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Safe travel for Holidays — a UX Research case study

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Safe travel for Holidays — a UX Research case study

Identifying the behavioral shift of people during a pandemic and helping them to travel and spend their holidays safely via Holiday booking Application | UX Research & Design case study

Overview📁

This article will tell you in detail how I have gone through the entire process to understand the behavioral change that the pandemic has brought to the people who are trying to book a holiday and How I provided a solution for their safety while travelling and spending their holidays during this pandemic.

Note: This project is done based on the situation of before or after the 2nd wave of covid-19. This is being a research project, the aim was to solely focus on the research and solution part of the process.

Problem Statement

Business Problem Statement: People have now started to go on holidays again as the world is slowly coming out of Covid-19, but it is not yet completely safe. What to do and what not to do while on a holiday is changing daily. A holiday booking app wants to make the users aware of the constant safety measures that need to be taken and help them plan better holidays even during the pandemic.

Research Problem Statement: Safety is a major concern for people while planning holidays in recent times. As a UX designer, you want to understand the behavior of people trying to book a holiday in the times of Covid-19. You would want to understand the factors that influence their holiday. Plan research to identify the new standards that the business needs to look out for.

Plan of action:

Here are the different stages I followed in this project,

1. Understanding the Business & Research Problem Statements.

2. Secondary Research

  • Gathering Statistical & Behavioural insights revolving around the problem statement.
  • Defining the target audience.

3. Primary Research

  • Sending survey and recruit users for interview.
  • Creating a session guide.
  • Conducting user interviews.
  • Recording key insights from the interviews.

4. Research Analysis

  • Empathy Maps
  • User Personas

5. Reframing the user challenges using ‘How might we’ questions

6. Ideation & Wireframing

  • Low & high fidelity wireframes

7. UI & Prototype

8. Testing

1. Understanding the Problem Statement

Breaking down the problem statement by asking questions

“If I were given one hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute solving it”— Albert Einstein

To understand and solve the problem effectively, I need to narrow it down and understand the root cause of the problem. I framed the 5Ws— Who, What, When, Where, Why and answered them myself to get a broad idea of the problem and give a direction to further research. With this, I can develop a foundation for the product and can be referred back when moving forward.

  1. Who?
  • Who can benefit from solving this?

People who are willing to travel and spend their vacation safely can be benefited.

  • Whom do they usually travel with?

With their family, friends, partner, etc.

2. What?

  • What other aspects may influence the users while travelling in this situation?

The conditions and aspects may differ from person to person like budget issues, work-related, etc.

  • What is the ultimate goal here?

To provide enough safety measures for the users who want to enjoy their holidays and make them feel safe as much as possible.

3. When?

  • When did the problem start to occur?

Since March 2020, the problem has started to occur in India.

  • When will the user plan on taking their next trip in this pandemic?

Once the number of active cases decreases or completely gone.

4. Where?

  • Where can I focus to solve this?

I can focus on understanding the users by what type of safety measures they need and what other factors can be helpful for them to enjoy their holidays.

5. Why?

  • Why do people need holidays or vacations during this time?

They need a break and this will help them to detox their mind from this covid situation which is there for almost more than a year.

  • Why is it important to solve this problem?

It will help people who want to come out of this depression and safely enjoy their vacations.

  • Why aren’t many users using the holiday booking app like before?

Users have the fear of getting infected while travelling and they are not sure if the hotels and locations are sanitized properly.

To proceed with this understandings, I need to research further to understand my users what they really want in this situation to travel and spend their holidays and how I can approach to solve this from the core of the problem.

2. Secondary Research

Desk Research

Secondary or Desk Research is nothing but going through various sources through industry reports, academic articles, analytics/business data on the internet to get more insights and learnings.

Doing desk research helped me to learn how the pandemic has affected the travel industry, the life of people behaviourally and statistically, and what the obvious constraints are stopping the users from using the product. It also helped me come up with the right questions needed for user interviews.

