How 2 developers and 1 product designer created in 24 hours a feature for building and buy trips in an easy and delightful way. And won!
Recently (2014) I participated on my first in-house hackathon which was a fascinating experience full of passion, hard work and obviously a lot of fun.
Consisted in developing a project within 24 hours (from 15:00 till 15:00) from scratch. 15 teams, 75 people (mostly engineers) and a return flight worldwide as a prize.
Since the event came up to my ears I thought it would be a great opportunity to apply all the knowledge I have been acquiring during all this years working in the technology industry as a designer and show the importance of a good design approach for any company.
An event like this allows the participants to think outside the corporate box and unlock the day by day blockers you get when you work in a big company.
My fellow Grzegorz Pawlik (Front end developer) knocked my door just when he listened a challenge like that and we already knew that were the perfect team. We know quite well each other because we have been working together for more than 2 years and launched a side project called letsdomingo.com. (Check out the story later here)
A UX designer knows that having close a killer frontender will make the difference.
Another backender colleague, the Marketing Tech Lead -who actually had the initial idea-, asked to us to form a team and due to we were missing some back end support we agreed to join him for the competition.
Come up with a great idea is the hardest part. We had a couple of them but none we were super clear to go for. One thing we have had always in mind is that we only want to build things that we would love to use. Despite we were chains free we should accomplish a couple of requirements to develop a winner idea:
- Aligned with the business objectives
- Improve our front-end customer experience
We know the weakness and strongest of our company and we know perfectly travel industry so our idea should cover all this points:
- Be innovative. Do something competitors are not doing nowadays
- Be reachable. Something that could be a reality in a mid term period with the available resources
- Be useful. Something that give value to the customer.
- Be easy to use. Don´t do the user think too much or he will get frustrated fast.
After brainstorming some ideas we finally came up with the one which will be the genesis of the project: a tool for building itinerary trips. Some companies are already offering that service so here started the real challenge: steal the good ideas from all our competitors, throw away the bad ones, apply all my know how and the companies tools and come up with a concept which will be memorable, innovative, easy to use and attractive for the business.
Traditionally OTA´s have based their business in selling cheap flights to non expert internet users. It was a very profitable business with a huge amount of technological investment but nowadays customers are realising that in most of the cases buying flights directly to the airline is actually safe and cheaper than buying them to an intermediate.
So a rethink on the business model is a must if you want to survive on the digital jungle.
We should create a tool which give value to the customer in order to make them buy in our sites not only because of the cheap prices if not because they really find value on our products. And here it comes: TripPlanner!
Bellow some of the features that better represent the project:
✓ Multiproduct combinations
One of the main features our tool will offer is the possibility to create new product combinations. Instead of the standard package Flight + hotel we will offer flight + restaurant, flight + concert, flight + car + football match, and infinite product combinations.
✓ Visible itinerary easy to save and share
The second main feature is the itinerary creation. At the same time user is choosing what want to do or how want to move around all the timeline itinerary will be very visible and ajustable by drag and drop. Always when user decide is done has the chance to book or save.
✓ Inspirational search
Sometimes happen that the user don´t know exactly when or where to go and traditional search by exact dates and destination doesn’t works for them. Firstable, we introduce the capability to choose a destination by country, by region, by estate or by friends (taking the location from facebook). Secondly user can select by a range of dates, by entire month or anytime.
✓ Search by budget
This is a very cool feature. We all care about money and obviously is always a limitation when travelling. Why not to let the user see how the budget decrease when adding more products to the itinerary? On this way users can can merge their desires with the real budget and create the perfect trip.
✓ Tips personalisation
Users usually need some help to take decisions and here we are offering a top service based on the user preferences and behaviour.
We already know a lot about the user since S/he made the first search so we can give more accurate tips related with the budget, the dates, the number of people, the season of the year and the destination.
If we know, for example, that the user want to go to United Estates but don´t know the specific country, we can offer the best location to go for the selected dates.
On the same way we can drive the user throughout the app depending on the behaviour.
If user is taking so much time by selecting a hotel we will start offering some hotels with good reviews on Tripadvisor for the city is looking for.
Finally, if user interacts with the interface, for example, deleting a hotel from the timeline, automatically we show the option undo.
Grid view / map view
Our products are very related to map locations so one of our requirements was to allow the user the possibility to change the view from grid to map. On one side you can have, for example, inspiring images of a hotel and on the other the exact location of each one.
I´m feeling lazy feature
Finally we added this “I´m feeling lazy” button on the searchbox where automatically user gets a full ready trip built and editable. Depending on the info user gave to us like destination or budget we can build a perfect trip ready to buy.
One of the final challenges was to came up with a product that could be easily integrated in our sites. We open 2 vias for landing at “Tripplanner”:
- Introducing a new tap on our search box with all the inputs needed to perform a proper itinerary trip
- Adding a “Add to trip” button to all our existing results in flights and hotels.
This was one of the hardest parts after all this time without sleep. Instead of other teams which had preparated a very complete presentations of theirs hacks we only spent 1 hour in thinking how to present the project on the best way. As we only had 5 minutes we should be fast and direct so we first presented the idea, sencond the prototype and finnally we closed with this video I recorded from the Invision across the entire flow to recreate a real experience.