Trip planning, but make it social
Long story short...
For most millenials, travel is a social experience from beginning to end. Millennials get inspiration from social media, travel with friends and significant others, and post their own experiences on social media, which perpetuates the cycle by inspiring others.
WeGo helps users transform their #tripgoals into a reality by making it easier for them to get travel recommendations from within their social network and collaborate on planning trips with others.
Design an app to help millennials plan travel itineraries
I completed this project as a student in Pratt’s UX/UI Design program. I was tasked with designing an app to help millennials plan itineraries for leisure trips.
UX research, UX design, UI Design, Prototyping
Sketch, Principle, Invision, Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop
Designing a digital experience to help users actualize a real world experience required me to understand users' problems in the context of the broader goals they are seeking to fulfill when they travel. I applied Goal Directed Design methodology to help me achieve this.
Secondary research insight
Travel is a social experience, from planning to retrospective sharing
Although I’m a millennial myself, I didn’t want assumptions based on my own limited experience to lead me astray, so I decided to dig into some studies about millennial travel trends. It quickly became clear that social connectivity is a critical part of the travel experience for many millennials:
1. 75% of millennials have never traveled solo and 40% say they feel intimidated by the idea. This means most millennials are planning trips with others.
2. 50% of millennials consulted close contacts during the research phase of their trips.
3. 56% of millennials say they have posted a photo or video from their vacation on social media while they’re away. (which doesn't account for those who share after the trip)
Talking to users
The project brief provided some criteria for the target user demographic:
Have traveled for leisure at least 2 times in the past year
Have traveled for 1+ weeks at a time
I used these parameters to create a screener survey and identify potential interview participants. Out of 15 respondents, I ended up sitting down with 8 for in-depth interviews.
Early in the interview process I realized I was dealing with two very different types of users. Ironically, they often travel together, meaning that my design would need to accommodate both user types at the same time.
The “Planner” usually takes the lead when planning a trip with others. Although the Planners I interviewed didn’t seem to mind the extra research their role requires, they bemoaned the administrative burden of organizing trip related information and trying to keep everyone else in the loop.
“Organizing information from disparate sources in google sheets is a pain” - Planner
“Non-planners” didn't seem to share the same enthusiasm for research that Planners expressed - in fact they often find it stressful or burdensome. Despite the Planner’s best efforts, Non-planners also confessed they often feel out of the loop or overwhelmed by too much information coming from multiple directions (primarily text, email, and google docs).
“It feels chaotic - sometimes I have no idea what’s going on” - Non-planner
Someone must create order from chaos
The user types I identified in the interviews provided models for two primary personas.
Itineraries consist of scheduled plans and unscheduled options
Aside from things that need to be booked in advance, such as hotels and flights, most of the users I interviewed ( Non-planners, in particular) described their itinerary as a collection of suggestions and ideas they can refer to as they go.
“We like to have a list of options to fill flexible time blocks”
A user’s social network is a goldmine for good ideas
When I asked users where they get ideas for itinerary plans the most common answers were:
My social network (friends who have traveled to my destination and people I follow on social media)
To my surprise, every single user I interviewed regarded recommendations from friends or people they follow on social media as the best resource for itinerary ideas. Although most users also consult TripAdvisor and other travel sites during the planning process, the opinion of one person they trust is worth more than thousands of reviews from strangers.
“My friends and I have the same taste so I trust their opinions”
Defining the problem
Planning trips via text and email results in a disorganized process that places a disproportionate administrative burden on one person and leaves others out of the loop.
Creating a shared user journey map helped me locate the pain points experienced by both personas when they travel together, all of which pointed to the same problem. Users typically plan trips in a decentralized way, relying on text and email, which places a disproportionate administrative burden on the Planner and leaves Non-planners out of the loop.
The disorganization and miscommunication that occur before the trip often lead to problems during the trip as well.
The trust users place in their social network presents an opportunity to simplify idea acquisition and decision making, leading to a better planning and travel experience.
The journey map was also useful for visualizing how the experience of one user fits into a larger cycle whereby verified ideas are constantly being passed from one person to the next via social media and word of mouth. This presented an opportunity to translate inspiration into actions by making recommendations from within a user’s social network more accessible.
Moreover, capitalizing on the "networking effect" of a recommendation based ecosystem presents a business opportunity to generate more consistent engagement on a platform that would otherwise see only episodic use. Partnerships with businesses and influencers can also create revenue generating alternatives to the subscription based model of most itinerary planning apps (which doesn't appeal to millennials).
TripAdvisor’s planning feature only allows users to add in-app content, which is a detractor for millennial users who tend to rely on many sources and don’t view TripAdvisor as the best resource for finding the “cool,” authentic experiences they crave.
