightforward like “Rise of the Resistance virtual queue” and pressed enter. I was brought to a page for the attraction and proceeded to scroll down. The page provided icons for finding the ride, getting directions, playing a Star Wars game on the app, and a bunch of information on the accessibility of the ride for people of various ages and physical impairments.

There were links to Frequently Asked Questions but no link or icon/button that would take me directly to the virtual queue, which to me would be a guest priority. I kept clicking on links and sending myself in circles on the app a couple times, cycling back to the general information page for the ride, but not the virtual queue page. Time was running out! Finally, after a great deal of scrolling up and down, I was about to give up and exit the app entirely. That brought me to the app’s home page, where, amazingly, I found the button for joining the queue by accidentally scrolling down.

By the time I found the virtual queue button, of course, it was 7:02 a.m., and all of the groups were filled. I was not saying nice things about Disney’s “help” at this point.

Note: Looking back at the long stretch of information of the page today, I did finally see where they direct the user back to the app home page. Still: would it have killed them to add a link that sent the reader directly to the page?

Take Two…

I was told not to give up quite yet. Disney freed up the queue or filled the morning’s groups by 1 p.m. I could try to sign up for the queue again, but this time I would have to be in the park by 12:30 for my virtual queue request to register. A travel agent friend provided me a helpful screen-by-screen video she’d made to help her clients navigate through the queuing system. Following her directions and the procedures properly (which included multiple efforts refreshing the screen, which supposedly helped), I…still didn’t get into the queue. The groups had, again, filled up.

Fed up, I waited for a branch of Elsa to blow over, then took a quick walk around the park, only to see the physical queue for Rise of the Resistance…empty. The ride was down for reasons that eluded me, but I suppose I felt slightly better to know that even if I had gotten into the virtual queue, I wouldn’t have gotten onto the actual ride. Small comfort. At the rate things are going, I’ll have to wait for the next hurricane to blow through…maybe this time with enough strength to actually reduce the crowds.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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2 Responses to Usability in a Guest Service Environment

  1. Jane Vaughan says:

    When users, like your travel agent friend, have to make additional documentation, the company should realize there is an issue. We see this all the time with game documentation (although there are some good arguments that it serves a purpose there). Pay attention, Disney!

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