Quanto: Travel Budgeting Application

I wanted to build something useful, something beautiful, something that can support people’s beliefs.

Why

Wonderlust, the travel bug, adventure…

We all have an inkling fascination with a voyage into an unknown land and be rewarded with unforgettable experiences. Whether this is sparked by a post on Instagram, a conversation with a friend who stole your attention about their travels over a drink or just for business. We all dream about traveling.

Traveling does wonders for our consciousness. It increases our capacity for understanding our fellow humans and most importantly ourselves. Experiencing a different world exposes us to information and experiences we would have encountered otherwise. Our understanding of the world greatly relies on our perception. Perception is coupled with reality and reality can be mediated. Our consciousness is expanded with every journey.

Though it is fun to dream, reality seems to transition those thoughts into doubt. Many unanswered questions can slowly drain our dreams of their color and one question in particular is always prevalent. How much does it cost to travel?

How

The outlandish price of traveling to your dream destinations is greatly exaggerated (depending on your income bracket). Travel cost too can be manipulated to suit our needs with adjustments to ones traveling style. Debunking the myth of expensive travel is not an easy task, hence there is no one place that caters of every travelers needs. The best way to debunk a myth is to expose it as just that. A Myth. Revealing the truth has an almost immediate effect on our perception if one is willing to believe the evidence.

Research into the price of traveling lead me to many portals, for example, flights price can be sourced using SkyScanner and for hotels Bookings.com would be another obvious choice. Yet when the question of how much spending money should one carry, nothing really comes to mind. A google search of the phrase led me a number of sites, two stood out above the rest Expatistan and Numbeo.

Numbeo & Expatistan

These websites are what I would call the “Wikipedia’s of Cost of Living Indexes”. Their collection of data is immense which includes data from multiple countries, cities, products and transportation prices. Numbeo does expand its data to other areas such as housing indicators, health care, traffic, crime and pollution. Though being different companies, they each strive to supply the world with accurate up to date data.

Expatistan and Numbeo have a great collection of user generated data and have simple enough interfaces to navigate and collect the information one needs. Their feature sets also include comparison calculators which are useful to generate more accurate data. Even with their data being constantly update they give the appearance of the an earlier age of the digital era, the Information Age.

The What

We stand on the backs of giants in our everyday struggle to push the envelope. Progression is made easier when one is building on top of previously successful projects. I began to analyze the actual experience of such data and believed that it could be seen in a different light. The current state of the internet grants one access to numerous API’s for little to no cost. This door of information is intended to be consumed by others to improve on what was perviously done. This vastly increases the acceleration of project getting off the ground.

“The biggest difference between the new century and the old lies in the difference between the eras of information technology and data technology. Information technology aims to control, while data technology aims to share,”
~ Jack Ma

Armed with the necessary data I began to develop an application that could assist people with their travel budgets.

Task

UI/UX for an travellers personal financial management application

Product Goals:

• Ease of use
• Clear Representation of Information
• Personalized data

The Journey

UX

The goal of the interface is to create an easy to use and understand for the user to familiarize with the process, multiple iterations where suggested leading to a more guided approach to the design. On boarding consists of a series of questions that allow the user to contribute information, this is to allow for customization and more personalized data displayed to the user. The user experience through the application primarily consists of questions as to adhere to natural language one would use in conversation. The informal style of speech when one is interacting with technology take’s the edge off having to work yet another application.

Features

To support the goal of the application it needs to have certain features that enable the user complete their goal, some of which are:

• Comparison
• Calculation
• Budget Utilization

Being able to compare the prices of products against the prices in ones own place of dwelling also a person to comprehend the arbitrage. User are given the opportunity the purchasing power relative to their base currency.

Converting ones budget through a currency converter doesn’t not truly reflect the true value of said currency once converted. Using the destinations product prices one can see how much their budget would afford them.

Saving for a trip is one thing that can be done without the assistance of this application, yet with Quanto people can save whilst watching the current price of products. Giving users the ability to change saving habits according to the fluctuation of product prices. The ability to see ones bank balance abroad can also greatly assist them in managing their finances. Visibility into personal spending gives users the ability to alter their spending style, maximizing the reach of their financial resources.

In the future one would be able to link their personal accounts to the application, receive their information on their account whilst abroad

Development a.k.a Code

Web prototype

Original prototype was built using Angular2 and Firebase. Many features beyond the scope of the task were developed.

iOS MVP

I later developed the MVP application on the IOS platform, using swift3 and Firebase.

The technical aspect of this journey will be covered in a later article.

Testing

For the duration of the project various attempts where made to seek outside opinions. Trying to stay true to the agile manifesto, regular peer reviews we organized with all available candidates — mostly friends, family and colleagues, thanks mom 😬.

Concept to MVP

The initial prototype didn’t take long to unearth concerns, especially surrounding user being able to understand what was going on. My initial instinct of creating an uncommon UI for information was met with a lot of confusion, thus prompting a redesign that used more conventional methods of displaying financial data.

Complexity paradigm

Everyone level of understanding varies extensively. During production users who constantly tested the application became more competence in the information architecture. This allowed me to understand the time taken for a user to become accustomed with how the information is displayed.

To assist users with the informations architecture, progressive disclosure is utilized, showing the next step in the experience only when the previous is completed.

What has been discovered so far, is that users understand the concept of travel budgeting, confirming that usefulness of such data. Even after exposing users to Numbeo and Expatistan as a reference for comparison, feedback was still primarily positive.

Conclusion

So far on this journey I have learned that nothing really ends, there is no finish line. Creating a product is about research, development and testing….and repeating that process over and over. It has more to do with understanding the needs of the end user than it has to do with anything else. Essentially the more people I get to use the system the more I can refine it. Hopefully I might find people to work with on similar missions. Yet for now it is still to soon to say anything with the ignorance of certainty, and I dont think that will happen anytime soon. Like travelling this has been a journey.

Thanks for reading

This was a rather high level introduction about the research and development that went into the creation of Quanto.

Would be great to see you back later, I will be documenting more processes in detail as I try to bring something useful to the world.