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Adding a feature to

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Expedia helps travelers and partners find the right pathways through millions of possibilities to reach the best possible outcome. Powered by more than 70+ petabytes of data and 20+ years of tech innovation, Expedia Group is one of the world’s largest travel platforms.

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Project Overview

Background

In today's digital age, the world has become more interconnected than ever before, and with that comes the rise of online travel. Now, with just a few clicks, we can explore countless destinations, compare prices, book accommodations, and arrange transportation, all from our homes or while on the go. Online travel has revolutionized how we plan, experience, and share our journeys, opening up a world of possibilities and transforming the travel industry as we know it.

Problem

In an ideal world of travel, it would be a delightful experience if people could plan their trips without spending an excessive amount of time searching for all the intricate details online. While online travel planning offers convenience and a wealth of information, it can also be overwhelming and time-consuming, taking away from the joy of the actual journey.

Role

User Experience (UX) Designer
UX Researcher
Information Architecture
User Interface (UI) Designer 

Duration

6 weeks

Disclaimer: I do not work for Expedia, and the views in this case study are strictly my own. This case study is an exploratory learning experience.

Empathizing

Research

Using qualitative research with open-ended questions, I begin my research by selecting 5 travelers to go over an interview to understand their pain points and motivations when planning a trip and discover their challenges when seeking online information. By conducting this research, my goal was to:

  1. Understand how travelers plan their trips.
  2. Pinpoint the specific pain points, frustrations, and obstacles that travelers face when planning a trip.
  3. Use the insights gained to create solutions that can enhance the user experience of trip planning.

Once I analyzed the collected data, I discovered that:

  • All interviewees stated that they book their flights first, their hotel second, and then rental cars if needed.
  • They all mentioned they like to plan ahead of time and have a daily itinerary, including attractions and activities they would like to do, but they aren’t strict with the plans.
  • All participants said they spend a lot of time searching for attractions and activities to do when planning a trip, and they would love to have help with suggestions for all things to do in one place.
  • All participants use desktops to plan and book their trips. They use mobile when traveling, tough.
  • 4 out of 5 participants like to book some activities in advance because they are afraid of them being sold out when they get to their destination.
  • 4 out of 5 participants would love to find all the information they need to travel, like their bookings and plans for their trip, in one place.

"I would like to see recommendations that are catered to my likes, personality, or group dynamic."

Kali D., research participant

"It's hard to keep track of everything using multiple platforms, especially having to share the information with friends."

Dana M., research participant

I also conducted a competitive analysis where I examined four competitors: TripAdvisor, Google Travel, TripIt, and Wanderlog. It's not possible to fulfill all your trip needs with just one of these apps. Google Travel only has a desktop version, lacking a mobile app. While TripAdvisor offers the most functionalities among the competitors, none of them provide an itinerary planning feature. Wanderlog allows you to manually input your itinerary, but it doesn't offer any suggestions or recommendations. TripIt has the fewest functionalities, primarily organizing all booking information in one place by automatically adding them from your email.

Defining

The Problem

The internet has transformed how people plan their trips, offering a vast array of resources, information, and booking platforms that captivate travelers for hours. From meticulously researching destinations on travel websites, forums, and social media platforms and comparing prices to exploring accommodations and reading reviews, travelers invest significant time online to ensure their trips are meticulously planned and tailored to their preferences. In an ideal world of travel, it would be a delightful experience if people could plan their trips without spending an excessive amount of time searching for all the intricate details online. While online travel planning offers convenience and a wealth of information, it can also be overwhelming and time-consuming, taking away from the joy of the actual journey. 

How might we help travelers plan their itinerary trip online?

Assumption: Travelers invest significant time online to ensure their trips are meticulously planned, but sometimes people don’t have time to plan itineraries in advance. I assume that travelers would like help when planning their trip online.

  • Expedia could offer an AI-powered feature that recommends itineraries tailored to the users’ likes, personalities, and group dynamics, suggesting hotels, activities, and restaurants, helping them to save time when planning a trip, and encouraging people to book more activities and attractions on the website.
  • Expedia could offer a trip planner where users can create, manage, share, and add friends to collaborate with their itineraries. This feature should allow them to input their itinerary's destination, travel dates, activities, attractions, and other planned details.

The Persona

As a result of the interviews, I've identified two personas that helped clarify how people book and plan their trips online. The personas also helped me guide the design choices.

Leo loves to travel with his group of friends. He is the travel advisor of his group of friends and likes to have a daily itinerary beforehand traveling, always looking for the best deals on flights, hotels, rental cars, and activities. He would love to have catered recommendations to his likes and group dynamics because sharing information from different apps with his friends is challenging.

Dana likes to travel with her husband. She loves to find local activities, whole-in-the-wall places to go, and tips about the places she visits. She wants to find an all-in-one app where she can book, see reviews and get recommendations for hotels, activities, and attractions because she doesn’t have much time to search in different apps.

