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Lonely Planet Trips App Redesign

Quick Summary

The project was a part of our 9 weeks long course module on User Experience Design and Content Strategy with our faculty Ms Irene Prereyra (Co-Founder of Anton & Irene, a Brooklyn based Design Studio). We were given a brief by Ms Irene who also acted as a Lonely Planet Stakeholder to take us through all the exercise required to get into the User Experience Design.

We were a team of 3 students and as a part of the project my tasks were mainly focused on Eco System Analysis, Information Architecture, Features and Functionality Matrix as well as some parts of wireframing.

The Brief

So, in the beginning of the second week of the class, we were given a brief about ‘Lonely Planet — The Travel Guide Platform’ which was mainly focused on the task, the target audience and the user pain points. And, to take us through the process, she asked us to do Ecosystem Analysis, User Research, Ideation and Concepting, Competitive Analysis, Features and Functionality Matrix, Site Map, User Flows and Wireframes.

The Design Challenge

The challenge was to come up with a digital solution which can be a companion to the Lonely Planet Books and the website and that can help travellers to find accommodation, restaurants, local sites etc or if we find any other user pain points during our user interviews, our solution can be based on that too.

Ecosystem Analysis

To start off with our project, we started with Lonely Planet Ecosystem Analysis. We wanted to identify that how Lonely Planet products are used by the users in which phase of travelling.

So, we listed out 6 different “WH” questions (Who, Why, What, Where, How and When) and prioritised them by taking hybrid approach of User Centred Design Model as well as Genius Model.

As we started out with ‘who’, from the brief we identified that Lonely Planet Content is mainly distributed into 2 types of target audience:

1. The Backpackers who are around 18–24 years old, travelling on a very low budget for longer than 3 months with their friends and having a smart phone as their single digital form factor most of the time.

2. The Flatpackers who are approximately 24–35 years old, travelling on a medium budget for less than a month alone having multiple digital factors with them like a smart phone, an iPad and a kindle.

As I mentioned above, we started designing our ecosystem by keeping users at the centre who are travellers in this case and we thought of some of the reason of why they travel and put it around the circle of ‘who’. Later, we thought of that what do they do while they’re travelling (particularly for this ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions, we used Genius Model where we trusted on our intuitions for the reasons of travelling and the activities these travellers do during their three different phases of travel.) Later, we looked for the platforms on which Lonely Planet is available to find out where do they find some helpful information which can support their task they’ll be performing. And then based on the brief, we identified that on how they find information on the devices they have as their companion and we merged all of them with our phases of travel which we marked as when.

Mapping the Lonely Planet Ecosystem
Lonely Planet Ecosystem

From this analysis, we found out the key insight that, there are many resources of Lonely Planet are used during the before and after travel phase but, there are very less resources are used in the during phase.

User Research

To get some valuable user research insights, we started out talking to the actual travellers who were a genuine fit for our target audience. We went to different hostels in Barcelona and did our qualitative research by asking 12 different travellers, some open ended questions like

1. Why they are travelling?

2. What kind of activities they do while they’re travelling and how do they make decisions for that?

3. What kind of obstacles they faced during travelling and how did they navigate through it to overcome? and a few more general questions…

After completing the interview, we found out that majority of those travels particularly the backpackers finds issues while they’re planning their trip. They told us that they need to go through a lot of different blogs through different websites to plan our journey and also, they don’t trust any random travel blogger. Most of them follow a popular travel blogger or relies on the recommendations of their friends and they generally don’t like to read the entire blog because they have to read many blogs to plan their travel.

A summary of User Interviews

The Idea!

And, this was the point when the idea got clicked to us! We already had looked Lonely Planet Resources during our ecosystem analysis and particularly the Trips app by Lonely Planet where you get different stories written by the different travellers in the form of blogs through which you can look for the destinations they’ve already been. But, majority of those blogs are randomly written and showed on the feed with ‘Staff Picked’. Also, those blogs are pretty long. So we decided that what if we redesign this app with the content that is actually useful for the travellers instead of taking them through the entire blog every time.

