How I trusted the uncomfortable process in designing a pocket-concierge for the new-age traveller
Trabble is a social eConcierge platform that provides inbound travellers with the answers to all their questions, based on individual’s needs and preference. It was one of the 5 selected startups chosen to undergo The Roost programme by IDEO x The Working Capitol in Singapore.
Consider, as compared to 5 years ago, how trip-planning today is seen a luxury and 2hr flights already feels draining. While there are merits in trusting a local friend to take you to the best places, the new-age has pampered us to desire for a more solo-driven exploration and hence, more personalised experience. The question was, how do we frame ‘personal’ in the context of someone exploring a new city in his/her own terms, and how do we deliver relevant information to facilitate a seamless experience?
I love bringing products to life. Here’s how I did it.
As a UX strategist with a birds eye view, I design for brand identity, user experience, business strategy, technical execution and data analysis. I used the methodical process below to solve design problems for each of the project components I was designing for.
The brand has to speak to explorers, not wanderers.
Over weeks conversations with hosteliers and couchsurfers, the team developed a working theory that there were three archetypal travellers: Ninja Tourist, situational or business traveller known to maximise his travel journeys, squeezing in an attraction or two between budget meetings and spreadsheets ; Immersive Adventurer, strictly local chill hipster who loves to wander about quaint streets only to chance upon homegrown gigs ’n’ fleas; And Everyday Tourist, enthusiast with an encyclopedic list of itinerary, aiming to visit and cross out every attraction mentioned on your world wide web.
Testing with hosteliers to design for user experience.
What I realised accelerated the problem-solving process was letting the user co-create the solution, similar to how dev teams run agile. Uncomfortable because you lose control, but worth the efficiency knowing that every incremental decision you make counts for the users’ sake.
We brainstormed ideas and immediately sought feedback on sacrificial concepts, which were more meaningful forms of features to story-tell. Thereafter, as a team we codified what ‘personal’ means to a traveller and then created several prototypes to test the logic with hosteliers. I was very surprised at how receptive the potential users were to the avatars on the clickable wireframes and what we found out was that majority went straight for getting directions or saving the activity-attraction in an itinerary.
The more complicated part; Designing for business strategy, tech execution and data analysis.
For a team to move as a unified unit, designing for links between user, business and brand goals is essential. In this case, mapping the whole product architecture required me to take into account diverse user desires and preferences, integration of third party services for rev-share, integration of chatbots, and the mapping of user inputs & datapoints building up to a system that ML can effectively kick into action.
As a UX strategist and designer parachuted in a fast-moving and resource-strapped setup, what I feel works is;
- Rather than a well thought-through process at the start, it is more ‘agile’ to have a broad scaffold and be aware of the various research and prototyping tools (eg. IDEO HCD kit & GV sprint) available to uncover each doubt along the way. In this case, my iterative process at the start simply looked like this; User Research > Ideation > Strategy Development > Building > User Testing
- Building creative confidence; By picking up the habit of designing experiments, hacking quick prototypes to show to users, especially to test every small linkage between each piece of the product puzzle. As much as with end-users, also empathising with each person in my team and getting them involved in the fun!