Simplifying Travel Planning

I love to travel. I love an adventure anytime. I’ve travelled at least three times each year in the last five years. So when it came to picking a topic to work on from the long list of topics, I naturally picked “Travel” as the topic to explore.

User Research

I think Singaporeans love to travel in general; we take every opportunity to escape the heat and crowd of our tiny island. However, everyone has a different travel style, motivation and agenda, so I set out to speak to some people to understand their travel habits. Unlike some of my classmates, I did not have a preconceived assumption (on the pains of travel) that I want to verify, I thought it would be good to just get an overview of the user’s travel habits, pains and pleasures and see what I insights I can uncover from the conversations.

I wrote a list of questions to ask my interviewees. Travel as a topic is very broad; I streamlined the questions to focus on the “planning” aspects of a trip as I went along the way.

  1. How often do you travel? Who do you usually travel with?
  2. How/who decides where to go?
  3. Describe how you planned for your last holiday.
  4. What things do you look out for while planning for your trip?
  5. Did you meet with any difficulties while planning for your trip?
  6. What activities do you usually do on your trip?
  7. What materials do you rely on when you travel?
  8. Do your trips always go as you’ve planned?
  9. What went wrong/right? Why? How did you resolve it?
  10. Describe a memorable travel experience.

The first few questions allowed me to understand the context of things and the motivations for the user’s travels. The next few questions allowed me to understand their behaviours, pains and pleasures. With these questions, I proceeded to interview some users.

Conducting user interviews.
While performing user interviews, I discovered that some interviewees might perceive some words different from the way we intended it; therefore we have to be sensitive to their reaction and make adjustments along the interview process. For example, while I thought “a memorable experience” could refer to either a good or bad experience that one remembers, most interviewees only associate it with a good experience.

Analysing User Research

I wrote down the information collected from my user interviews in three ways: verbatims, inferences and data.

Example of “Verbatims”, “Inferences” and “Data”.
Information collected from three user interviews.

I used a different colour post-it for each user so that I could identify the user if required. I then try to identify patterns and areas of concern from all the information and clustered them into different themes which made up the affinity diagram.

Performing affinity clustering.

Affinity Diagram

Affinity Diagram

From the affinity diagram, I identified three main problem statements and two interesting inferences.

Problem Statements

  1. I don’t have the knowledge to plan for my trip.
  2. I have difficulty organising/coordinating a large group of people.
  3. I find it difficult to align travel dates with travel deals.

Interesting Inferences

  1. I feel that spending time with loved ones is more important than the places we visit.
  2. I feel that unique experiences make a trip memorable.
These findings were rather different from my own travel experiences, this reminded me to not use my own personal judgment when I researched on a project.

The Problem To Solve

With the findings from the affinity diagram, I outlined a problem to solve:

How might we enable users to plan and coordinate their vacation effortlessly?

Designing A Solution

With this problem in mind, I came up with a solution:

The main features of the app would include:

  1. Intuitively suggest a travel destination based on user’s preferred travel dates, travel companions and budget.
  2. Provides a travel itinerary — with the option to customise.
  3. Able to provide booking of accommodation, flights, local transportation if requested by user — search the web for the best deals.
  4. Keeps track of user’s travel preferences and history to better suggest travel itinerary for the future.
  5. Able to suggest travel itinerary based on reviews/comments from user’s online social activity/circle.

First Prototype and Usability Test

I included the first three functions of the app in my first prototype. I proceeded to sketch out a lo-fi paper prototype and tested it with some users. One of the users was an interviewee from my initial user interview; it was good to gather some feedback from her.

First lo-fi paper prototype.
Conducting usability test.

Feedback gathered from my first usability test:

  1. While I thought it might be good to have “Upcoming Trips” in a listing format so that users can clearly see what is being lined up, users felt it would be more inspirational to have big images of their upcoming trip.
  2. To include a payment screen at the end of the process.
  3. One user suggested allowing all travel companions of a trip to be able to input their preferences while planning for the trip.

Second Prototype

Based on the feedback above, I incorporated feedback 1 and 2 into the next prototype. Feedback 3 would require more testing to access its feasibility.

Storyboard for second prototype.

Link to prototype:

Next Steps

  • To refine prototype and test based on above feedback.
  • If we were to launch such a product into the real world, a lot more testing and user interviews would have to be done along the way at different stages of the project. For example, interviews might have to be conducted to see if users responded to the proposed features 4 and 5 of the app.
  • The business aspects of things would also have to be considered and more stakeholders would need to be involved.
Like what you read? Give mei a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.