The Ideation and Concepting

Finally, we found out the pain point to work on and we sit together and started brainstorming exercise to identify the better way to provide them the actual useful content and after, 1.5 hours of brainstorming session and discussion we as team agreed to provide them the content in terms of individual pinned map posts where instead of writing an entire blog, a traveller can just pin the locations on their map, add some photos for that locations, write a little description about it and add different #tags for those pins. On the other side, the planners can search for different other travellers they trust and can follow them so that, on their personal feed, they can see the post of the pins uploaded by other people they follow and can add those pins to their map to visit which ideally solves their need of searching relevant curated travel recommendations.

We analysed our eco system and noticed the behaviour of our users in terms of their interaction with the mobiles apps and how generally they look for the recommendations and on the basis of that we created our four different personas where two persona represent the travellers (who’re looking for the information) and the other two represent the recommenders (who share travel information)

Features and Functionality Matrix

To understand our app more appropriately as well as considering the MVP approach we decided to create a Matrix of all the features and functionalities using 3 primary parameters, which are User Value, Business Value and Tech Value and we rated them Low, Medium and High depending on the value of each features with respect to these 3 parameters.

User Value: This parameter describes that how important the feature is for the users.

Business Value: This parameter describes that how important the feature is for the business.

Tech Value: This parameter describes that how easy or tough it is to develop a particular feature.

Card Sorting Exercise

So, after deciding the features which we were going to provide, we tried to categorised those features and asked people to perform a closed cart sorting exercise for us so that, we can understand their thinking and behaviour properly. We provided them some of the pre-decided categories to sort the features we were providing in the app and after completing all the exercise, we measure the frequencies of the features in a particular category which helped us to create our sitemap.

Information Architecture

From the results of the card sorting exercise, we created our sitemap. As I mentioned, the categories were very well defined for the navigational menu and we were trying to arrange it in a proper navigational manner to create a strong navigational structure for our app.

As it is clearly shown that, we have created a very simple navigation menu with only five tabs which is upto secondary navigational level. The menu was very much inspired from the Lonely Planet Trips app.

The MVP approach

Taking the MVP approach, we decided to select some of the highly user valued and low tech valued features to provide in MVP so that, we can present something to our users without wasting a lot of time in our development of other complex features and at least these features can help them to perform the actions they really need.

Sketches and Wireframes

Keeping all these things in mind, we started making the sketches for the layout of our app. We created the sketches of the idea we were having in their mind and after discussing all the ideas and layouts from the sketches, we created our first version of low fidelity wireframes.

We prepared a static prototype of these sketches and ask the people around us (who were designers) to perform some tasks on that prototype. We also asked our faculty to perform the same tasks on that prototype and we gathered the feedbacks from them and improved our sketches and created the wireframes.

Later, we created the blocked wireframes of the second version of those wireframes and this time after creating the prototype, we went to the users. We observed what they were doing with the tasks assigned to them. They asked us some questions at the points they were facing the issues to perform the tasks and on the basis of that, we created the final version of the wireframe and annotated them.

What's next?

The next phase of this project is to do the visual design and create the final clickable prototype and perform again perform the user testing on that prototype.

Problems and Challenges

Every person in the team are very hardworking so while working together, we didn’t really face the issues of any of us was not working but, as we all have a design background we had many difference of opinions while pursuing the project. We fought, solved the fight, take the decisions and worked. All these things were in a loop but, it helped us to make each other better at the skills we were lacking and ended up with a super presentations and the pitch of the idea in the class.

Honestly, it was also very difficult to complete the entire process in just 8 weeks with ongoing classes but, we didn’t compromise with the quality of work and gave our best shot.

If you want to discuss more about this project, you can connect to me on any of the social media platform or on my personal email! We would love to hear your advices or future possibilities for this project.