Statistical Insights:

The below insights will reflect the statistical data of how covid impacted the travelers all over India, their expectations, etc.

  • 78 percent of travelers expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options to meet their goals.
  • 76 percent will stay away from crowded tourist attractions and prefers alternative destinations to avoid overcrowding. Those destinations will need to adopt new, smart crowd management measures to appease travelers.
  • Regarding the impact of COVID-19 on travel plans, 31 percent of Indian respondents stated that they had not made any travel bookings and would decide based on the development of the outbreak. And 10% said they booked buy may cancel on how it develops.
  • During the pandemic, a larger than average share of young adults (ages 18–24) report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder (56%).
  • The impact of coronavirus has inspired 55 percent of Indian travelers to consider reducing waste and recycle plastic when travelling, once travel restrictions are lifted.
  • Travelers in the age group of 18–35 years are dominating the Indian travel scene with almost 66 percent of the overall trips being undertaken by this young tech-savvy generation.
  • Mobile is the most preferred booking platform, as 74 percent of the bookings were made via app by travelers in the age group 18–35.
  • The number of trips and distance traveled dropped by 55% and 68% respectively compared to the previous year.

Behavioral Insights:

The below insights will reflect the behavioral aspects of the users regarding the travel over the past year.

  • Indian travelers planning to travel in 2021 have expressed a wish to avoid other tourists, with a spike in interest towards exploring lesser-known destinations this year.
  • People are worried about the pandemic situation and in a dilemma of whether to go on vacation or not since things are changing every day. It may influence their decision over the course.
  • Due to the pandemic, young adults were already at high risk of poor mental health and substance use disorder, though many did not receive treatment.
  • Most young and adult people want to travel and spend their vacation and they prefer to use mobile apps for booking.
  • People are shifting to a large extent from shared mobility to private mobility.
  • People value the environment and look for a way to travel and enjoy without harming the natural and cultural environment.
  • Indian travelers planning to travel in 2021 have expressed a wish to avoid other tourists, with a spike in interest towards exploring lesser-known destinations this year.

These insights helped me to move forward with the primary research by providing ideas for my user interviews.

Defining the Target Audience

A picture of selective users portraying target audience

I set up a target audience before the primary research by narrowing down the data, which I got from the secondary research. This helped me to define the type of people who could be facing the problems relevant to my problem statement and give direction to move further on the research by sending surveys and conducting interviews.

Product: Holiday/Travel booking app

Gender: Male & Female

Age: 18–45

Occupation: Students, working professionals, etc.

Population: India

Type of Traveller: Frequent & Occasional travelers

3. Primary Research

Primary Research is about understanding the users and their problems profoundly from their perspective, by empathizing with them. This will be achieved by conducting user interviews.

To conduct user interviews, the next step was to create the surveys to find my target users. The users were recruited through a screener form who fit into my target user group to move forward for the interview. [Link of Form]

Here are the statistics of the responses which I received from the survey:

Statistics of the survey

User Interviews:

User Interviews are essential to understand the users' concerns from their perspective and to help in improving our theories received from secondary research. Before I started the interviews, I prepared a session guide with a set of questions to understand the user's challenges: their experience, needs, expectations, etc.

Here are my interview questions. I proceeded to ask them more questions as per my user’s responses, making it flexible to the scenario.

Behaviours & Decisions related to product:

1. Tell about yourself? What do you do? Your hobbies?

2. Do you like to travel and spend your holidays on a vacation trip?

3. How many days do you think it’s better to spend your vacation?

4. Describe how the pandemic affected your holiday plans over the last year?

5. What kind of places you visit before the pandemic and what would you like to visit after the pandemic or once it started to drop?

6. Your expectations on staying? Like, what kind of hotels or rooms you were looking for before and after the pandemic?

7. How covid affected you mentally?

8. To come out of stress, what do you do? Will travel help to improve your mental health?

9. What will make you feel safe to travel again?

10. Does budget is your main concern or it play a role to influence your vacation?

Interactions related to product:

11. Tell me about the application you use for holiday booking?

12. Why are you using this app? What made you use that?

13. Do you use your app every time you travel?

14. Did you try any other App or Website other than this?

15. Could you describe your recent experience where you decided to travel by yourself or reaching out to local travel services instead of using online services?

