ROUTEWISE

Designing a 0→1 MVP to help travelers create optimized routes for their daily travel itinerary.

OVERVIEW

RouteWise is a digital travel planning product that generates an optimized itinerary based on the the traveler's desired locations to help travelers cut down on the time and chaos involved in travel planning and maximize their time at their destination.


I worked with a team to design the initial MVP as part of Co.lab’s 8-week product boot camp. Following the program, we decided to continue collaborating on the product to fix bugs, improve the MVP experience, and add new features.

TIMELINE

6 months (October 2023-May 2024)

TEAM

Cheryl Chen, Product Manager

David Ekunno, Front-end Developer

Kate Lueders, Back-end Developer

Cheryl Chen, Product Manager

David Ekunno, Front-end Developer

Kate Lueders, Back-end Developer

TOOLS

Figma

FigJam

Maze

Zeplin

CONTEXT

Planning a daily travel itinerary can be chaotic.

It often takes weeks and hours of scouring the web and doom-scrolling social media apps to collect a list of the best places to visit, things to eat, and activities to experience. Yet, just having a list is not enough.


What places and activities are near one another that you can accomplish in the same afternoon?

When are you going to climb to that mountain top with breathtaking views to watch the sunset?

How are you going to make sure you hit all the popular landmarks and attractions without missing out?

It often takes weeks and hours of scouring the web and doom-scrolling social media apps to collect a list of the best places to visit, things to eat, and activities to experience. Yet, just having a list is not enough.


What places and activities are near one another that you can accomplish in the same afternoon?

When are you going to climb to that mountain top with breathtaking views to watch the sunset?

How are you going to make sure you hit all the popular landmarks and attractions without missing out?

It often takes weeks and hours of scouring the web and doom-scrolling social media apps to collect a list of the best places to visit, things to eat, and activities to experience. Yet, just having a list is not enough.


What places and activities are near one another that you can accomplish in the same afternoon?

When are you going to climb to that mountain top with breathtaking views to watch the sunset?

How are you going to make sure you hit all the popular landmarks and attractions without missing out?

PROBLEM STATEMENT

Travelers need an efficient way to plan their day-to-day itineraries in order to save time and evade stress while ensuring an enjoyable trip.

USER RESEARCH

Travelers find planning the day-to-day activities of their trips to be time-consuming

Building on the preliminary research conducted by our product manager which provided sound direction toward the time-consuming challenges of itinerary planning and fear of missing out on interesting locations and activities, I extended the research by using a survey to collect additional data on the behaviors, motivations, and challenges experienced by 20 travelers and conducted six user interviews to gain deeper insights into how people plan their day-to-day travel activities.


The research showed us that:

62% of users find travel planning time-consuming, citing the use of multiple platforms to search and save activities to be a contributing factor.

52% of users find it challenging to track and organize information across multiple platforms, with 57% of interviewees preferring to plan on a desktop/laptop computer.

48% of participants are afraid of missing out on fun activities or interesting locations. FOMO (fear of missing out) may have been popularized in the 2010s, but the feeling lives on!

48% of users need help planning the most efficient route to ensure that they are not missing out on anything fun and to ensure their travel plan does not cause any unwelcome wasted time.

This led us to a crucial question in solving travelers’ planning needs:

How might we provide travelers with an efficient way to plan complex itineraries in order to save them time in planning while ensuring a smooth trip?

USER FLOWS

A proximity-based itinerary with recommended locations to save time and help relieve FOMO.

With a strict deadline to design and develop a live site with 7 weeks to go, we narrowed our focus to the two primary value propositions we wanted to provide our users:

Users will be able to…
  1. Complete a brief travel preference survey…

to receive recommendations based on their interests, so they don't miss out on opportunities they may be interested in.

  1. Add desired places and generate a proximity-based itinerary…

…to receive an optimized itinerary of places* they want to visit in a fraction of the time.


*For clarity in communication among the team and product, we used the word places to refer to individual points of interests within a city, and location or destination interchangeably to refer to the city destination of travel)

As a designer, I collaborated with my team to prioritize features and ensure the design was technically feasible—initially to complete within the 7-week time frame of the Co.Lab bootcamp, then to meet our post-program beta launch deadline.

DESIGN

Capturing the essence of planning and travel.