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Ideating

Customer Journey Map

By creating and exploring the journey maps of a persona and their typical tasks, I uncovered key emotional/procedural moments that Expedia needed to address.

The anxiety someone might feel, for example, when searching for information to travel, whether during the planning step or when booking, is overwhelmed with so many options. The uneasiness of organizing dates and times for activities and attractions for itinerary and sharing this information with friends.

To ensure the user's best experience, I must overcome these problems and not introduce new friction points.

Scenario:  Leo wants to travel to Barcelona with 3 of his friends. He goes to his laptop and logs into Expedia to research destinations and see what fits his budget. He then researches the best dates and times for flights, and once they all agree, he buys the flights and then starts researching a hotel. After some research, Leo feels overwhelmed with all the options he finds and decides to use the Smart Itinerary Assistant (SIA) that Expedia offers to their customers to find hotels, attractions, and activities recommended to his needs. He also needs to share all this information with his friends to make sure everyone is on the same page before he can book anything. He adds his friends to the Upcoming Trip on Expedia so they can see all the travel details on the Expedia app or website. Once he books the hotel and selects what fits his needs, he books other activities and can finally manage and edit their itinerary to share with his friends.

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Mapping

Once I defined the problem and the persona, it was time to determine where the new feature that helps users organize and plan their travel itinerary would live on the Expedia website. The new feature needed to be placed not only on the homepage but also on the confirmation page when booking any service at the Expedia website to engage and encourage them to book other things for their travel. The feature will also be available on the Trips page on the “Let Journey plan your trip” or “See your planned trip itinerary” if the user has used the feature.

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Mapping

Prototyping

Wireframes

I started sketching rough ideas for the desktop version, with basic layouts of screens, focusing on the key elements and interactions, considering the placement of the new feature. I decided to focus on the desktop version first due to the research findings where all participants stated they plan their trips on their laptops.

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The first idea was adding what I called Smart Itinerary Assistance to the Virtual Agent Chat. A “Plan a trip itinerary” button would be one of the options when the user accesses the virtual agent. The idea evolved a few times and finally became Journey, a personal travel agent interacting with the user by video. Journey can help the user to do regular tasks on the website, but the biggest highlight is to plan an itinerary trip.

When the user selects the “Plan itinerary trip” option, Journey asks a few questions before submitting a link to a page with all the recommendations. The itinerary trip page result also has information about already booked hotels, flights, or activities to ease information organization and sharing.

After sketching the main ideas, I started placing cards like booked items, recommendations, and a map showing favorites and booked items on the page. I’ve worked on 5 different versions before getting to the final version. The main challenge here was to organize all the information in a way that was easy and attractive to the eyes. At first, I started working with cards that Expedia already had on their website but ended up creating a horizontal card for this page.

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High Fidelity Prototype

After a few iterations, I added a vertical timeline and horizontal cards created specifically for this page to better organize the information and make sense of timing during each day easy to understand.

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Testing

Usability Test Findings

I tested the first version of the prototype with 5 potential users to get feedback, understand their perspectives, and determine what iterations were necessary to make the overall experience more intuitive and pleasant. I asked the participants questions about the “Start with Journey” Button (what they thought it would be) and how they felt about the organization of the information on the Itinerary Plan Page Result. I didn’t test the chat because it was an existing feature on the Expedia website. 

The testing went very smoothly, and I found no significant issues. All participants thought the “Start with Journey” button would take them to a chatbot. However, 1 participant stated that the CTA could use more direct wording instead of “Start with Journey” because the word “Start” is too broad. All participants thought that the chat was very straightforward and clear.

One participant made an excellent observation, asking if it was possible to keep one recommendation and shuffle the others. She also asked if it was possible to remove activities as wanted and if she could save the whole itinerary on her account to see it later.

Once the usability test was done, I worked on a few iterations:

  • Added a close button to all suggestions to ensure users can remove options that don't fit their likes and a "Save itinerary to Trips" button to ensure users can see the itinerary later.
  • Added “Save and book your favorite options to keep them on the itinerary” to inform users that they need to add options to their favorites in order to keep them visible on the itinerary.
  • Brainstormed different CTA for the chat button adjusting the button to “Chat with Journey”.

Another round of usability testing would be needed to prove that the iteration fixed the problem.

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Lessons Learned

Going into this project, I knew this would be an ambitious challenge for a young designer. While working on this project, I learned how constant iteration is essential for the best user experience of a product.

I also could see how essential usability testing is. By involving users throughout the design process, I could iterate the product into a more intuitive and user-friendly one. After the usability testing, I added the "Save Itinerary" and the close button, besides changing the CTA from Start with Journey to a more direct one, “Chat with Journey.”

The biggest lessons this project taught me were the delicate balance between perseverance when faced with complex challenges and when to be okay with "good enough" (for this iteration, of course).

I'm proud to say that while this project (and all my others) will never be fully finished, I dedicated myself as much as I could. Ultimately, I'm incredibly proud of what I accomplished with this project at this stage in my design journey. 

© May Digital Design 2023

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