16. What do you think is missing in the app? What kind of features do you want or think can be added so that it will be helpful?

17. Could you demonstrate how you use the app to book your holiday vacation?

After framing the questions, I went ahead and conducted a 1:1 interview with 5 users over a virtual setup whom I recruited from the survey. I got a lot of information from the 5 users whom I chose to interview.

The interviews did provide me with information that I never thought of, and the novel experience of users with the app and the fear of COVID-19 amazed me. After each interview with my users, my interaction with them and my questions started to become better.

Here are some of the key insights and quotes from the users💡

This pandemic has been haunting the people for almost more than a year due to several reasons. People’s travel plans were canceled due to covid. Once the cases start to drop down: People are expecting to travel again and enjoy their holidays to come out of this pandemic and they want to travel as safely as possible.

“Due to covid, My travel plans were canceled for the whole year 2020.”

“I’ll demand a lot of safety measures and precautions to travel safely.”

People already have some expectations of how they can travel safely after the covid or once it starts to slow down to enjoy their vacation. They expressed their feelings and expectations of safety measures while travelling.

“I am worried about the public transports like flights, trains, etc to travel.”

“I am not sure about all the necessities are available or not during this covid like Healthcare centre or hospital, pharmacy, etc for remote places.”

People cannot live their normal life and have been pushed to stress and depression due to covid and they want to come out of that. They believe travel is one of the ways that can help them to come out of this.

“I was in a lot of stress and depression due to various factors during this pandemic. I believe travel might help to come out of this.”

Besides safety, people also expressed the other things that will influence them to use online holiday booking services for their travel once the covid starts to slow down.

“I expect more offers and discounts in online services since I can see offline agencies are offering the package at less cost.”

“I used to ask suggestions and reviews from my friends to choose a destination for the holidays.”

The user interview helped me to get some insights and clarity of how the users were experiencing this pandemic and what they expect with the online holiday booking services once the covid starts to slow down. The main goal of this stage was to get to know the people you’re designing for so that you understand their needs better.

4. Research Analysis

Post the user interviews, I created empathy maps and user personas to help me analyze the idea and narrow down the problems and challenges faced by the users.

Empathy Mapping

I drafted the insights into an Empathy map to find out if there are any gaps in my current learnings about my users — Frequent & Occasional travelers.

At this stage, Empathy mapping proved to be really useful for integrating learnings and research notes about my users from the data which I gathered during the user research. It helped me to get a clear understanding of the user’s mind — their emotions and their actions in using the online holiday booking services.

An empathy map of frequent and occasional travel booking users
Empathy Map

User Persona

I created a user persona to give a representation of my target audience. It helped me to get a clear understanding of user behaviors and needs and define for whom I should provide the solution and what is necessary for them from a user-centered perspective.

I chose the frequent traveler group to proceed further for solving the problems as it would help in other user group’s problems also.

User persona of a frequent traveler

5. Reframing the user challenges using ‘How might we’ questions

After analyzing the research data, I used the ‘How might we’ method to rephrase the frustrations/pain points from users which I acquired, and find out what exactly the user wants to provide a solution.

Users are not fully convinced to travel again due to several safety reasons.

How might we assure the users that they can travel safely and give a sense of safety?

Need help to get better suggestions and help for their journey.

How might we help users to get better suggestions and help for their journey?

Worried about the public transports like flights, trains, etc to travel

How might we help users to travel and make sure they won’t worry about public transports?

Users are expecting personalized offers and discounts.

How might we give personalized offers and discounts to the users?

Wants reference and reviews from friends to trust and engage during covid times.

How might we help users to get references and reviews from friends to trust and engage during covid times?

Not sure about all the basic necessities are available or not during this covid like Healthcare center or hospital, pharmacy, etc.

