Disney Genie service deeply unpopular among fans before it has launched

Posted Friday, October 15, 2021 9:11 AM | Contributed by Jeff

From the article:

Disney guests clearly aren’t happy about the change — Disney’s announcement video for the Genie service has a telling 12,000 dislikes compared to 956 likes. The outrage mainly comes from the fact that the FastPass and FastPass Plus, Disney’s line-skipping services that will be imminently phased out, were free to use. Although you didn’t have much control over the specifics of your ride schedule, it still helped you avoid standing in a queue for hours, free of charge.

Read more from The Verge.

Thursday, October 28, 2021 10:50 AM
Jeff's avatar

I'm saying it's bad as someone with a professional opinion and two decades of software experience. The most basic user interviews, conducted with static prototypes early on, would have revealed how broken it all is. Here's what you see when you open the app, assuming you have a park reservation today:

There are three calls to action on this first page, plus some icons at the bottom, two of which we don't really know what they do. Let's say that you choose the first call to action. It leads to another screen with exactly the same information on it, the callout to "get started with Genie," the note that you have a reservation. If you scroll down, there's an invitation to "take today to the next level, get Disney Genie+ for today." There's also another tab at the top that says "tip board," left of the one I'm on called "my day."

OK, so I go to the tip board, and it has a list of attractions with current wait times. If I tap any of those, it shoes me forecasted wait times for the rest of the day. Some have a second link that says "LL Genie+ Lightning Lane" and a time, and the words "book experience" to the right, in smaller letters. Already, I can see why people have been showing up at rides thinking that they could just slide in, if they have even a vague recollection of FastPass+. This is the fundamental design problem in all of this: Disney is so apprehensive about the perception of charging for what used to be free that you need to go several taps in before you get to something asking you to purchase something.

Now let's go to Epcot, where the new hotness is Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. I can eventually find that on the tip board with three options, the first two of which are disabled: "Standby line (not currently available)," "Virtual queue (enrollment starts at 1pm)" and "LL Individual Lightning Lane, window starts at 12:20pm, purchase for $9." So wait, now you're telling me there's no standby, and the $15 I per person I just shelled out doesn't apply here?

And if you go to the old map/list view for wait times, Remy doesn't even show up on the list. If I tap on another attraction, there's the projected wait times and a "LL - Lightning Lane" logo that gives no context. Tapping that moves me to the tip board, where my focus is no longer on enrolling in LL, but a list of attractions. Really?

So that's my first pass, and it's a UX disaster. Moving around is a series of unnecessary repetitive steps that are bolted on to the old app conventions, when the underlying engagement model has completely changed. There are four ways to ride something: Standby, $15 LL for most, but not all attractions, $9 one-ride LL passes for very specific attractions, and virtual queues which are the closest thing to old school FastPass but also rare. I'd hate to be a cast member who has to explain all of that over and over again, everyday.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 10:57 AM

Yeah, I figured I was being too generous.


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Thursday, October 28, 2021 11:19 AM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Brian Noble said:

I'm not sure it has to be something that everyone (or even most people) "fully understand,"...

Instead, maybe the goal is to be like any other "modern" app: there's more to most of them than any one person understands, there is no "instruction" manual, but instead people discover bits and pieces as they go.

I don't think people who paid thousands of dollars for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation (presumably the ones Disney is targeting and trying bring into the fold now) want to learn-as-you-go. Both because they don't want to have to learn and also because they don't want to realize they missed something.

I also think independent of the app. interface, the buffet of options and the fact that you need a chart to figure out how to get on which rides is sort of ridiculous.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Thursday, October 28, 2021 11:21 AM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 11:23 AM

I'd put in a cute "I yield" GIF but that's not really done here.