Recognizing the importance of the visual experience in travel and travel planning, I prioritized a simple interface to compensate for the limited control provided by a the use of a free photo API.

I focused on creating interface options to minimize visual conflict, especially on screens delivering the core value of our product.
Selecting Travel Preferences

As part of the onboarding flow, users would complete a brief one-question survey to select their travel interests in order to receive personalized recommendations.


The final solution provides users with a visual and text pairing that allows users to easily identify and select their desired categories in order to quickly continue to the itinerary planning process.

Explored and selected designs for the 'Travel Preferences' feature

Explored and selected designs for the 'Travel Preferences' feature

Explored and selected designs for the 'Travel Preferences' feature

Adding Desired Places to a List

I explored various map and list layouts, inspired by existing products and Google Maps, which our research found to be the most-used product for planning trip activities.


Our initial MVP had the map on the left and the list on the right, progressing towards the "Generate Itinerary" button. However, user feedback and the Itinerary page's familiar design (like Google Maps, with the map on the right) led us to keep a consistent design across both pages.


Explored and selected designs for "Adding places" prior to generating an itinerary

Viewing and Editing a Generated Itinerary

One of the key factors I considered when designing the itinerary page was how to present all the required details of a trip and available product features without overwhelming the user interface.


After multiple iterations, I decided to focus on the following elements:


  1. Utilizing a sidebar for easy navigation and to organize product features available for planning individual trips

  2. Conserving a hierarchy of information by ensuring the design and interactions of the itinerary itself are intuitive and easy to use

In contrast to the Adding Places page, was designed for the map to sit on the right for two reasons:

  1. To differentiate between pre- and post-itinerary-generated list of places


  2. To accommodate additional features, such as a menu bar and ability to edit the itinerary by moving place cards and adding additional places to the itineary

Explored and selected designs for the generated Itinerary page

Explored and selected designs for the generated Itinerary page

Explored and selected designs for the generated Itinerary page

USER TESTING AND IMPACT

90% of users found the task of adding places to generate an optimized itinerary to be very easy.

Due to time constraints during the initial product sprint, I conducted an unmoderated usability test of the prototype using Maze, and followed up with moderated user testing of the live site post-sprint.


While the itinerary generation feature was being developed, I focused on users' ability to add places to a list to generate an optimized itinerary. Ninety percent of users found this task very easy, citing the organized and intuitive interface, and clean visual design.


However, moderated testers of the live site identified additional challenges and opportunities for improvement.

User challenges:
  1. The process of typing places into the search bar and waiting for the drop-down suggestions to load could get tedious

  2. Difficultly in differentiating location pins on the map

CHALLENGES

Money and Resources and Costly APIs, Oh My!

During our 8-week Co.lab sprint, we opted for free map and image APIs to avoid costs. One of the biggest challenges regarding the user experience was the lack of speed and accuracy in searching for places to add to the itinerary. This was a hindrance in our own quality assurance testing and could potentially cause frustration among users, as illuminated through user testing.


While we would have loved to use Google APIs to improve user experience, the costs of potentially exceeding the free monthly allowance were prohibitive for our small team.


After research, we chose the lower-cost Mapbox API and are continuing to explore alternative photo API options.


From a design and user experience perspective, this decision enabled us to:

  1. Implement autofill for increased efficiency in searching places

  2. Color-code selected place pins on a map, and

  3. Use auto-focus to highlight places for easy viewing

SOLUTION

A travel planner that generates an itinerary based on the proximity of locations to minimize time spent planning and maximize how user’s are spending their time during travel.

LEARNINGS AND NEXT STEPS

Laying down foundations as a design team of 1

Working on RouteWise has provided me a rewarding first experience of collaborating with a product manager and developers to communicate and influence design decisions to make a product vision come to life. I have gained a profound understanding of the significance of working within technical constraints and fostering adaptability in design while anchoring solutions to users and product value.


As the sole product designer, balancing a wardrobe of different hats has allowed me the opportunity to zoom in on things such as singular features, the placement of a button, or the microcopy of content, to zooming out on overall product branding and messaging, marketing, and product strategy.


As we continue to build RouteWise, I plan to further develop my skills in ux and visual design by scaling design systems for growth and continuing to solve user challenges.

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