Unlock the magic

A personal project to re-imagine and innovate on the Walt Disney World mobile app MyDisneyExperience. This vision looks to solve some of the main complaints of the existing app and to provide new innovative features to engage with guests.

Note: This is a personal project and is in no way related to the Walt Disney Company and their activities. This personal project explores my take on what a mobile experience could be, and how it connects with the physical guest experience.


To identify where there are opportunities to improve the guest and customer experience when planning and visiting the Walt Disney World Resort first I had to identify problems with the current experience and identify the brief for the project.

The problem

The existing MyDisneyExperience app is heavily focused on upselling and complicates access to fundamental features

From presenting an advertisement for an add-on purchase to requiring the guest to take multiple steps to access a key task; the viewing of wait times and the resort map. A mobile app should be smarter and be a guest experience lead, whilst still aiming to ensure business value is kept high.

The MyDisneyExperience app is also feature-rich, resulting in the drowning out of powerful features by other less fundamental features to the guest experience.

The brief

How can we create a mobile digital experience that helps guests manage, plan and enjoy the magic of a Disney World visit?

The MyDisneyExperience mobile app is a complex mobile app that helps guests throughout their Walt Disney World visit, from unlocking their room to making souvenir purchases and booking lightning lane skip-the-line passes on their favourite attractions.

A new mobile digital experience should aim to accommodate these same guest and business functions, whilst incorporating new technology and experience refinements.

Current state analysis

I did a current state analysis to understand the problem space and where opportunities exist to enhance the current product and service offering. This next section explores the current functionality and implementation of the MyDisneyExperience app by looking at its areas to improve, spaces where it's succeeding and untapped opportunity areas.

Areas to improve

As apps grow and age they need to respond to new business needs, new technology and most of all new features customers have come to expect. The MyDisneyExperience app is no exception, and as it has aged its information architecture has strained to hold and make easily available all the features, information and articles required by the business and by guests.

Prioritise core features

Currently, it takes guests multiple taps to view their plan for the day or find the nearest attraction, bathroom or place to eat. Helping guests complete these key tasks that happen multiple times throughout their day will increase guest satisfaction. By prioritising the map in conjunction with the daily planner, guests can quickly get a glance at their day without much effort.

Upsell in moments that make sense

The current MyDisneyExperience app can be frequently overwhelming in the number of relevant and irrelevant upsells for events, attractions, features, food, shows, and even experiences external to the Disney Parks. To avoid guests tuning out important communications, upsells and advertisements should be kept at a minimum, to ensure high engagement.

Integrate intelligent features to help daily plans

The Disney Genie addition was integrated in a manner that looks separate from the rest of the app and lacks cohesion with the overall experience. For example, wait times are different between the map and the tip board. Integrating intelligent experiences should be done tightly with the existing experience.

Increased personalisation

The MyDisneyExperience platform (mobile app, magic band and other platforms) was originally intended to help make the physical experience more personalised and intimate for each guest. The myDisneyExperience mobile app should be more personalised first, from showing the wait time for a guest's favourite attraction or suggesting their favourite character, meal or show.

Standardised patterns in moments of urgency

One key stumbling block for guests when using the MyDisneyExperience app is the map, which also happens to be the most frequently used feature. Using standardised patterns (familiar tasks, buttons or objects) will help distracted guests in a hurry to find the nearest bathroom or how long till the next show.

Top experiences

Often with a mobile app certain features are more open to being great experiences, through the hard work and collaboration of designers, product owners and developers. I’ve judged the below aspects of the experience either great additions, or highlights of the app, neither of these take into account the physical experience, but rather the seamlessness of the user experience.

Mobile Food Order

Mobile food order helps guests explore menus of various quick-service restaurants throughout the Walt Disney World resort and then proceed to purchase food and book a pick-up time in advance. The experience presents menus in a simplified view, along with relevant images for most products. The experience is clean, seamless and easy to navigate.

