We decided to visit Orlando and Disney theme parks two weeks ago. After we finalized the travel plan, we realized that Orlando is extremely hot, with possible hurricane in June
In fact: Some people complained the terrible Orlando weather in June in the forum. But we didn’t see it.
I browsed all the suggested places on TripAdvisor, reviews and photos to decide if they are good for photography. But we still missed an elegant, riverside restaurant, which is a perfect place to take photos in Seattle.
In fact: A friend of mine who lives in Seattle for 10 years recommended this restaurant in the forum a while ago, but I didn’t see it.
How to use the information from user reviews, guidebooks and travel forum to help TripAdvisor users make valid travel plans efficiently?
I interviewed three friends about their trip planning experiences, focusing on their approaches, decision-making process, and problems they encountered.
Based on the interviews, I created 2 fictional "characters" to organize and to uncover patterns in user goals, behaviors, and pain points.
Additionally, I also created a task flow to help me think through the process of how travellers make plans step-by-step.
People want to learn more about a place before making the decision, such as introduction, photos, highlighted reviews.
People read travel blogs and forums when they are free. However, when they are tasked to make a travel plan, they tend to use Google search - a more fast and intuitive way.
Travel websites are only providing information to validate travellers’ decisions, not helping them to make decisions.
Most people have unique preferences/expectations on destinations/activities, which is hard to find direct recommendations from blog posts or forums.
People want their time to be flexible to make sure they have enough time for unknown uncertainties, such as congestions, waiting time, visiting time, etc.
Even though people work really hard, they are still likely to make mistakes with itinerary, due to the lack of experience and comprehensive knowledge.
I compared the functionalities of TripAdvisor’s main competitors, including Lonely Planet, Airbnb (Places Section) and Expedia. I read the reviews on App Store, asked friends about their opinions in terms of using them to make travel plans.
Quickly identify suitable destinations and activities for inspirations based on users’ preferences.
Help trip planners to quickly review and optimize itinerary in a holistic way.
I spent 30 mins and wrote down all the possible opportunities that could possibly solve the problems. Then, I review each of them as well as showed them around to collect feedbacks.
Travel Agent Bot
Super well-informed (friend) that users could ask questions and get recommendations, supported by visualizations and tags to quickly familiarize the places/activities.
Review the itinerary, offer suggestions on all aspects based on the information aggregated and analyzed from user reviews, travel forums and guidebooks, such as weather, parking, time, and commute, etc.
According to the solution selected, I sketched out the chatbot interfaces as well as how different components react to the conversation.
I found two participants to test the paper prototype. I acted as the interactive chatbot and present different interfaces at different moment. Last, I collected feedbacks from them.
How do I end the conversation?
One participant complained to me that the conversation is too long, and asked if he could end the conversation? That is a missing part in my paper sketches. In the final design, I added a menu button in the bottom left corner, which includes top level controls, such as end the conversation, start over, check itinerary, and check progress.
Where am I? I am totally lost.
Due to the complex nature of making a travel plan, the biggest challenge of conversational UI is to help users keep awake and not lose the situational awareness. So I decided to add a progress indicator to help them to be aware of where they are and what’s next. Since I still question whether a progress indicator is a must for most users, I put it in the menu button to the bottom left corner.
How do I change the search queries I entered before?
This is really a good question that most people want to freely go back and forth in an app. This participant suggested to add a small icon next to each message so that users could go back to that message and modify the search and the itinerary. My answer to this question is “I don’t know.” It is really a meaningful suggestion, although it is conflicting with most conversational UI design principles. If I have a chance in the future, I would definitely test that idea for sure.
Zixuan is planning to visit New York City during 6/6-6/8. He is interested in New York history, eating burger and taking photos. He has heard of Times Square for several times, so Times Square is a must in his travel plan.
We decided to visit Orlando and Disney theme parks two weeks ago. When we started to make the travel plan, travel bot Steve suggested to not go there, because of the hot weather and hurricane warnings. Now I am standing beside the ocean and enjoying the crisp weather here in California.