Right now, the process of planning a vacation can be overwhelming and take months of stress when accounting for logistics, airfare, accommodations, transportation, things to do, costs and so on.
Let the Odyssey be your guide. The intent is to design Odyssey as an all-in-one travel planning resource where travelers can collaborate and create shareable, living itineraries with essential travel information. All of this would be created in a seamless, intuitive way so that planning a trip is simple, engaging and rewarding.
Creating Odyssey was an ambitious, yet gratifying experience as a UX Designer. I was tasked to tackle the entire UX process for this project. From primary and secondary research, I was able to validate the problem and ideated solutions through affinity mapping, user stories, user flows, sketching, wireframing, prototyping and usability testing.
All my favorite design thinking techniques are integrated in the 5-Stage Double Diamond Model of Design Thinking. This model uses divergent/convergent thinking, iteration and human-centered design at its core.
I began my design journey with a screener survey about travel in general. Questions involved why they travel, what they like/dislike about traveling, and what apps/resources they use to travel. Right off the bat, users found travel planning to be difficult, stressful, and time consuming.
When asked about their feelings towards planning a trip/vacation:
There was also great concern withoffline capabilities.
In an effort to better understand users’ past travels and experiences, I conducted user interviews. Some of the comments that stuck with me were:
I laid out all the interview participants' needs and thoughts into a condensed affinity map, which provided me with some key insights:
Two types of travelers were identified from my interviews. Some were group travelers, while others ventured solo. After uncovering this discovery, Kyle and Kathy were born. They are two carefully crafted user personas that would be with me on the rest of this odyssey.
With Kyle, Kathy and all this research behind me, I was now set on course to build Odyssey as a guide to let travelers’ worries soar away. But, even with the users in mind, the question was how? I was immensely determined to answer these questions:
Users wanted an all-in-one system so as MVP (minimal viable product), I initially focused my attention on creating user flows where travelers can easily generate an itinerary by discovering a new destination, or finding an activity/dining option at a destination they already have in mind.
One of the biggest pain points for group travelers was finding the best things to do that accommodates everyone’s needs. To make the search easier, I created different categories to browse destinations or activities with “Odyssey Picks” (app based favorites) or Most Popular and Trending (based on user ratings and reviews, or local recommendations). There is also the option to bookmark the destination/activity, which can be revisited at a later time.
After determining what I wanted to build, I made sketches of the actual screens which turned into a paper prototype that went into guerilla testing with 5 users. This was to ensure I was creating a product that would work as intended.
A couple of sketches that were a part of the initial paper prototype test
Overall, I was surprised with how much fat there was that I could trim out so for wireframing, I was able to aggregate many screens and simplify the product into fewer steps and clicks for my users.
Wireframes before final visual design
Once my wireframes were complete, it was time to breathe some life into Odyssey so I created a style guide.
My product would include:
Out with the gray, and in with the yellow, red, and blues!
Subsequently, I dived straight away into usability testing and this is where things got very interesting.
In my first round of testing, while I learned it was confusing to edit plans or the search function had no place to enter text, I was extremely shocked to learn that many users saw this product as a travel inspiration app and not a travel planning app - which was not what I wanted to create at all!
Test users thought the welcome screen was calling them to discover a new destination or find an activity first.
I also transformed the itinerary page into flexible, modifiable plans and new way to access important travel planning actions (travelers, expenses, reservations, etc.) via a new hamburger menu.
In my second round of testing, users generally thought they would want to use Odyssey for travel planning. There were a lot less issues, but it was still confusing to access functions in the itinerary builder, while the Activities section needed more filters than “Attractions” and “Dining”.
With that, I created a new returning user screen/itinerary hub page which showcased upcoming travel and plans.
Furthermore, I revised the Advanced Search page with more filters such as sightseeing, theme parks, active/outdoor, party/nightlife, health/wellness, romantic, etc.
What really caught me off guard was learning that the app felt biased and sponsored with the “Most Trending and Popular” activity results. This was something other travel apps struggled with, and I knew that from the beginning through research and user interviews. Regardless, it still fell through the cracks. Therefore, I plugged in more user-based information such as “most visited in 2019”, “most Instagrammed in 2019”, or “# of people added to their itinerary”.
In the end, Odyssey was a success and the problem was solved. I was always persistent to make something that would let your travel worries soar away. While it is not perfect and there is still room for improvement, I believe I have found some effective ways to make planning a trip the opposite of stressful, time consuming and difficult. I've made it easier, more collaborative, and more rewarding. A little more of all the good stuff.
The journey of learning and creating so many things while developing this app was truly an enjoyable experience and no easy feat. One key takeaway I'd like to mention is that meticulous research and usability testing is so important in designing anything. All these things really help inform a great design. It's one thing to come up with a solution, but quite another to have a solution that actually works for the end user. If I had more time, I would definitely continue to iterate and conduct more tests to button up any loose ends.
Without further ado, I invite you to access the clickable prototype through this button below: