Designing a better travel-planning experience
User Research, User Interviews, User Journey, User App Flow, Wireframes, and
Sketch App (Wireframes), Invision (Prototype), Google Sheets (Competitor Analysis)
Three UX Designers
We live in an age where travel has never been easier. Where traveling from America to Europe used to take weeks or months, now can be accomplished in less than a day. With this gift comes the expectation to make the most of these trips through extensive planning and preparation.
What’s the problem?
Much of today’s travel plans and tourism bookings are occurring online. According to a study by Phocuswright, we will see an influx of online attraction and tourism bookings that will reach $21 billion by 2020; gross online tourism bookings in 2015 was $9 billion. One particular company that could benefit most from this growing trend would be Yelp.
Yelp is already leading the way in tourism reviews and suggestions. In 2012, one study showed that over 70 million people are utilizing Yelp each month. It’s clear that Yelp could increase monthly user engagement by offering users the ability to create online itineraries and book tourism attractions at the same time.
What did the users have to say?
In order to understand what the expected user would desire in an in-app itinerary, my team and I conducted a cumulative five interviews of various travellers who utilize Yelp. After spending time and synthesizing the data, these were some of the prominent takeaways:
Though overall associations with Yelp are a mix of both positive and negative, most of our users will still utilize it.
Though users like to have their trip planned out, they still want freedom to easily adjust plans as needed.
Overall, having a game plan before travelling affords maximum opportunities while travelling.
We then took these findings and created a persona that would help us to remain focused on the user needs as we moved into the design phase.
In addition to user interviews, my team and I conducted competitor analyses of similar app offerings.
Indirect competitors mainly consisted of review and travel companies, many of which had varied offerings and tools. This information helped to understand the elements of their products that worked well, as well as shed light on the roadblocks that they might run into. Taking this data, we then sought to make itinerary an even more positive experience.
The Proposed Solution
Once we had our target persona in mind, our team once again sought to reframe our problem and propose a solution:
The problem: By primarily focusing on shared user reviews, customers leave the Yelp site/app to book their travel plans and create their digital itinerary.
The proposed solution: Yelp could increase monthly user engagement by offering users the ability to create online itineraries and book tourism attractions at the same time.
Design-- Consistent and Familiar
Though maybe future iterations of this project might benefit from an overall interface redesign, I felt it best to remain faithful to the familiar layout that is currently used by Yelp, per their style guide .
Before making early prototypes in Sketch, our team collaborated in submitting different design sketches
From here, we took our designs, and I began building the wireframes for our first iteration.
Taking inspiration from other travel applications, our initial iteration had a floating “Add” button on the bottom of the itinerary page. The idea was that a user would click on it when they wanted to add a plan to their itinerary.
However, our first round of user testing showed that people had a very difficult time finding the button and would often opt for clicking on parts of the page that they felt were more intuitive for an “add” function.
After another round of testing, our users were also unclear as to the function of the “sync camera” option. Our proposal was to sync the Yelp app with the users camera so that photos taken on their trip could be uploaded to their itinerary.
There were two problems with this syncing function: first, people didn’t feel comfortable with a third party app uploading their photos. Second, a brief meeting with a web developer informed us that this particular functionality was not feasible.
In the end, we opted for the user add to their itinerary by clicking on whatever day they desired to make their plans.
We were pleased that many of our designs were understood and used effectively. Most all users understood how to share their itinerary with family or friends and adding to their calendar became a cinch.
Another design that seemed to be clear from early iterations was the reservations function. When given the task to make a reservation at Bobby Flay’s new eatery, Gato, users worked their way through the process with ease.
In regards to style, we stayed true to the current Yelp style guide in terms of typeface, color, typography hierarchy, and layout. This gave our prototype that recognizable Yelp “feel” that is expected by their users.
Retrospectives and Next Steps
One of the next steps that I would take would be to perform A/B testing on button color. Yelp does not have much of a precedence with colored buttons, something we added in our design. In our final iteration, we opted for the blue button with white text, as blue is one of Yelp’s primary colors. However, there is a specific yellow hue in the official style guide that some designers felt worked just as well, or perhaps even better.
I am proud of the work that my team accomplished; I believe that we solved the task that was before us-- we took the Yelp app, with no current itinerary option, and designed a feasible function that would allow users to plan out their entire trip on the platform.