Designing an app for a travel agency

The Challenge:
Kuoni wants to allow their users the ability to communicate online with agents and to manage—or talk about—every aspect of their quotes or bookings. They want to make the information also easily accessible, so customers can access it while they are traveling, too. 

Goals & Objectives
Design the post-log-in app experience that allows the customer to view and manage a quote proposed by a personal travel expert and to view and manage trips that have been booked. Also design the process a user goes through to start a quote online (complementary to direct contact with a personal travel expert).

Kuoni

Kuoni has been a global leader in the travel industry for the past 110 years. They are not the typical travel agency people have in mind. In order for Kuoni to create tailor-made trips, travel experts listen to what the customers want and then create a vacation that’s right for them and their budget. So far they have been doing everything offline, only recording basic things online for the customer to view. The management of the trip is very basic, however, and customers today are demanding more digital experiences and more control over their purchases.

Role

User Research, Strategy, Interaction Design, UI Design, Prototyping, Usability Testing

Tools

Sketch, Figma, Maze, SurveyMonkey

Timeline

2 Weeks | 80 Hours

1. Empathize

Before diving in, I wanted to lay out what my research would involve. I created a research plan in order to help keep me aligned to the research goals at all times as well as the necessary steps that I would need to take to complete it. I mainly wanted to first answers for some of the key questions I had.

Research Plan & Goals

• What motivates people to use personalized travel services?
• How often do they communicate with a travel agent? In person or online?
• What influences a customer’s decision in purchasing a trip tailored by an agent?
• What are people’s motivations and pain points when planning and managing a trip?
• What features would they expect when booking a vacation online with a travel company?

Methodologies

Competitive Analysis & Market Research: This helped me understand the trends and best practices in the travel market, especially the ones that help customers receive help from an agent or agency. It also allowed me to familiarize myself with Kuoni’s brand and offerings and see how they compare to their competitors.

Surveys: Conducting a well-planned survey will help me gather information from frequent travelers that might use an app or service similar to that of Kuoni. This will help me understand what influences them in deciding to book a tailored trip, habits and likes during the booking process, and what they would specifically look for in the mobile app experience.

Market & Industry Research

Once I had a research plan in order, I wanted to learn and understand the trends and best practices in the travel market. I began the empathize phase by conducting secondary research first.

I began by completing a market analysis as well as a competitive analysis. I reviewed travel booking applications and companies that offered similar solutions, like tailor-made vacations. I then dug into each company to see what made each of them special and wrote down some strengths and weaknesses that I know I could use in the future when designing the app. From these research techniques, I was able to gather insights on the direction of the industry, trends, and features that may be expected of the user.


Survey

I created and conducted a survey using SurveyMonkey to better understand the users needs and to gather information about user’s likes and dislikes when planning and booking travel online, and the likelihood of using a service such as Kuoni.

I was able to collect results from 21 total participants. The target audience were people that traveled 2+ times a year, use travel booking applications, and are between the age group of 25–65.

The key findings of the surveys were:

  • 94.74% of participants mentioned that planning a general outline without a specific schedule when planning for trips was their main preference.
  • 67% of participants like to do the trip planning themselves but don’t mind asking for advice.
  • No participant under the age of 44 has used a travel agent or personalized travel service before. Six participants over the age of 44 have used those services.
  • Preferred method of communication with a travel planner/agent when planning for a trip varies with age. Younger travelers prefer in person first and then over the phone. Older travelers prefer email first and then over the phone.
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Quantitative data collected from survey.

The survey also included some open ended short answer questions. I wanted to be able to get direct quotes from participants on certain topics.

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Example of direct quotes from one of the survey questions.

Persona Development

Based on the feedback and insights gained from research, I created two personas who might use the Kuoni application. These personas demonstrate the key user goals and frustrations that appeared in my findings.

Empathy Map

Once the personas were created, I developed an empathy map for both Rachel and Jake. This allowed me to further understand my personas’ pains and gains, as well as seeing their state of mind when it comes to planning for a trip. I wanted to showcase how the topic of traveling and planning for a trip affected their everyday actions and thought processes.

Empathy maps constructed for both personas.


2. Define

Project Strategy

After analyzing the data collected from the primary and and secondary research done earlier, I started to build out a list of the most important features the app should have. I put together a product feature roadmap of any features that might be needed in order for the app to work efficiently and meet the high-level goals and objectives of this project.

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3. Ideate

Sitemap

It was time now to think of how users might navigate the app in order to review and manage quotes and bookings. It was important to keep the information architecture as simple and concise as possible since most of the users would use this regularly to communicate with their personal travel expert (PTE).

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Interaction Design

Before I started sketching and building out wireframes, I wanted to figure out what the user flows would look like for customers trying to accomplish specific tasks. The three tasks chosen would highlight the main feature functions that the app would provide for the user. This app would allow users to not only receive advice in real time from their personal travel experts but also allow them to customize and modify different sections of their travel.

