Project: Ahoy Travel App
Capacity: MICA Group School Project (8 Weeks Total)
Role(s): UX Research, UX Design, Project Manager, Content
(Our group rotated through these roles week-to-week in order to gain perspective, insight, and understanding in the collaborative design process)
Planning group travel can be very overwhelming. Choosing where to stay, how to budget, and when to schedule activities can create tension in groups in what should be a fun time. We wanted to find out the main struggles for group travel and find a delightful solution to this dilemma.
How might we redesign the group travel planning experience to help reduce stress with communication and coordination?
We planned to engage travelers to better understand the issues and struggles with planning a trip with a group of people. We created a prototype that would be able to make coordinating and communicating through the group planning experience easy, fun, and drama-free.
To confirm our assumptions, we first conducted a competitive analysis and industry research into the services currently on the market. From this we learned that the major gap in this experience was, in fact, the coordination between groups. The competitors focused only on getting you the best deal, which although helpful, lacked the capability to coordinate travel amongst groups. This gave us a direction to design for.
Problem Statement: The current state of the online travel industry has focused on the individual, or small group, and getting them the lowest cost for travel.
What existing products/services fail to address is the need to provide coordination for group travel, and how overwhelming it can be to choose where to stay, and how to select and schedule activities. Booking group travel can also be a stressful and emotional experience, from collecting payments, to deciding on activities.
Our product/service will address this gap by allowing group travelers to book full travel plans, with activities, which includes budgeting and payment options for each individual within the group, and transparent group communication-coordination capabilities. It will eliminate the pain points/stress associated with budgeting, and coordinating payments.
We then developed a potential user type/target audience, based on our user assumptions, in order to better guide our research and motives.
25-65 year olds
In anticipation of the destination trip
Group Travel for Leisure
Its a hassle to coordinate and communicate in groups
A Mobile App
I then created a survey for additional research in order to gather user’s thoughts and emotions from their experiences group travel planning. Due to time constraints I decided a user survey would be our best option to yield the most information. I intended to get to the root of the human problems in this experience in order to confirm we were solving a problem that needed to be solved.
A 10 minute online survey
Posted on multiple social media groups/slack channels and Friends of Friends recruiting
21 users in our target market that have experience in planning group travel
"Can you describe the typical steps you would take to go about planning a group trip?”
“What would make the perfect group travel planning experience to you?"
"Tell me about a time coordinating a group trip was a positive experience."
"Can you identify what made it positive?"
After synthesizing the data using affinity mapping, I discovered four main inflection points for our users that in turn, coupled with our other research, revealed our key product features in order to have the most impact on the user experience:
Four Key User Insights:
The need for organization was an overarching theme across all parts of the experience and all users
Decision Making Hierarchy:
There is a need for some type of leadership and an efficient process to make decisions.
Teamwork & Collaboration:
Groups value the input of all group members and want a way to communicate effectively and fairly.
Emotional Ties & Investment:
Planning trips impact the moods of those involved, as sensitive subjects such as money and differing opinions can be stressful.
Key Product Features:
1. Customizable/Editable Itinerary
- a simple way to search and discover
2. Ease of decision making/appeal to sense of teamwork:
- ability to delegate tasks
- interactive surveys/polls
3. Simple communication feature
4. Customizable budgeting feature
5. Overall accessibility of app on mobile device
Lastly, after all of this research we were able to fine-tune our target user and as a group we create three solid personas to keep in mind as we moved forward designing.
We created a place-holder name for our app, VOCK, in order to give our project some semblance of identity. I started iterating on possible user flows and a sitemap for our app’s functionality and navigation that was based off of our research, assumed user needs, and personas.
I also created a basic color palette to start off our design system in order to give our group some cohesion when designing wireframes in our next step. I then, based on our previous stand-up meeting discussions, defined our design principles in order to have set guidelines to refer back to during UX and Visual design iterations.
Our group then started designing wireframes based on user task flows showcasing our main features. We also took into consideration these screens from both an “admin” and “group member” perspective. After a weekly stand-up, we came to the conclusion that the budget screens/flow, were dense, overwhelming, and too much data for someone to have to manage for a travel app. As you can see below, we iterated on the budget flow many times, and ended up combining screens in order to come up with the most user friendly flow to test in the future.
Going forward we made sure to remind ourselves that “simpler is better” and I came to the conclusion that our scope was too large. Trying to show both perspectives was too much to focus on and to much to complete in the given time frame. I redefined our project scope and what prototype user flow was needed to optimize our MVP deliverable:
"We decided to refine our project scope to a specific user flow in order to organize and prioritize our design process going forward. We collaborated to create an end-to-end full user flow showcasing how one of our personas would use our app in different stages of the trip planning process.