Hours and showtimes

Hours and showtimes are easily accessed by the customer and viewed at a glance directly on the home feed. This allows guests to quickly decide as to which park to visit or to park hop to. Access to showtime information easily helps guests to quickly understand where they need to rush to or what they need to plan into their day so they don't miss out.

Magic Mobile

Disney MagicMobile gives guests the ability to enter theme parks, enter lightning lane entrances, connect Disney PhotoPass images and charge food and merchandise purchases to a card on file using their mobile device. This feature helps to make the experience simpler and easier for guests, allowing them to use a single digital pass without reaching for a credit card, paper ticket and ID throughout their visit.

Opportunity spaces

Opportunities exist to enhance the mobile app experience and indeed the physical experience through the introduction and integration with intelligent features, new technology and playful experiences. I’ve explored these opportunities to see what a new mobile digital experience would be like for Walt Disney World.

Integrate with intelligent features

Intelligent and machine learning-based features can help guests plan their day easier, find their favourite attraction, food or show faster. Such features can also help to act as personal assistants, helping guests find answers to questions in an intelligible way via automated chatbots, personalised recommendations and prioritised schedules.

A perfect playground for AR

The current Play Disney Parks app invites guests to "Explore the Disney theme parks like never before with interactive adventures, attraction-themed games, Disney trivia" and more. The Disney Parks are a perfect place to be a true playground of augmented reality games and experiences, not just trivia games, simple puzzles or stories.

Reward for loyalty

The Disney Parks, products and experiences arms of the Disney organisation have frequent visitors and purchasers, not just from the dedicated fan community, but from families who travel yearly to those who are locals and visit on a free weekend. Disney should do more to engage with these groups, reward them for their loyalty and use such a program to learn more about their customers and guests.

Close the gap between the physical and digital

As technology evolves apps have been able to close the gap between the digital and physical worlds, by helping guests pay with their phones, use augmented reality experiences and interact with each other in more unique ways. The Walt Disney World app has a unique vantage point here to be playful and innovative in such a space.

Competitor analysis

To understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Walt Disney World app I've examined several apps within the themed entertainment industry.

The MyDisneyExperience app is one of the most complex apps in the industry due to the size of the organisation and the number of guests the resort handles each year. This results in an app that has a much more complex proposition than some of their competitors which only deal with mostly one or two theme parks and many fewer visitors per year.

Universal Orlando Resort

The Universal Orlando Resort helpfully presents guests with a control panel to quickly jump to key tasks; wait times, maps, order food and more. The app also presents a carousel of rides with the current shortest waits and another with new features or up-sell adverts.

Disneyland Paris

Similar to the Universal Orlando Resort app, the Disneyland Paris app presents guests with a control panel of 3 options to quickly jump to key tasks and up-sells. Another panel is displayed for guests to quickly find park hours and their operating calendar.

Alton Towers Resort

Interestingly the Alton Towers app presents guests with a feed of quick links to find answers to frequently asked questions, such as directions and opening times. But also uses a tab bar to let guests explore queues, shops and more.

Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disneyland Resort’s app features the map primarily when a guest first logs in, if the guest then taps the tab bar at the bottom of the screen, it pulls up a feed of primary task items such as restaurant bookings and park information as well as a carousel presenting new or popular upsells.

Knott's Berry Farm

The Knott’s Berry Farm’s app landing screen features many common elements of the other apps analysed as part of this project. The top half is given to the park map and a control panel of key information whilst the bottom half is given over to promoting upcoming events and popular activities.

Six Flags

The Six Flags app once again presents users with a map and an attached control panel for quick access to popular elements of the park map such as food, rides, shows, and more. They also helpfully connect customers to the schedule, their park tickets and the ability to search.

Personas & cohorts

To help guide the prioritisation of features and to help with storytelling, I built a set of personas/cohorts.

These personas/cohorts can help me to define and understand guest needs, wants and actions and help design screens to help tell the story of these guests.

I’ve documented these personas/cohorts and the process of arriving at them in the article below.