  • Review and Customize Quotes
  • Request For a New Quote
  • Review and Modify Booked Trip
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User flow map based on specific tasks.
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Sketching

The next step following the creation of the user flow maps was to start sketching wireframes. Before I made my digital wireframes, I drew up quick sketches showing some of the key screens that I would need to build out when creating the app.

Low Fidelity Wireframes

I started to create the initial wireframes illustrating how the app might look like post log-in. Creating wireframes first helped me visualize my ideas as well as gave me the basic structure for how users would use the app for reviewing quotes and managing booked trips. When creating these wireframes, I made sure to keep the user needs from my persona, empathy map and research in mind.


4. Prototype

While creating the wireframes, I was also building the flow and prototype that I would use for usability testing. I wanted to make sure I did a round of usability testing before incorporating UI elements in order to get more valuable, valid, and actionable user inputs for the app without having branding play a key factor in the process. Before conducting the testing, I set to create a usability testing plan and checklist that included all of the information and goals I was looking to achieve. I recruited participants that fit the personas that I’ve been using throughout the design process.

Low-Fidelity Prototype

Main Goals For Testing

  • Learn if participants are able to easily view and manage (accept, reject, and/or add a comment) a quote proposed by their PTE.
  • Learn if participants are able to easily view and modify a booked trip.
  • Find out how satisfied participants are with the experience of the app.
  • Does the user understand the functionality of all features and buttons of the app.

Tasks Assigned

1. Modify Flight For Proposed Quote

• Review your Costa Rica quote proposed to you by your personal travel expert.

• You noticed that the proposed flight leaves too early and you want to request a later flight.

• How would you accomplish that and notify your personal travel expert?

2. Modify Lodging For Upcoming Trip

• Review your “Family Trip to Japan”.

• Modify your lodging for “Grids Tokyo Ueno Hotel & Hostel” and notify your agent that the current price is too much.

• How would you accomplish that and notify your personal travel expert?

5. Test & Iterations

Usability Testing & Finding

• A total of 13 participants completed this usability test.

3 out of 13 tests were conducted live, using Zoom and its screen sharing service.

10 out of 13 were unmoderated tests using the Maze software to host the prototype.

• Participants using Zoom spoke out their actions and thinking while completing the tasks given to them while I observed making sure I could assist at any point if needed.

• Participants were also asked to use the app freely and provide any feedback or recommendations.The unmoderated participants were asked to complete 2 tasks and provide feedback on their experience, what they thought of the interface, and how they would rate the ease of using the app prototype 1(Difficult)– 10(Effortless).

Key Findings

  • The navigation of the app was easy and intuitive for participants.
  • Participants mentioned that once they familiarized themselves with the app it was easier to accomplish the tasks.
  • Participants wish there was a splash of color to liven the app.
  • 100% of participants mentioned that they were able to contact their personal travel expert.

Incorporating UI Design

In terms of design, Kuoni’s brand is clean, modern, and visual-focused. Kuoni is all about providing an incredible service so creating an app that felt trustworthy and reliable was important. The UI Kit that I created would later assist me down the road when creating high fidelity designs.

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High Fidelity Wireframes

After working on the UI Kit, I started to incorporate it into the wireframes I had created. I also starting adding a couple of new screens that would be able to used on a future prototype, one of those being the flow on how a user would request a new quote from inside the app.

Usability Testing: Round 2

After applying UI elements to my wireframes, I created a high-fidelity prototype using Figma. I conducted a three smaller in-person usability tests compared to the first round using new participants. The goal was to assess the overall usability of the app and identify areas for improvements that could facilitate the completion of the tasks. The participants were given the same tasks done on the first round of testing and given a new task of requesting a new quote from their personal travel expert.

Key Findings

  • Participants expressed that seeing a picture of their travel agent makes the app feel comforting.
  • 1 participant mentioned that they would like to see when “High and Low Seasons” are for the destinations they are interested in.
  • 2 of the participants mentioned that they are not tech-savvy but will definitely use this app because it’s so easy to use.
  • 1 participant found the “Book Now” CTA confusing since they are technically approving a quote and not booking the trip.

Final Prototype

Using Figma once again, I recreated the flow on the prototype so that users can easily scroll and navigate now with brand added.

Next Steps

My next steps would be to make revisions based on the second round of usability testing. After making those revisions to the screens and prototype, I would continue to add some of the features laid out on the feature roadmap and conduct user testing again for feedback. The app is heading on the right direction and finding any way to make further improvements to the process and experience would only make it stronger in the end.

Project Takeaways

Lessons Learned

Information architecture and how to fit everything within one product smoothly and in a consistent way was a challenge. It made me realize that creating a well-functioning app is not an easy job. In fact, if done properly, it is one of the toughest things a UX Designer can tackle.

What I Would Have Done Differently

This was a really exciting and fun project for me because it was the first mobile app I created. With the scope of the project being 2 weeks, it was challenging trying to find the right participants that met the personas built from research. I learned really quickly that recruiting the right participants is crucial for getting valuable results from your usability testing. In the future, I would make recruiting participants easier by making sure that I start recruiting as soon as possible once I know who my intended audience is. From there, I would try to make the time and location of my sessions as convenient as possible for my potential participants.

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