The following flow is our ideal overall process (that would normally be spread out over the course of weeks/months of planning) but condensed into one user flow. The following is the user’s journey through using our key features to: start a new trip, set a budget, plan the itinerary, communicate with the group, make payments, and finalize their trip."
We then conducted some user testing in order to flush out any kinks or confusion before we moved onto a high-fidelity mock up. We gained some important insights such as:
- We need to redesign the activity screen in order to be more cohesive and intuitive
- Putting all the relevant information up at the front of the screen to make it more accessible
- The user needs more information/clarity on what they are supposed to do next
- The colors don’t seem to fit the vibe – it needs to feel more fun and less serious
After discussing these insights with the group, and trying to align our visual identity with our vision, we came up with the name Ahoy, which seemed to capture the fun nature we were striving for.
We created a specific voice and tone to use throughout our copy - using "skipper" to reference the main planner, and "crewmates" for the other group members.
I started working on our branding /design system, trying to capture Ahoy’s service of organization, planning, and collaboration. I initially had created a color palette of teal, gold, and deep gray. After user feedback I redesigned the design system to create a more inviting atmosphere and create that “fun” experience we were attempting to create.
I iterated on these color choices after group feedback and ended up creating a palette inspired, yet elevated from, the familiar notebook paper and tools such as pencils, highlighters, and rubber erasers. I made sure these changes passed the WCAG AA accessibility standards. I defined our typography guidelines and a collection of design components, in order to maintain consistency.
I also iterated on our logo for branding and created alternate versions for different uses and screen sizes.
We then designed our final wireframes based on our user feedback above and our new design system. We then created a prototype, prioritizing two task flows, for usability testing.
We conducted usability testing, using the Guerilla method, in order to test our final prototype on two main task flows in order to gain the most targeted feedback. I created two test scripts for the usability testing to make sure we all asked similar questions to maintain uniformity. As a group, each member took a role so that we all had the opportunity to be a recruiter, moderator, note taker, and observer by rotating roles per candidate. We wanted to rotate roles in order to become more well-rounded and understand the viewpoints of the other roles as well. We also wanted to have fresh eyes on each interview test in order to negate any biases.
Example of Note-taking and observations
- Everyone had a different opinion on the budget, and how it should function
- A lot of users wanted to see an integration with outside calendars
- Very user friendly and simple
- Some users saw the app as a medium for planning, vs. booking
We were able to create a high-fidelity task-centered prototype in order to be used for future testing and iterations. We captured a fun, enjoyable, and easy travel planning experience for groups. We were able to not only coordinate and work across four time zones, but were able to rotate roles each week in order to gain insight into all of the different positions and what that role sees/prioritizes. We were able to successfully meet our deadlines and got positive feedback from our tested users:
“When is it ready? I want to use it now.” - Charles
"This is awesome!" - Keara (on itinerary screen)
“...this would make a normally overwhelming process consolidated and accessible” - Becky
“...This is right up my alley...very clean and very simple...” - Ivett
“I like the design. It's simple, there's not a lot of bells and whistles. You know exactly what you're getting, what you're doing it in, and how it's being done.” -Lisa
Going forward the next steps would be to take these key insights from usability testing and refine and iterate on our screens and flow.
1. After a second iteration, I would like to retest on new participants to see if we have solved the user frustrations with the app.
2. I would want to create a full user flow of the entire process instead of just these two task flows and repeat the process.
3. If we had time in the future, I would plan to create not only the main “skipper” view but also the “crewmate” view in order to design the entire user experience.
Looking back, I would do a couple things differently.
1. I would have liked to gather more research in the beginning in a different format than a survey. Due to time constraints, a survey was the most efficient way to get as much user research as possible. If there was more time I would have liked to conduct user interviews in order to gain more insight and get deeper into the users past experiences and thoughts.
2. I wish we would have held off on designing the navigation and site map. I felt as though this narrowed our perception of the app in a negative way instead of a positive. I think I may have jumped the gun creating that map, and going forward it was tough to break out of that mindset and think of other possibilities.
3. As confirmed by our user testing, I wish we would have focused more on the booking of travel. We got caught up in our group travel planning and organization process – which is what sets us apart from other apps – but I think we lost track of that main component of the actual travel booking process. I think this would be a somewhat simple feature to add, now that we have a lot of the basics flushed out, but I do wish we had focused a little more time on that part of the experience.