Annual Passholders

Starting at $399 per person, Disney World’s Annual Pass offerings allow guests access to the parks and other benefits at select times of the year. Annual Passholders tend to be locals or travel to Florida multiple times throughout the year.

As they generally visit frequently, Annual Passholders tend to have a lower wait time balking point (want to wait less) and tend to spend more days at the parks on average. These guests will also spend less time planning their trip in advance but use their gained knowledge both from their trips and their online communities to guide their days.

Multi-Generational Families

Multi-generational families tend to feature young children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents. These families tend to be 5 members or larger and will move around in a group.

These families tend to focus on attractions, entertainment, and food that the entire family can enjoy. Often skipping over intense attractions in favour of the classic attractions. These families tend to be somewhat prepared, but hope for some spontaneous moments of magic.

Young Families

Young Families, besides parents, will often include one or more younger children who may be on their first trip to the Walt Disney World resort. These families will often spend less time at the parks each day, preferring to spend more time relaxing at their resort and give kids time at the pool or a nap.

These families often arrive at the parks with little planning and will tend to determine the activity and adventures of their day based on the feelings and state of the children.

Adult Fans

Adult Fans will research every part of their trip, follow the latest news and updates from the parks even when they’re not there, and will tend to wait longer in lines for their favourite or new attractions. Fans will also look to find the best snacks, souvenirs, or places to watch fireworks.

Adult Fans will plan their trip extensively and will also use their gained knowledge to ensure they’re riding the correct rides at the right time and making the best use of their time.


A social outing for friend groups aged teen through to middle-aged adults. These groups of guests often visit to find the most thrilling or best rides Disney World has to offer. These groups will also spend more time socialising in the park than trying to ride every ride they can.

These groups will also tend to show up un-planned and ride what they can, with little to no aim to ride any certain rides or see any certain entertainment offerings.

International Guests

International guests tend to be also one of the above family or friend types but will be on their first or once in a lifetime visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. These guests will have done a range of research levels, often planning their trip well in advance.

These guests are looking to make the most of their trip and try to do as many rides, entertainment, and food options as they can before they leave. These guests will also often be prepared to spend more on their trip per day than other cohorts.

New features & services

As part of this project, I've not only attempted to redesign the MyDisneyExperience app into Disney Magic Key but evolved the service offerings by Disney to help give guests a better experience.

These new features and services range from evolving the ways guests wait in line for an attraction to providing digital augmented reality activities for guests to engage with when they’re waiting for an attraction. The aim of these new features and services is to provide guests with more time to explore, play and of course, eat and shop.

These features and services all join under the Disney Magic Key offering, and the app works to be a gateway to managing and interacting with these new offerings.

Club Disney

A loyalty rewards program

Club Disney would be a new, much-needed loyalty rewards program for Disney park, hotel and cruise line guests. The program would reward guests for visiting and booking with Disney, by purchasing Disney products and by using their services.


Guests and customers would be rewarded with discounts, LightningLane passes, points to spend on products and more.


The aim of this program would be to increase loyalty, increase customer satisfaction and increase returnability.

Beacons of Magic

An AR experience like no other

Beacons of Magic sends guests on a quest to re-ignite the magic across the Disney Parks and resorts. Guests will be able to re-ignite magical beacons by completing tasks, puzzles and games, often competing against each other to become more powerful, complete tasks quicker and light more beacons.


Beacons can be found throughout the Disney parks and resorts and can be revealed by viewing the AR magical world through their smartphone or device.

Extension of the story

By using AR and building an extensive immersive experience it allows for the stories of guests' favourite shows and attractions to continue beyond the gates.


Evolving the attraction queue

The switchback queue was an innovation of its time, but guests deserve better, more immersive ways to experience their favourite attractions. NextGenQ is a program to uplift key attractions to have queues that are designed around open spaces, boarding groups, interactive experiences and more.

Benefit for guests

Guests can relax, sit, explore or play whilst they wait for their favourite attraction, without the feeling they are in an endless queue. The story or themeing of the ride can be continued in a way that couldn't be done before.