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Thursday, October 28, 2021 12:36 PM
Vater's avatar

I don't understand how so many large companies can't seem to hire decent UX designers. As an occasional Xbox gamer, the amount of frustration I constantly feel trying to navigate menus is off the charts. Also, the UX in just about every streaming service is terrible.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 1:07 PM

  • Lack of internal advocacy for that need due to a general lack of awareness of what it is and why it's necessary. Many folks just assume developers also design or simply that if a picture looks pretty, it must be good (usable).
  • Time - UX research and UX design take time and delay project development start, which delays project completion.
  • Money - Same as above, really. More time = more money. Sometimes that's a double whammy when it's unrealized income potential + increased project cost.
  • Realistically, it is also hard to demonstrate the value of UX Research and Design up front. It's difficult to quantify the value of doing it and the cost of ignoring unless or until they experience it themselves. We have no shortage of fancy slides, customer endorsements, and industry research to support the argument, but nothing ever beats personal experience. This harkens back to the first bullet point. If there isn't a strong advocate internally to champion the need, adding this time and money to a project is almost always an uphill battle.

Those are the highlights for me. There are a lot of other driving forces that vary from company to company. Those four ring true to me as the most common reason I see those things cut from scope during contract finalizations. Just my opinion, but it's based on 20+ years in software development as a consultant with a focus on user centered application design driven by formalized UX Research and UX Design practices. For what it's worth, you can apply those same four bullets to resistance to inclusion of proper Business Analysts, QA teams, and Analytics Platform selection / implementation / intentional design. In the end, a lot of companies just want to jump into development while skipping the "softer" skills that most in the business consider essential to good project outcomes, because they make everything cost more and take longer. That doesn't change just because the company is bigger. Generally, it just makes the failure more visible.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 2:13 PM
Jeff's avatar

I disagree that there's a time constraint, that it slows things down. A solid, iterative approach means you can start building things and incorporate feedback as you go. This smells of a "final comp" that was given to engineers, and they delivered exactly what was asked for.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 2:17 PM

So, if those ^^ points are valid, when does UX stand a chance to improve? When enough users complain or traffic drops to indicate they’re leaving in droves? Is the goal to avoid spending that time and money on the front end but drizzle it in only when a need is sensed?

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 4:03 PM

I did not like Fastpass one bit when it was first thrust on us. Over time I tolerated it, then I grew capable with it, and finally I had adapted. I assume the same thing will happen with me with Disney Genie and I will likely even grow to appreciate spending some extra dollars on some "sure things".

But, here is what I would rather do. I'd rather they pick some dates in the year where they severely restrict park attendance, jack up the entry price, and give me a VIP type experience. One of my most expensive theme park visits is still one of my most memorable and favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Discovery Cove where I paid a significant chunk of change but had an all-inclusive and crowd-light day in a park.

Back when I was a kid in Southern California my father worked for a company that "rented out" Disneyland from 8pm-2am once per year. We would go and basically could walk on every ride in the park...including the coasters. If that was an option for me today I would not hesitate a significant chunk of change for that experience.

I just think Disney could find some sweet spot between catering to the average Joe and catering to the big spenders....that would not substantially ruin the experience for the average Joe.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 4:41 PM

The VIP-type experience you're describing is a lot like the Halloween and Christmas after hours events at Magic Kingdom. Or at least how they started out. The Halloween event was pretty crowded when I went in 2015, but the long waits were mostly limited to the photo opps. If memory serves me right, they had started hosting similar non-holidays after hours events before COVID.


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Thursday, October 28, 2021 5:29 PM

As I understand it, the "new" after-hours holiday events are a lot lighter, crowd-wise. They are only several hours, which limits the value a bit.


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Thursday, October 28, 2021 7:00 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

I am sure the Early Morning Magic (paid early entrance and ERT for a few hours) will come back eventually.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 11:32 PM
Jeff's avatar

We were in Magic Kingdom tonight, and while it wasn't like a hurricane day, it was not bad by MK standards. Most things were nearly a walk-on. 8pm fireworks emptied the park, and we did Seven Dwarfs at 8:57 in 10 minutes with a posted time of 45.

But make no mistake, there is no free virtual queue anymore (not counting whatever those few rides are now). That's weird, because, they're not really managing anyone's time anymore.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Friday, October 29, 2021 12:23 AM
99er's avatar

wahoo skipper said:

But, here is what I would rather do. I'd rather they pick some dates in the year where they severely restrict park attendance, jack up the entry price, and give me a VIP type experience.

