The making of Travely! — Optimise your travel experience wherever you go

This week had been really fun and challenging because I’ve created my first prototype in class! I was tasked to create a mobile app prototype in the travel category, a topic that my project partner, Shawn, had chosen.


Stage 1: Conducting User Research

My first exploratory interview with 2 gentlemen.

1. Exploratory Interviews (2x)

I interviewed two of my classmates, asking them broad questions about trip planning and their travel challenges.

To my surprise, I found out that they were very different travelers sitting on extreme ends of a spectrum — one of them likes travelling with an itinerary, and follows it closely, and the other dislikes travelling with an itinerary, but still uses one loosely and follows it only 30% of the time. This spark my curiosity and I decided to explore a bit more on itinerary planning.

In-depth user interviews in action!

2. In-depth User Interviews (4x)

In this phase, I was more thoughtful in identifying the right target audience, and structuring my interviews by planning specific topics for discussion.

My criteria for the respondents was that they had to be involved in itinerary planning for a recent trip for leisure. They can be either the main planner or co-planner, so long as they are involved in the planning process, and can expand on the topic. I also chose to focus on any recent trips for leisure so it is easier for my respondents to recall their behaviour.

Discussion guide I’ve used to conduct my user interviews

I created a short discussion guide detailing topics and questions I’d like to cover in the interview. I then proceeded to interview 4 respondents, and recorded the interviews using voice memos on my iPhone. It was less daunting to conduct user interviews this time round as I had specific questions I want answered, and I can feel my confidence building up with each interview conducted!

Stage 2: Synthesising research

After completing the user interviews, I went back to transcribe the discussion from the audio recordings, and picked out 3–4 key takeaways for each respondent.

Key takeaways per respondent, with each feedback consisting of a fact and a reason.

As a quantitative researcher, this was the hardest process for me. I am used to analysing data in numbers, so analysing text quickly proved to be difficult. Still, I enjoyed the challenge in trying to uncover the core motivations behind what users were really saying. One important technique that helped me was to look at respondents’ feedback based on fact, followed by the “why”.

Uncovering the “why” was critical in helping me understand what users were really saying. When I looked at the whys more closely, three key themes emerged and I was able to use affinity mapping to group the relevant cases together, and further define the “I” statements.

Affinity mapping — it was much easier connect the dots and see the overall themes when you look at the whys!

The 3 key themes were:

  1. Flexibility — “I want to be flexible in my travel plans so I can enjoy the trip and not rush.”
  2. Directions/Navigation — “I want to be sure I know how to get from point A to point B.”
  3. Time management — “I want to spend time exploring the specific places in my itinerary, and less time in between travels.”

Looking at the “I” statements was helpful, but I wanted to push myself further to get to the core of the issue. So I revisited the key takeaways and my interview notes, and identified the underlying motivations and goals behind each “I” statement:

  1. Why flexibility? — To optimise the travel experience in order to have fun.
  2. Why directions/navigation? — To be confident, so they know they won’t be lost, and are in total control.
  3. Why time management? — To be efficient, so they can use time efficiently to explore interesting places, and not waste too much time travelling to and from destinations.

Stage 3: Defining the problem & solution statement

Uncovering the underlying motivations and goals then formed the foundation of my problem statement, and led to the birth of Travely! — which means to travel timely and happily!

Problem statement (What I’ve observed)

People often feel rushed to complete their itinerary because they don’t have the confidence to navigate and they aren’t efficient in using their time to get from one place to another.

Solution statement (How I can fix this)

Introducing Travely! — A mobile app that helps users optimise their travel experience in a foreign country by guiding users on way finding via the most efficient route to minimise travelling time, and suggesting nearer attractions to visit when pressed for time.

Stage 4: Creating Travely!

1. Defining the User Flow

To create the user flow, I had to think about the context of use — in what situations would my users use my app? I came up with 2 scenarios which helped me in mapping out my user flow:

Scenario 1 — Way-finding:
Jane is trying to get to place A. She already has a detailed guide printed out but is still lost and unsure of how to navigate. At this point, it is important for her to know where she is and where to move next. Being able to see her own progress (i.e. am I now nearer or further away from my location of interest?) is important to ease confusion and increase her confidence.

Scenario 2 — Suggestions for nearby attractions:
On the last day of the trip, John woke up late and doesn’t have enough time to follow his itinerary for the day. He wonders if there are alternative places nearby that he can check out instead to explore the city.

These 2 scenarios made me realized that Travely! functions more like a crisis management tool, so the design should allow users to get answers they need quickly. With that in mind, I decided that the app will only have 2 core functions — to get directions to a specific location, and suggestions to places nearby. There will not be a need to create an account so users can start using the app immediately.

Final user flow diagram

2. Creating the Prototype

From rough sketches to actual screen design

I started by making rough sketches of the interface. After I’m comfortable with the rough guide, I then use Sketch to create the screens, and Invision to create the interactive prototype.

Stage 5: Quick User Testing

Although I was running out of time, I did 1 quick user testing with a friend during dinner, and he gave me 2 feedback which I then use to iterate my design.

Question 1: “How do I find out more information about the attraction? Like what can I do there?”

In the revised design, I’ve added a “read more” button so users know they can find out more about the attraction.

Unfortunately, my friend didn’t know that he can click on the attraction image to find out more information about the place. I had to revise the screen to include a “read more” button to make it more obvious.

Question 2: “What is my mode of transport? Can I take public transport? The first one looks like it is by car. Option by car is redundant for me because I don’t drive in other countries.”

In the revised design, the mode of transport is clearly marked on the left and users can also filter the results based on their preferred mode of transport.

My initial design was so rooted in giving users the recommended routes that I had ignored the need to spell out the mode of transport and give users the control they need to choose their preferred mode. I then revised my design to make sure these points were included.

Future considerations

While the creation of Travely! has addressed issues with way-finding and travel efficiency, I do think the solution can still be improved. At least two functions can be introduced to enhance the service in the next version:

  1. More filters for places of attractions: On top of suggesting an overall list of top places to visit, differentiating attractions based on price, type of activity, and even weather can better cater to different users’ travel needs.
  2. Planning ahead: As Travely! is more of a crisis management tool, it doesn’t allow users to plan ahead. This can be quite nerve-wrecking for those who prefer to make sure things are perfect before the actual trip. While the creation of Travely! was never meant to completely replace itinerary planning but more to complement it, I do see merit in allowing users to plan ahead. In the next version of Travely!, I would consider adding a function that allows users to upload their itinerary, so they can revise their travel plans using the app before the actual trip.

Final thoughts

The most important aspect I’ve learnt from this project is that getting to the core of users’ feedback is critical to understand the real problem I’m trying to solve. While I’m proud to have dedicated most of my time to the analysis stage, I know I still need to work on my time management as I almost ran out of time to work on my presentation, and had also dedicated too little time for usability testing.

Overall, I’m really happy with what I’ve created in such a short duration, and I look forward to my next challenge!


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