Trippit is ideal for creating highly detailed schedules, but doesn’t allow for more flexible planning. Premium features come at a steep price for travelers on a budget.
Although Tripsy does allow some flexibility in planning, users have to pay to collaborate with others on a trip.
My research led to the following question...
"How might we help groups keep everyone in the loop during the trip planning process, reduce the administrative burden on the Planner, and make it easy for users to find itinerary recommendations from people they know?"
Understanding user goals in context
I used my research to define the goals of each persona along with a set of scenarios in which they would try to achieve these goals. This helped me think about usage patterns broadly and determine what the app should do and how it should feel to create an optimal experience in accordance with users’ mental models.
Starting with ideal experiences
I used storytelling as a vehicle for imagining ideal experiences for each persona. Focusing on goals rather than tasks at this stage in the process helped me avoid getting bogged down in the details of the interface and interaction prematurely. It also provided me with flexibility to find opportunities to innovate later on.
Defining requirements from the user’s perspective
Working towards greater specificity, I used the scenarios as a reference for extracting a broad set of requirements to support the goals of both personas before, during, and after a trip. I compiled the requirements in a spreadsheet to refine and organize them based on chronology and situational context.
Structuring the experience
Once I had defined requirements from the perspective of users, I began to translate them into groups of related content and features and determine how these groups would be arranged hierarchically within the interaction framework.
Sketching the interaction framework
I sketched a variety of ideas for possible arrangements of content, features, controls, and other UI elements on screens. I also experimented with different navigational patterns to determine which were best aligned with users’ tasks, goals, and mental models.
For example, I borrowed Pinterest’s design pattern for saving plans and ideas from around the web and carried this through from the sketching phase to the final prototype.
Focussing on key paths and validating variants
I used the most successful sketches as a guideline for mapping key path scenarios and rendered them as low fidelity wireframes in Sketch.
Based on the requirements I had already defined, I knew that the ideal path to complete certain tasks might vary depending on the user's context. In cases such as these - for instance, adding a new scheduled or unscheduled plan to an itinerary - I focussed on the path that I expected users to take most frequently. However, I also validated alternative paths and variants that would be more efficient or necessary in other situations.
Prototyping with Principle App and Invision
The final deliverable for the project was a high fidelity prototype. I created the first prototype using Principle, which supported the more complex interactions and animations that I had incorporated into the design (i.e. horizontal scrolling for page controls and automatically disappearing acknowledgement messages).
Unfortunately, Principle left me with limited options for sharing the prototype and made it impossible to perform usability tests via Skype or video call, which some users had requested. For subsequent testing I switched to Invision. In addition to being able to iterate more rapidly, I found that the omission of non-critical interactions didn’t influence users’ ability to complete tasks.
The screens below represent the final design
Plan together and keep everyone in the loop
WeGo supports collaborative planning by allowing multiple users to add plans and ideas to shared itineraries. The visibility of individual plans can be customized so that reservations such as flights are only visible to the user(s) they belong to.
Notifications let the user know about itinerary changes made by other group members and can be set to display automatically when a user opens a trip.
Recommendations you'll love from people you know
Rather than sorting through muddled ratings from strangers, users can quickly find options they know they’ll love by searching for recommendations from friends, influencers, and other travelers within their social network.
Users can submit their own recommendations simply by tapping a button on their trip dashboard. They can also recycle content they’ve already shared on social media, by importing posts from Instagram and Facebook.
Add plans and ideas from anywhere
Users can add plans and ideas to their itineraries directly from other sites while they’re browsing. When adding plans from travel sites like TripAdvisor or from WeGo’s own search database, information about the location is automatically added to the plan. For plans that don’t exist in a database, users can manually enter information.
Smart systems for automation and real time support
With inbox syncing, reservations found in a user’s email are automatically added to their itinerary along with the source email, reservation details, and tickets.
During a trip, the app uses location, date, and time to provide the information a user needs, when they need it. This allows the voice assistant to answer contextual questions such as “What is the next plan on my schedule?”
I continued to refine the design over two rounds of usability testing. Based on user feedback, I reworked the descriptive language for several content sections and calls to action, in addition to improving the task flow for adding recommendations.
Originally, recommendations could only be added through a plan's detail page. To remind users that they can recommend past plans, while avoiding introducing distracting notifications, I added a section to the trip dashboard where users can quickly recommend things they've already done.
Social travel recommendations and group itinerary planning could easily live on separate platforms, but I saw inherent value in combining the two. An elegant solution could not only create a more integrated user experience, but also open the door for more millennial-friendly ways of monetizing than a subscription based model.
I feel that the design successfully translates my research insights into a viable solution in many respects. However, I see considerable room for structural improvements to the framework and simplification of the interface. This project also revealed to me where I need to continue to improve my visual design skills and develop more efficient ways of iterating in Sketch.