We would go and basically could walk on every ride in the park...including the coasters. If that was an option for me today I would not hesitate a significant chunk of change for that experience.

So this is an option right now at Magic Kingdom. Prior to 2020 the park hosted 'Villains After Hours' one night a week which was exactly what you described above. Very low attendance, free snacks,, added entertainment, and all of the rides and attractions that are normally open. This same model was brought to Halloween this year with 'Boo Bash' and will happen for Christmas with 'Very Merriest After Hours'. These two events are not the normal Halloween and Christmas events the happened prior to 2020 though but are worth it if you prefer walk-on rides and little to no crowds.

Last edited by 99er, Friday, October 29, 2021 12:25 AM

-Chris

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Friday, October 29, 2021 9:31 AM

Doesn't this writer trot out the same article around every Disney price increase?

https://www.fool.com/investing/2021/10/28/did-disneyland-finally-go-too-far/

Usual tactic: Go with an ominous "Did they go too far this time?" headline, point out that they did not because they never do. But he's sure to close with pointing out that they might one day.


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Friday, October 29, 2021 9:50 AM
Jeff's avatar

I'm still not at the point of "Disney is too expensive" or "Disney is greedy" or whatever the fans are freaking out about. The truth is that the crowds have been pretty serious the last few pre-Covid years, especially Magic Kingdom, and that to me says the price has been too low. Somewhere between twice the price with half the crowd and where we are now is a sweet spot that they're not at yet.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Friday, October 29, 2021 10:13 AM

I think you are right Jeff. If I could have a crowded, uncomfortable, unfulfilling experience for $120 or an 80's type experience (midways not jam packed, reasonable wait times for attractions, characters walking freely in the parks) for $240 I would take the later. Now, I'm not tone deaf and I know that starts to put more pressures on those who cannot afford it...but there are plenty of vacations I can't do. I will probably never stay at a Four Seasons for instance. (For giggles I looked up a one night stay at the Disney Four Seasons: $4,000+...for one of their standard suites I might add.)

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Friday, October 29, 2021 10:29 AM
Jeff's avatar

I think that's important to bring up, that we are talking about a leisure activity, not access to healthcare. Some folks seem to frame this as a moral issue, but I don't think it is. It's strange that visiting Walt Disney World has become an American rite of passage, but I don't really agree with the entitlement.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Friday, October 29, 2021 10:47 AM

Fair. Seeing the Grand Canyon is another one of those "American Past Times" but how many people have actually done it? Or, visiting Hawaii for example? Why is it that Disney is put into a different category?

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Friday, October 29, 2021 11:05 AM

I've done all three.

Seeing the Grand Canyon is much less expensive than visiting Disney. You can stay at a "near-rim" lodge (i.e. a 10-15 minute walk to the South Rim) during peak summer for about what a Disney Moderate costs in the Feb/Mar time frame, maybe a little less. The room is basic, but functional. There are no tickets to buy. Food is sort of ski lodge quality and price, maybe a little more affordable but not much.

Hawaii is probably a push or maybe a bit more than WDW. You have to fly to get there. Lodging can be expensive or more affordable, depending on how close to the action you want to be. We spend more on Hawaii lodging than we do at WDW. Food is not cheap, even if you cook yourself (I remember paying $5-$6 for a dozen mainland eggs this summer. Island eggs are more). It's free to hang out on the beaches, but if you want to do a bunch of "excursions" you can spend as much or more as you would on a set of tickets to WDW. But there's no where else like it---certainly no where that doesn't require a passport, and that includes Puerto Rico, which I've also visited.

Disney is a discretionary, luxury purchase that has been exclusionary for decades. Someone else on a Disneyana board put it most eloquently: "Disney has always priced people out, we just don't notice until it effects us."

But, it is also a rite of passage, particularly for a certain slice of middlish-class White America. It is for some corners of society a marker of "success" to be able to go there, in a conspicuous consumption sort of way.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Friday, October 29, 2021 11:06 AM
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