How might we inform users about all the necessities are available to travel safely?

6. Ideation & Wireframing

After doing HMW, it opens up the Ideation stage to explore the ideas and generate solutions that could help me solve my user’s problems. I started with pen & paper (low fidelity wireframes) and iterated to see how the solutions are coming up.

High fidelity wireframes:

I used a wireframing tool — Whimsical to quickly bring the screens and see how it will be useful for the users.

Safety verified badge

Safety verified badge — The application would include a safety verified badge concept to ensure safety for the users. With this, a list of safety measures will be established and checked by the separate team from the product every 24 hours. If a hotel or activity center clears all the safety measures in the list, a verified batch will be issued to the hotels, spots, and activities, etc to travel or stay safe.

The users can explore hotels, activities, etc with safety guidelines from the product being shown on every screen providing a sense of safety to the users as they can be assured that safety is taken as a priority for them (Playing with human psychology).

Home screen & guideline screen

Expert-in-call — A feature for the users to connect with the professionals to get better suggestions and help for their journey during this pandemic.

This is the main screen where people can land and navigate for their purposes. This screen will include a safety guideline section with that user can land on the guideline screen where it will provide the necessary guidelines from the Government and a separate section that will show additional safety measures provided by the application.

A floating call button is added to connect with the experts/professionals. This will be helpful for the users in case if they have any doubt or need any clarification regarding the travel. It can be also used to get better suggestions and help for their journeys during this pandemic.

Road trip mode

Road trip mode — The application would include a road trip mode feature for people worried about using public transport for their travel.

The screen will display a new mode of travel called a Road trip for the users with the safety message regarding that. By using this, users can travel safely to enjoy their holidays and the map will show the verified route to the user along with verified restaurants and spots to spend their time during the travel.

User community & Personalized offers

User community — A user community feature like social media will be included for the users to engage with other users to get references and reviews for their trips.

This will be helpful for the users to trust and book or plan for their trip on the app as they can get reviews from other users and they can also have a chat with the other users to discuss their experiences on their travel.

Personalized offers — Personalized offers which include big discounts based on their history of bookings will be given to the users for their next booking to use and travel.

In the payment confirmation screen, After completing the payment for each booking, a special discount or offer coupon will be given to the user for their next booking. An information message will be displayed that the product is monitoring the situation and will be notified in case if something goes wrong. This will help users to trust the safety being offered by the app.

Peer Reviews

After finishing my wireframes, I went ahead to get some feedback from my peers so that I could iterate upon my solutions and make them better. We had a group call, where I explained the process and discussed it with them. Based on suggestions, I did a few changes which are as follows:

  1. The hotel and activity selection screen had a safety verified badge concept which will be issued after going through the checklists. Upon suggestion, I added a User’s score and reviews about the safety measures for the hotels, activities, etc on the selection screens. This will help the users to trust more and engage as this will be given by the fellow users who visited and used that.

2. For the transport selection screen, I created a new mode of travel called Road trip and gave a piece of information regarding that. After getting suggestions, I reduced the amount of information being shown on the screen by giving access to the users to click see more and read the full information. Because generally, users might avoid reading the long pieces of information by skipping that. This change will be helpful as the users won’t avoid that as it will trigger them to click the see more and read the full info.

Here you can access all the wireframes with better clarity (Link)

7. UI & Prototype

After finalizing the wireframes, I went ahead by creating UI screens and prototypes on Figma to test it with the users.

Snapshot 1

Snapshot 1: Home screen — where users can land and navigate to book hotels, flights, etc. This screen includes a safety guideline section that will provide the necessary guidelines from the Government and additional safety measures information provided by the application.

Hotel selection screen — Where people can search and book hotels across the country. The screen is also having an Ad section, where the product can display its Ads and offers. It also gives information on the location regarding the safety during the covid.

Snapshot 2

Snapshot 2: Road trip mode — This is the road trip mode on the selection screen, where people can use those who are worried about using public transport for their travel.

