A luxury hotel app to offer local experiences · UX case study

This is a concept project, part of the User Experience Design Immersive course I attended at General Assembly London. This is a group project: I had the pleasure to work with Nicola Young and Luna Felo for this two weeks sprint.

The challenge

How do we explore the places we travel to? For some travellers, the must-see touristic attractions are at the top of the list, others prefer to look for the hidden gems and some of us prefer to improvise. If we already have visited the destination, we might spend more time researching what to do out off the beaten track. But there is something that is always compelling: the opportunity to experience a place as locals do.

That is what our client in this concept project wants to offer. The brief assigned to our group is related to The Curtain Hotel, a five-star hotel and members’ club located in Shoreditch that offers several exclusive areas, providing a central new hub for creative professionals. Most of their members are neighbours and work in creative industries.

This luxury hotel wants to pilot a new program that will hotel allow recreational and business travellers to plan and book local experiences, making it easier for get to know a place through the eyes of those that live locally. Our job is to design a native app to offer the service. It should have a message and chat function and allow users to browse and book local experiences, reschedule bookings and rate and share the experience on social media.

The process

I am going to explain how we faced this project using the Double Diamond framework, Created by The British Design Council. This process model entails four phases to arrive to a successful solution and is based on diverging and converging cycles:

1. Discover: The first step is to gather all the information to understand the challenge and obtain valuable insights.

2. Define: Synthesizing the research findings to specify the right problem to focus on and solve.

3. Develop: Open up phase to explore different possibilities to solve the problem we are focusing on and evaluate what might be the best solution.

4. Deliver: Build, test and iterate on the chosen solution to make sure it solves the problem.

This is not a linear process. It is based on try and fail, learn and iterate, even start from scratch at any point. But that is also what makes the design process fun!


❶ DISCOVER

Double Diamond process: Phase 1

The first step is to know more about the hotel and the users we want to reach, as well as what the competitors are offering.

Competitive analysis

Do other five-star hotels in London offer a service similar to the one we want to create? How are they doing it? Are there other non-direct competitors we should take into account? We researched several hotels in London as well as other companies that offer activities and experiences out of the beaten track, such as SideStory and Airbnb Experiences.

Our main findings were that most of these services do not offer a real-time chat feature so users are not able to contact the provider to ask specific questions about the experiences before booking them. Also, on the majority of websites users are not able to see reviews, especially the ones connected to hotels. They all have in common the ability to select experiences based on personal interests, however most options are popular tourist sites.

Contextual inquiry

Nicola, Luna and I went to the hotel to observe the atmosphere and understand it better.

From the contextual inquiry we learnt that our target audience is older than we initially assumed, the guests are looking for a relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere and mix business and pleasure. There were no recommendations for any kind of activities outside of the hotel on offer.

User research

We interviewed 10 people, both business and leisure travellers. We wanted to know about how they plan their trips, what do they actually end up doing and why do they choose whatever activities they book. We saw some patterns emerging:

  • Trust: ‘It’s a trust thing. It’s hard to find somewhere when you don’t know anyone locally’
  • Recommendations: ‘If the hotel has a selection of trips, I expect some travelling experts have selected them’
  • Discovery: ‘I always have a vague plan of what I want to do but I never book anything. I like it to feel more spontaneous.’

Affinity map

The affinity map help us to analyse and reflect on all the information we gathered through the interviews. Some of those findings are:

  • Business travellers book extra days off after their trip in order to have time for cultural experiences.
  • Travellers want to experience local cuisine but find it hard to find trustworthy reviews.
  • Travellers prefer to research experiences but not book anything unless it is a high-end event in which case they prefer to book in advance.

Persona

Once the reflection on our interview insights is done, we are ready to create our persona. Personas are archetypical users whose characteristics represent a larger group of users, they are really helpful to focus on who are you designing for and empathise.

From our research we created Ella, who has a fast-paced career and travels a lot on business. She loves to travel so always takes days off after her business trips to explore. She is always open to know new places but prefers to be spontaneous rather than make a fixed plan.

Ella is frustrated about how it is hard to find the hidden gems. Sometimes she spends a lot of time planning but the experience is disappointing.


❷ DEFINE

Double Diamond process: Phase 2

At this stage of the process we need a clear concise description of the issue that needs to be addressed, so we can focus our effort to deliver an efficient solution. Our problem statement for this project is:

Luxury travellers need a way to have memorable experiences from a verified, trusted source because they don’t want to spend a lot of time planning to then be disappointed.

How might we…?

This question is part of the Human-Centred Design, a creative approach to problem solving. Once we have framed the problem we want to solve and know who our users are, the creative process to tailor a solution for them starts with this question: How might we solve this problem?

How might we offer unique suggestions on where to visit from locals? How might we make it easier for users to find local experiences?

Hypothesis

We believe that by offering memorable experiences from a verified, trusted source to luxury travellers we will achieve successful travel experiences that require little time to plan.


❸ DEVELOP

Double Diamond process: Phase 3

Feature prioritisation

The goal of this project is to design a Minimum Viable Product with enough features to satisfy the brief as well as the main user needs. We conducted the feature prioritisation in order to specify the actions users would be able to perform and start sketching the user flows:

· Browse curated and personalised content so users can trust the recommendation.

· Book the experiences as well as reschedule them.

· Direct contact with the front desk to provide the quality customer service wherever they are.

Ideation

Time to start thinking on solutions for our core problem. We ran a design studio to start the ideation stage using the crazy 8’s sprint method: a fast sketching exercise that challenges people to draw 8 different ideas in 8 minutes to solve the problem we are facing. The goal is to push yourself beyond the first solution you think about and unleash your creative impulses.

After a series of crazy 8’s we decided to combine a few ideas that we had, such as involve the Club Members in the curation of the experiences the app would offer.

Flows + sketches

Based on the feature prioritisation, we created the flows for the tasks the user would be able to perform and started the first round of paper prototypes. The screens show how Ella would go through the process of browsing and booking a restaurant and speaking to the concierge.

After testing the paper prototype, we learnt that the selection of the restaurants was confusing, as users did not have sufficient information to understand why there were only 10 recommendations.

The booking process was misleading to users as they felt the booking had been completed but had no confirmation. The chat section was understood but the assumption was that they were speaking to a chatbot.


❹ DELIVER

Double Diamond process: Phase 4

Site map

To make sure we were using the right terminology and grouping the features in an understandable way, we conducted a card sorting to concretise the sitemap. The goal here is to show clearly what the main features are and make sure the users can find easily what they need.

Digital prototypes

We created our first digital prototypes to test with the iterations from our paper prototype and did three rounds of testing.

We did affinity mapping and we learnt that users felt they lacked sufficient information on how the restaurants were selected: Users wanted to be able to see more information about the restaurant before making a booking such as menu items, price point and availability. They also wanted a confirmation of the cancellation before it actually happened.

Hi-fi wireframes

We made iterations of the prototype based on the last round of testing: We included a clearer explanation of how the restaurants and experiences were selected and all of the information relevant to making a booking on the restaurant page including map directions and more reviews.

We changed the layout of the ‘my booking’ pages to have upcoming and past bookings as well as confirmed and pending states. We included more personalised information on the chat page in order to make it clear users are speaking to a real person.

Final mockups

We created a brief style guide for the app, based on the client’s website look and feel, to produce the final mockups for the app: