My one-stop travel inspirations app design

Screenshots of my app. Images courtesy of Pixabay.

There have been several one-stop travel apps developed aiming to improve travelers’ experience. Yet, research has shown that most travelers still rely on a wide variety of online sources throughout the entire travel process. These range from branded and non-branded websites and apps, such as TripAdvisor, Expedia and Airbnb, to social and video content, such as Facebook and YouTube.

User Research

Travel is such a broad topic that I see the importance of understanding travelers’ experience, beginning from the travel planning phase and ending with the post-travel experience.

I interviewed 6 people who have travelled in the past year to understand their travel experience and needs. My biggest challenge was determining the right questions to ask, and they might vary depending on how the conversations flow. Nevertheless, most of my interviewees were helpful enough to share their travel stories. This helped me gain further insights into their problems.

Some of my questions include:

  • How did you plan your travel and why?
  • Who did you plan your travel with?
  • What apps did you use while travelling and why?
  • What did you do after travel? How and why?
Interviews
Observations
Distilling

It was surprising that some travelers experienced a mix of contradictory feelings while planning their travels — excited yet stressed. Yet, all of them engaged in and enjoyed extensive post-travel sharing on social media, especially travel photos.

These naturally led me to establishing my …

Problem statement*: Travelers are excited about their travels, yet overwhelmed by the extensive research they need to do to plan their travels.

Solution statement*: Reduce the stress of travel research and maintain the expectation and excitement for their travels by reducing time and effort for maximum browsing.

Pictures speak a thousand words. Therefore, I aim to solve the problem by making the research and planning phase visually dynamic. However, I was also wary of running into an all-in-one solution. More often than not, wanting to do everything leads to doing nothing. I also took the IKEA effect into my design consideration.

Solution

Encounter is a visual discovery-cum-planning app, providing travelers with travel inspirations shared by co-travelers and enabling them to plan their travels together with friends and co-travelers.

This is how it works:

Step 1: Travelers find and save travel inspirations from co-travelers’ travel photos and tips in the form of pins sharing.

Step 2: They can invite friends to plan itineraries together.

Step 3: They can share their travel photos as pins which then contribute to the source of inspirations for other co-travelers.

I structured my user flow to show how travelers could navigate in my app. This formed the basis for making my prototype.

User flow of my app prototype.

Final thoughts

If not for the time constraints, I would find users to test my prototype and iterate my design based on their feedback. I would also research why some travel apps succeed while others fail, and take the lessons learned into consideration.

Based on my user research, I could incorporate additional features in my design in future:

  • Better curation of user-generated content, such as reviews and ratings given by co-travelers
  • Location map of pinned inspirations for a more holistic planning

Although I did not attempt lo-fidelity sketching, I do see the value it brings. However, I let my perfectionist side took over and avoid roughing out anything. I probably need to change this mindset in future projects.

Mastering the art of asking questions and conducting user research has become my top priority now because if I had started asking more and better questions, I would arrive at better conclusions earlier, avoid much rework later, and have more time to test and iterate my solution.

I contemplated the possibility of how asking different questions can lead to different conclusions. In some cases I may choose to expand my view of the problem instead of remaining narrowly focused. However, I may also choose to steer a conversation based on a specific problem I have chosen to solve. I hope to address this puzzle before my next project, by furthering my understanding of the psychology of questioning and learning from what other UX researchers and designers have shared.