Spotify Design Challenge: The Travel Discovery Experience

Introduction

Note: The following was created for a Spotify design challenge interview.

Envision a mobile app built for the modern traveler to plan their next adventure by connecting them with the hosts of these adventures.

I found this prompt to be quite enjoyable as its constraints were both interesting and creatively stimulating. In terms of deliverables, I was tasked with designing a low fidelity user experience flow for:

  1. The discovery feature that allows travellers to plan and explore options centered around activity and connection with the hosts.
  2. The experience destination page used by the hosts to describe the experience as well as manage connections with prospective travellers.

In addition to these, I also had to create at least one of the discovery screens a high fidelity mock. I decided to present my methods and results in a Medium article for its organizational clarity and beautiful inline image rendering.

Step 1: Who is this app for?

Travel is universal — teenagers backpack through Europe, retired couples visit old familiar towns, and families of five explore new cultures — , so while it is likely that most users of this app would be relatively young since this instance is a mobile-only service, its potential demographic range remains high, which poses a unique design challenge requiring careful thought about accessibility.

With that in mind, I created four personas to fit the different demographics and user types (guest and host) I believe best represent this app’s typical users. To ensure consistency and to keep me on track in my design process, I described their personalities, what each of their desires for this app would be, and how they would use the app to plan their next trip.

One defining characteristic I discovered while creating these personas is that this app’s audience, while technically for anyone who wants to travel and find accommodation, targets more specifically an audience wishing to explore and discover new options instead of simply executing upon already-existing plans. I kept this in mind moving forward.

3 of the 4 user profiles I created to guide my process. Shown are two guests and one host.

Step 2: What problems is the app trying to solve?

From the challenge prompt and my personas’ extensive use cases (not shown in this article), I managed to distill key problems this app attempts to solve. They include:

  1. Not knowing the location or time of a trip but still wanting to explore options based on activity or other attributes.
  2. Wanting to know what others are doing — e.g. what are the most popular destinations, is there a “typical” route for backpacking around Europe, etc.
  3. Wanting better communication between guests and hosts.

Step 3: How are these problems best solved?

  1. Whiteboarding

My process always begins at the whiteboard. I jot my ideas down, sketch out wireframes and user flows, and slowly begin to converge on a set of design principles and ideas that will guide the next stage.

Here, I began by restating the constraints of the problem, and imagined the different ways I could emphasize them in my solution. Physically writing down my thought process allowed me to efficiently cull and reorganize ideas, so I soon arrived at a point where I was ready to move onto the next step.

2. Low fidelity user experience flows

Translating whiteboard wireframes and flows to Sketch is a rewarding task because the rough scribbles which convey only basic ideas finally start taking on a familiar, organized form — details can be added, navigational structures can be solidified, and informational hierarchy can be represented.

I created the two user experience flows outlined in the prompt: the discovery flow for travelers, and the managing connections flow for hosts.

3. High fidelity mockups

My favorite part: turning the dry, colorless wireframes that came from meticulous design and information thinking into beautiful yet useable mockups. The prompt only required one discovery screen as a high fidelity mockup, but I was too inspired to let this opportunity pass me by, so I designed the entire discovery and connections flow from the traveler’s perspective. This is what I came up with:

Conclusion

I truly enjoyed this design challenge because it was the first time I had to deal with imposed constraints such as a word-limited text field for hosts or activity-driven location discovery, and I do enjoy the strategic thinking behind design as much as I enjoy crafting pixels.

Because screen mockups aren’t enough sometimes, I also decided to discover what my designs would look like on an actual device.