Benefit for the business

Food, beverage and shopping opportunities for guests can be offered whilst they wait. For example, guests could browse their favourite souvenirs and purchase them before they ride, they can then pick these up once they exit the ride.


Evolving the attraction queue

Whilst virtual queues have been proven to be ineffective for individual popular attractions, having a suite of attractions utilising a virtual queue system would help guests get more out of their day, replacing typical wait times with virtual boarding groups.

Boarding groups

To ensure all guests can ride the attraction without the need to arrive first thing in the morning, VirtualQ boarding groups would open multiple times throughout the day.


VirtualQ would be available on all popular attractions that can't sustain their typical crowds in a standard NextGenQ offering. Such attractions include SpaceMountain, SplashMountain and Tower of Terror.

IA & Wireframes

Before diving into redesigning the app and creating a new digital offering for Walt Disney World resort guests I wanted to ensure there was a grouping of features in a way that made sense. An IA map and a series of wireframes helped to build this understanding and drive the project towards high fidelity screens.

Information Architecture Map

I’ve designed this IA map around key features and tasks Walt Disney World Resort guests frequently need or reach out to with urgency. This IA map presents the top-level features and structure of the app, as guests diver deeper into features the structure of the app should continue to make sense and allow for easy navigation.


The 'Home' page presents guests with advice to help them determine their next step and understand their upcoming reservations.


'Beacons' is the gateway to the Beacons of Magic AR experience where guests can interact with the physical world through completing challenges using their smart devices.


'Photos' presents guests with all the photos taken by PhotoPass photographers and at Magic Photo Spots. It also provides access to unique AR filters for selfies and taking photos throughout the resort.


'Chats' allows guests to quickly and easily chat and share things with their travelling party, it also allows guests to talk to their virtual assistant to help them make the most of their visit to Walt Disney World Resort.


'Profile' allows guests to quickly view their transaction history for purchases made during their stay, manage their connected accounts and purchasing methods. It also acts as a portal to the ClubDisney rewards program.


'More' provides easy access to all other features, services and content, prioritising features like Mobile food order, VirtualQueue and LightningLane.


The following wireframes and their evolution helped to inform the design style, feature layout and structure of the app. These wireframes were among many sketches and variations upon wireframes until I arrived at the IA structure and design style for the app.

Home wireframes

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to have both a map and a calendar view of a guest's day to make it easy to understand your next steps or to even find the nearest bathroom quickly.

Variations on a theme

As part of the wireframing and high-resolution design process, I went through the process for multiple home page designs before arriving at the final form you see above.

High Fidelity Designs

The following designs are the final designs to represent the concept. I've tried to document many of the concepts I've come up with as part of this project in prototype animations. For more clarity on the visual design of certain features visit their dedicated pages linked in the different sections above.

Home Screen Features

The home screen features most of the experience that guests interact with frequently, focusing mainly on a powerful, interactive map and a daily plan of activities.

A powerful, interactive map

A map is often at the centre of any visit to a theme park. Used for finding attractions, food and restrooms, guests are often left standing in the centre of a path wrangling a massive fold-out map.

With this redesign, I ensured that a powerful map was easily accessible by users. The map provided features not generally expected by a theme park, and that ultimately made the experience of exploring and finding easier.

Find Friends

The biggest new feature brought to the Walt Disney World map is the 'Find Friends' feature, which allows users to find the location of their friends within the parks and resort areas. Users of this feature will need to have their friends added and have them opt into sharing their location with them.

Rotating info

A new rotating info banner can be found at the bottom of the map which presents users with important information such as weather, park hours, upcoming events and more. This information rotates frequently.

Smart Info

The map not only presents the current wait times for your favourite attractions but will alert guests as to when and where an event, parade or show begins. Guests can also easily live track the position of the beginning and end of the parade.

Easily plan out your day

The ‘My Plan’ section of the home screen allows users to easily plan and manage their day at the Walt Disney World resort. From automatically seeing their dining reservations, fast passes, lightning lane purchases to manually adding their favourite attractions, events and parades.

