When it comes to finding the perfect restaurant or event, Yelp is the 800-pound gorilla. With hundreds of thousands of restaurant reviews, Yelp helps users find new, delicious experiences all over the world.

With an international ecosystem of reviews on nearly every restaurant and tourist attraction, I believe an itinerary planning feature on Yelp could be an incredibly valuable addition to the current platform. Not only would trip planning be an exciting, value-add feature for current, active users on Yelp, but it will also increase KPIs such a MAUs and WAUs because trip planners will invite their friends and trip members to the app to view itineraries.

Here are two visual design assets depicting how an itinerary planning feature on Yelp might appear:

The user’s itineraries for upcoming trips (left) and the user’s detailed itinerary for a specific trip (right)

Let me explain how we got here.

Trip planning on Yelp is a compelling concept, so my UX team and I started analyzing the competitive landscape (Expedia, Trip Advisor, AirBnb) and screening, interviewing, and researching in my community in order to understand how people go about preparing an itinerary. Do people always proactively make an itinerary before a trip? If yes, what is their process? If no, are they depending on the itineraries of friends and other trip members? What are the most frustrating aspects of creating an itinerary? We interviewed 7 people — 3 female and 4 male, all within the ages of 22–30. Here are some key quotes:

“I always proactively build an itinerary for my trips because I want to manage my time and make sure that I am maximizing my experience.”
“I hate planning — it’s painful. I usually just follow whatever my friends want to do, but if I am traveling alone I start out by googling ‘Best Things To Do’… Before I know it, I have 20 tabs open on my browser with different things to do… I wish there was a super easy, streamlined process where I could search, store, and save my itinerary all in one place. Or, it would be even better if I could just use other people’s itineraries who have traveled to the same place before.”

We conducted 7 interviews — here are some key findings:
(i) 5/7 people feel overwhelmed during trip itinerary planning process. One user said, “I use 3 or 4 different tools and platforms when I am doing my trip planning. It is hard to consolidated all this information.”
(ii) 2/7 people do not like planning and would rather follow a group
(iii) 6/7 people said they group their day-to-day trip activities based on location — how far certain activities are relative to one another
(iv) 5/7 people like to share pictures and experiences with other trip members. One person said, “An experience is more memorable when it is shared with family, friends and other trip members.”

From the research and data that we collected during interviews, we were able to build task flows and extrapolate upon them to create user flows for personas of our primary and secondary user types. We defined our primary user as the Meticulous Local Explorer (user who creates the itinerary) and we defined out secondary user as the Stress-free Travel Enthusiast (person who “free-rides” off of the itineraries of others):

From our research synthesis our problem statements became clear and twofold:

  1. Travel planners need a single tool for planning their trip itinerary in a seamless and streamlined process because currently they are using different platforms to gather and consolidate all their information.
  2. Travelers are eager to share photos, experiences, and memories with friends, family, and trip members, but there is not a platform that allows them to share their photos, thoughts, experiences and memories within the same platform as their itinerary.

With our research findings, the wealth of information that Yelp provides us, and our clearly-defined problem statements — we prioritized features:

From here, we began sketching and wire-framing. My teammates and I did two rounds of sketching and then three rounds of digital prototyping, conducting 2–4 usability tests for each digital prototype. From our 3 stages of usability testing, we were able to create a lean and efficient way for the user to (i) construct an itinerary, (ii) edit and add activities to the itinerary, and (iii) share the itinerary with friends and/or other trip members. Below, steps 1–3 depict progress made on the itinerary construction flow:

Step 1: “Building an itinerary” after sketching

Step 2: “Building an itinerary” after 1st iteration

Step 3: “Building an itinerary” after 2nd iteration

Please view our complete and final digital prototype here.

Throughout the process of researching trip planning, I came to believe in the value of this feature more and more. I built out visual designs for how the actual feature should look on Yelp. Here are two of the main feature screens:

The user’s itineraries for upcoming trips (left) and the user’s detailed itinerary for a specific trip (right)

Just for fun, I also built out an additional element that I think could be a valuable addition to this trip planning feature on Yelp. This feature is currently untested, but from speaking with colleagues it seems that there could be high demand for it — this feature is called “Auto-Arrange”.

The Auto-Arrange feature allows for itinerary planners or other trip members to automatically arrange all the activities on their itinerary based on the locations of those activities relative to one another. This way travelers can time manage most effectively. Here are some visual designs for the Auto-Arrange feature:

In terms of short-term next steps, I would like to see this feature developed and implemented within the Yelp platform so that we can effectively collect user data to continue iteration and refinement of the trip planning feature.

If talented UX designers and sufficient time for iteration are devoted to building out this feature, I believe that, over time, Yelp can be the go-to place for trip planning. Not only will this feature enhance the current users’ experience, but it will also attract new users to the Yelp platform because trip planners will invite their trip members to view itineraries on the app.

Trip planning on Yelp is an exciting, new business opportunity for Yelp and also a value-add for the user. I look forward to it becoming a reality.

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