The screen contains a piece of information on a Road trip for the users with the safety message regarding that and a Map screen to show the verified route to the user along with verified restaurants and spots to spend their time during the travel.

Snapshot 3

Snapshot 3: Guideline screen — It will provide the necessary guidelines from the Government and a separate section that will show additional safety measures information provided by the application.

Safety Badge info screen —A list of safety measures will be set up and checked by the separate team from the product every 24 hours. If a hotel or activity center clears all the safety measures in the list, a verified batch will be issued to the hotels, spots, and activities, etc to travel or stay safe.

Snapshot 4

Snapshot 4: Community screen — Where people can connect and engage with other users which will help to see reviews and feedbacks. They can also have a chat with the other users to discuss their experiences on their travel.

Payment confirmation screen — After completing each payment a personalized big discount or coupons will be given to the users on this screen based on their history of booking. An information message will also be displayed that the product is monitoring the situation and will be notified in case if something goes wrong. This will help users to trust the safety being offered by the app.

8. Testing

User testing was done with the real users to observe and analyze how the users were interacting with the application. Whether the solution is solving the user problems or not and overall making it a user-centric product.

I tested my prototype with 4 users virtually over a zoom call. I asked them to perform a task on the prototype and following that, I asked questions related to that task.

Key quotes from the users 🗣

“The road trip concept is amazing! It will help a lot to avoid the public during travel. The application is also easy to use and interact. The number of measures for our safety being considered by the app will help a lot for me.”

“The interface is looking nice. I feel the hotel is safe to book after reading the safety information regarding that. But I felt like the safety badge should be informed in a better way to know more about that.”

“The safety badge concept looks good and will help a lot to book hotels. Discount offers after the payment looks familiar with Google pay scratch card. The community concept looks good as it will help us to know more about a place or hotel.”

“I love how the app is taking care of extra safety measures to ensure our safety. Road trip is also quite good as it shows safe restaurants and small spots to explore on the way. Overall it is good.”

Revised Prototype✅

After testing the prototype with the users, I iterated the screens after finding out the users were having certain issues while interacting with the prototype.

Iteration 1

Iteration 1: During testing, users were having a problem with understanding the User’s score on the Hotel view screen. They got confused and considered that as a usual review score from the other users but it was there to reflect the safety score of the hotel from the other users during the pandemic.

In the Iterated prototype, I changed the name from User’s score to User’s safety score which would help the users to know that the given score is regarding the safety of the hotel.

Iteration 2

Iteration 2: During testing, I noticed that users were having a hard time recognizing the safety-verified badge for the hotels which I included to make sure the safety is being offered to the users as much as possible by the product.

In the Iterated prototype, I made the pop-up screen to deliver the Safety-verified Badge concept for the users after landing on the Hotel selection page. This would make sure that users would read and be aware of Safety verified Badge concept.

Iteration 3

Iteration 3: After testing, Users loved the concept of a Road trip to travel safely by avoiding public transports. I felt that it would be helpful if the users could use that option with more ease.

In the Iterated prototype, I replaced the Restaurants option with a Road trip in the navigation section of a home as it will be easy for the users to use and travel safely.

What is next?🎯

I would like to improve the safety measures being offered for the people with more testing and iterations. The application can also be improved with the interactions between the screens and solutions with more iterations. Overall, I would like to give a good experience for the users to book their holidays.

Major takeaways from this project🔥

It was an overall roller coaster ride for me throughout this project since 2nd wave of covid is going on.

  • One of the major things I learned is to unlearn to be perfect. I tried to be perfect for each phase of the project, but over the course, I realized it's better to not worry about providing perfect work, since we can iterate and test our work with the users.
  • I have also learned that research is where the real answers can be found. With good research, more than half of our problems are already solved.

After finishing this project, when I looked back I realized that it’s been a huge learning experience for me throughout the course. Since this is my first UX Research project. Overall, I unlearned and learned a lot!

Hey, you stayed with me till the end of this article might as well tap the clap button below! Gracias! 😀


Safe travel for Holidays — a UX Research case study was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.