Plans can easily be shared amongst multiple guests and can be updated throughout the day based on recommendations from the app.

Use time more effectively

The ‘Tip Board’ section of the home screen helps guests to find the best attraction or show to experience right now and what to plan for next. The tip board is there to help promote guest movement and sell lightning lane passes, helping the business accomplish an increase in customer satisfaction and revenue-raising simultaneously.

Explore and discover things to do

From browsing wait times to finding the best snacks within the parks, the ‘Explore’ section helps guests find everything they can do, eat or experience on Walt Disney World property.

Guests can filter by wait times and attractions, food and drinks, parades and fireworks, shows, restrooms and more. It also acts as a space for the business to promote add-on experiences, products and services.

Beacons Screen Features

Beacons act as the portal to the augmented reality experience that exists within the Walt Disney World property. Beacons are scattered throughout the AR WDW world and ask guests to re-ignite the beacons of magic to bring the magic back to the resort.

Take the story into AR

Guests are invited to pick a side; to become a Hero and re-light the beacons bringing magic back to the world, or to become a Villain and cause mayhem and mischief. Guests will choose their adventure and the real world will react around them based on their decisions, accomplishments and more.

Chats & Disney Genie

The Chat section of the app lets guests chat with family members, create group chats, share wait times, photos, plans and more. The Chat section also lets customers talk to Disney Genie, a virtual personal assistant built to help answer guests' questions and help plan their day.

Ask all your questions and get an instant response

Disney Genie is a virtual personal assistant designed to help answer guests’ everyday questions, help plan their day and make their day more magical. Guests can get answers to questions like:

‘When do the busses go to Magic Kingdom?’

Disney Genie can even help book things like dining reservations, fast passes, park tickets and more.

Profile Features

Profile allows guests to track their spending history on their Magic Band, access their digital key (ticket, room key and more) and manage connected profiles (kid and family accounts).

Activity & Connected Accounts

Here guests can review the purchases they’ve made using their WDW Digital Key or Magic Band and keep track of their budget. Guests are also able to manage connected accounts including those of their kids and other family members.

Customise Digital Keys

Guests get a digital key which they can use as their ticket to get into parks, their hotel room key or even as a card to make purchases throughout the resort.

Guests can also choose the artwork that appears on their digital card, selecting from a range of default designs or choose to use a design that displays their loyalty level with ClubDisney (a conceptual Disney rewards program).

More Features

The more section of the app is for all the secondary features that guests don't use frequently. These features include mobile food orders, purchasing tickets, reviewing your resort, changing settings and more.

Your resort

Your Resort allows you to explore and learn about all of the benefits and amenities available at your resort, unlock your hotel room key and connect with guest services.

More menu

Plan your next trip or just the next few days of your adventure right in the app, access tours and guides where you can learn about Imagineering, find the best ways to tour the park and more.

Mobile food order

Order food straight from your device, order food to be picked up later or use your device to order food when you're seated at a quick-service restaurant and it can be brought straight to your table, allowing you to spend more time enjoying the magic.

On Reflection

What I'm proud of

With this project, I’m proud of the process I went through to understand the problem, where the industry was heading, and what an ideal version of the Walt Disney World app would be for myself and for other guests.

I’m proud of the visual design; achieving both a playful design whilst keeping consistent with the clean design direction of apps in general.

I’m also proud of the level of thinking that went into this project, and the level of documentation I’ve been able to gather to help tell the story to you and others.

What needs improving

Besides being limited in data and user testing ability (which is something I hope to do with every project), there are a few pieces of this project that I wish to continue working on, evolving and enhancing to meet my and other users’ expectations.

One of the main aspects that I’m still not happy with is the home screen. With the amount of information that guests need to plan their day and understand what to do next, I’ve had a hard time designing a home screen that’s able to show this information in a clean and simple manner.

I also feel as though the Beacon and Chat features need more documentation and exploration to better showcase my thinking. As well as doing prototyping these features and testing them with users to understand their value and their desirability.