LocalGuide, a mock iOS travel app, provides information and recommendations about where travelers can go and what to see in different cities around the world. This six week product design challenge focused on research, ideation, and wireframing all the way through high-fidelity mockups, prototyping, and usability testing.
Excited to develop an understanding of LocalGuide travelers, I dove into user research to learn about their goals and frustrations.
I synthesized eight user interviews—I loved learning the traveler’s stories and found their memories to be a potent way to unearth their goals and challenges.
The interviews revealed I was designing for an age and socio-economic group like my own—LocalGuide users are upper-middle-class millennial professionals that travel a few times per year. With these insights, I created a user-centered perspective to separate my own experiences from theirs. I’m a complete planner and hate feeling lost—I plan most things out prior to traveling. I also usually focus my travel around outdoor experiences like scuba diving and hiking as opposed to urban cultural activities. Being conscious of the differences between myself and LocalGuide users allowed me to focus on learning how to design for them.
“The Millennial Explorer”
Biography. When Ellie travels, she only plans the bare bones of her travel. She prefers to explore cities by foot or public transportation to gain a feel for their landscape, making them feel like home. She strives to feel connected to new places through the locals who live there. She likes to wander, finding things that are cool and off the beaten path.
I conducted domain research to determine how Ellie’s needs and desires fit into the travel landscape. My research illustrated trends and revealed areas of opportunity for LocalGuide.
Millions of trusted user reviews and
recommendations for various activities.
World's largest travel site with
millions of unbiased traveler reviews.
City guides with offline maps, curated
by experts for before or during a trip.
Different applications connected travelers with local and expert recommendations but few promoted in-the-moment discovery, fostered human collaboration, or created a depth of knowledge necessary to feeling local. The well-known apps felt basic in branding and didn’t feel like they would connect to the unique experience that Ellie seeks—the lesser-known apps like Nearify and SideKix felt more visually off the cuff in their usage of color and imagery.
Additional general domain research revealed an ongoing shift in people’s perception of travel and experiences as gifts. Research illustrated that, “more than three in four millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on an experience or event over buying something desirable.” This literature suggested that emphasizing the local and personalized experiences that LocalGuide travelers seek is also beneficial from a business perspective.
After combining my understanding of Ellie’s goals and frustrations with market and domain research, I determined the opportunity and problem that LocalGuide needed to solve for. I synthesized my research and formulated my product problem statement; I used this as a guide during brainstorming and concepting.
Millennial explorers need a way to discover and navigate both local and curated experiences while traveling, because they wish to feel connected to the places they visit through personal connection, activities, and authenticity.
I created potential scenarios in which Ellie used LocalGuide and utilized her stories to create a foundation for feature requirements
Personalized nearby experiences
To create potential visual directions, I focused on two of Ellie’s influences: exploring and unique experiences. Connecting these back to her desire to feel local and immersed within new places, I created two divergent visual directions.
I found the visual part of the design process to be challenging—it took some rough user testing to gain a better understanding the difference between applying visual and user interface design. I was so excited by watching my designs come to life in color, I served myself a healthy lesson of doing too much.
After getting a bit trigger happy with color, I learned that less is more, especially when dealing with gradients, and the importance of designing for accessibility, a topic I now care deeply about.
I created and iterated high-fidelity screens. After feedback, I refined my designs to improve white space, decrease gradient usage, and clarify typography hierarchy. These changes improved alignment with the best mobile practices and created a more balanced look and feel.
There are quite a few things I could do to improve this project. However, at the end of the day, LocalGuide represents something beyond the deliverables I created; it taught me the design process and helped me begin to discover my own take on it. From this perspective, it showed me that the abstractness of user interface design was a new challenge—a challenge I was eager to continue with, as I saw it pushed my brain in new ways.
From a deliverable standpoint, there are a few key aspects of the app I’d revise with additional time.
I grew immeasurably over the six weeks I worked to create LocalGuide. This project challenged me to separate myself from my user and taught me the value in crafting tools like personas, user stories, and style tiles that helped keep my perspective on Ellie. It also illustrated the value of research as both an empathy and knowledge building tool.