An Android native app that allows travellers to book same-day experiences with independent tours guides from around the world.
Sole UX Designer, UI Designer & Researcher
Figma, InVision, Adobe Photoshop
I created this case study as part of a UX diploma program. As such, I closely followed the Double Diamond design method, developed by the British Design Council, for the entirety of this project. Being a student, there were constraints that I had to work that included being limited to free research methods, limited room for pivots, zero input from developers, and a 10-week timeline to complete everything.
As we all know, COVID-19 has completely upended the international tourism industry. Before my enrollment in my UX program, I was working at a global tourism company (ToursByLocals), so I saw the impact the virus had on the industry firsthand. Tours were being cancelled worldwide, people were losing money to flights and bookings that couldn't be refunded, and a general sense of fear and dread permeated everywhere.*
As I closely monitored how our competitors were doing, I noticed that companies that offered large group tours were especially affected. Because of the difficulty associated with group tours and social distancing, it seemed likely that the future of tourism would favour private tours with smaller groups of people.
*For context, this case study was written in Sept 2020. Safety measures and behaviors around COVID-19 may have shifted since then.
Photo Credit: Ismail Mohamed
Having gathered sufficient data for my problem space, I posed the first version of my design question: how might we make people feel safe and excited to book tours in a future where international travel was allowed again.
Recognizing that the private tourism industry will likely make a faster recovery than group tour companies, I chose to explore a potential solution around the former. As there are other companies that already have a strong foothold in this area, most notably Airbnb, I knew I needed a compelling value proposition in order to have a business viable solution.
According to a travel report by Google in 2019, 48% of experience bookings are made once travellers arrive at their destination. Therefore, I set out to explore a design intervention that prioritizes same-day private experiences which would offer travellers maximum flexibility when making bookings.
While I felt that same-day bookings would create an attractive solution, I needed to validate this assumption with real people. For my primary research, I conducted qualitative interviews with five different individuals in order to better understand their behaviors, motivations, and pain points around private tours.
My participants needed to meet the following criteria in order to qualify.
After synthesizing the notes I gathered from each of my interviews, I was able to group my insights into the following four themes.
In the pandemic ridden world of COVID-19, travellers need to know what measures are being taken by tour operators to keep them safe.
Because planning ahead doesn't always work out, travellers want a solution that offers them the freedom and flexibility to make last minute changes to their travel plans.
In the context of same-day bookings, a desire for quick and instant communication with guides plus detailed information about tours was paramount.
A strong preference exists for experiential tours over sight-seeing focused tours for two main reasons: a) these types of experiences are not as accessible as sight-seeing, and b) it’s a more effective method to learn more about a new culture.
After completing my research, it was clear that a primary incentive to book same-day tours was to have as much choice and flexibility as possible while in destination. Armed with this insight, I re-formulated my design question as shown below.
With my task flow diagram selected, I created an inspiration board to help me visualize what my app might look like. Drawing on Jakob's law, I chose to adopt UI elements that were already familiar and intuitive to users.
Here were some of the screens I drew my initial inspiration from.
I then proceeded with exploratory sketching. Here were my final round of sketches that served as a base for my low-fidelity wireframe.
Here is my first low-fidelity wireframe, which I subsequently made into a prototype through Figma.
As part of my design process, I conducted two rounds of usability testing with five participants per round. Below is my user scenario plus primary task.
Imagine that it’s a year into the future and that the world has opened its borders again for travel. You are currently vacationing in Rome with your family of four. It’s early in the morning and you are interested in booking a fun activity with an Italian local. You are all particularly interested in something related to food.
Please find and book a food related experience that you'd like to enjoy later today with your family.
The following five tasks were what we evaluated users on. The primary task (#1) was directly prescribed to users. The secondary tasks weren’t directly communicated to users, but I observed from my end to see if they were completed.
After each round of usability testing, I applied design changes based off of the feedback I received. Below are some of the key design changes I made after both rounds of testing.
My next focus was my brand's visual identity where I deliberated on elements like mood, logo, colour, and typography.
Thinking back to my earlier research interviews design question, these were some of the words I wanted my brand to represent in terms of mood and feeling. It was at this stage that I arrived at the name BoundZero for my digital solution, which to me was a more catchy form of the word unbounded.
I chose blue as my primary brand colour as I felt that it best represents the mood words mentioned above. Blue also felt most fitting for my logo.
Orange was selected as an accent colour as it represents joy and enthusiasm–this is ideally how I'd want the customers of BoundZero to feel before, during, and after a private experience.
Here is the final interactive prototype of BoundZero.
Having finished making my digital solution, I turned my attention towards marketing BoundZero. Leveraging my digital marketing background, I set out to create a dedicated landing page that would be specifically used for pay-per-click campaigns over platforms like Google Ads or Facebook.
Full page links: Desktop | Mobile
As my capstone was a student project, I was not required to make BoundZero into a real app. However, if given the chance, here would be possible next steps:
Do more primary research
For this project, I based my solution off of the input of only five individuals. This is hardly enough data for me to be confident in BoundZero's value proposition. So before building out my product any more, I'd want to further validate my value proposition using additional research methods.
Get developer input
Assuming that my first concern was addressed, I would then speak to a developer to see if it was possible to build BoundZero with the features and functionality that I have in mind.
Create a minimum viable product
After speaking to a developer, I would continue to apply design thinking principles to build out my product bit by bit until I have an MVP that I can test on the market.
Although creating BoundZero challenged me in so many different ways, it was one of the most educational and gratifying experiences I've ever had. As I look back on these past ten weeks, here are some of the most important lessons I've learned along the way that I will carry into the future.
My value proposition was weak
As I was nearing the end of my project, I realized there wasn't much that differentiated BoundZero from big players in the private tourism industry like Airbnb. If any of these big brands started offering same-day bookings, BoundZero would have an extremely tough time breaking into the market. In hindsight, I would have tackled a different problem space that wasn't dominated by well-known, established brands like Airbnb.
Avoid going straight for the solution
Thanks to my program, I learned that testing assumptions, asking open ended questions, and thinking from a human-centered-narrative is often the better road to take rather than trying to come up with a solution from the start.
Usability isn't everything
Product usability may be the most consideration for UX designers, but there are other factors like marketing, product feasibility, and profitability that demand attention as well. I've learned that I need to weigh all of the above carefully as a UX designer, and apply empathy towards every discipline I work with.
© 2021 Raymond Chou