UX/UI Design | August, 2020

Sonder

Cultural Tourism Mobile App

Concept Project | Case Study

My Role
User Research, Definition & Ideation, Wireframing, Prototyping, Usability Testing
Partner
Sulki Kim: User Research, Definition & Ideation
Tools
Figma, Miro, Google Docs
Timeframe
4 Weeks
Our goal was to imagine we had just been hired as Product Designers by a new travel startup company to build a mobile app within four weeks to help modern travelers plan their next trip, giving them options for authentic cultural activities to help them connect with local people to better understand their culture and customs.

Problem

Travelers want to learn about the local culture on their trips, not just visit the popular tourist traps.

Solution

Sonder is a mobile app that helps users learn about the local culture of their travel destination so they can connect with local people to better understand their customs and become a well-rounded global citizen.
Our initial travel industry research revealed that "Cultural Tourism" is on the rise. Based on this, we developed the hypothesis that travelers enjoy learning about the cultures of the locations they visit.
Who is it for?
  • Adventurers looking for hidden gem locations
  • Food lovers keen on finding the latest hot dish
  • Fans of location history and architecture
  • Traveler’s who love to learn about local cultures

User Research

We created a proto-persona to establish initial assumptions about our potential users. Then through interview and survey analysis, we refined this into our final User Persona.
Prior to any design work, we interviewed five people similar to our proto-persona with the following research objectives:
  • Understand what travelers like to learn about the local cultures they visit.
  • Assess how users organize their trip activities while at their destination.
  • Understand the users pain points when traveling to a location they’ve never been to.
  • Empathize with the user’s pain points when traveling to a location they’ve never been to.
“I love to learn about local cultures - how they live, what they eat, the local language, local places, non-touristic, off the beaten path locations that allow me to become immersed in an authentic local experience.” - Juliana C.
Once we tagged and categorized interview question responses, we discovered more about what our travelers wanted to learn on their trips and empathized with the pain points they experienced while traveling a location they’ve never been to.
The main takeaways from our interviewees when asked about their experiences learning new cultures of the locations they visit were:
Top Areas of Interest:
  • Lifestyle, language, secret local places
  • See the real day-today of locals
  • Examples of cultural architecture
  • Food, restaurants, cafes, scenery, festivals
Pain Points:
  • Language barrier
  • Packing, bringing everything
  • Local corruption
  • Dealing with airlines
  • Not getting lost
  • Not knowing local transportation system
A survey based on our interview questions was also sent out via Slack. Eleven participants - 54.5% Female, 45.5% Male - ranging from 21-35 years of age who travel an average of 2-3 times per year responded to our survey.
Results showed that 90% of respondents felt that learning about a new culture was significantly important to them while traveling. The top three categories they were interested in learning about were: local food, the local lifestyle, and local architecture.

Ideation

After empathizing with our users and defining the problem, we set about coming up with solutions to help users find authentic local cultural activities to experience on their next trip.
Problem Statement:
How might we improve the authenticity and increase the variety of local cultural activities shown to users so they feel successful in planning their trips based on an increase in return visits to the “Sonder” app over a six month period?
Feature Prioritization
We created a Feature Prioritization matrix to analyze the impact, priority, and complexity of implementing solutions for each user problem we discovered in the research phase.
Final App Features List:
  • Ability to find local cultural activities
  • Easily plan trips
  • Use the app to find hidden gem locations

  • All necessary info can be saved offline
  • Local cultural activities are well listed
  • All travel info in one place
Storyboard:

Prototype / Wireframes

I'm working solo from this point on in the project.
Competitor Analysis
I downloaded other apps in the cultural tourism travel space to get an idea of what competitors were focusing on and where they were potentially falling short of solving problems and delighting users. Here's what I found with the Localeur.com mobile app:
Wireframe Sketches
Working from the storyboard, I developed user flows and sketched wireframes to reflect the user's flow of searching for a travel destination and selecting a category and their first cultural activity to do on the trip.
Lo-Fi Wireframes:
In response to testing feedback, I combined step 3 - 'Select Category' and step 4 - 'Select Activity' onto the same screen in the low fidelity version of the wireframe:
Booking Process Wireframes:
Below is the booking process flow after the user has selected an activity along with adding the activity to their travel plan:
Final Prototype:

Usability Testing

5 Usability tests were conducted using a combination of the Concurrent Think Aloud (CTA) method and the Concurrent Prodding (CP) moderation method.
Goal
Discover how easy it is for users to search for a destination, find an activity to do at their chosen destination, add their chosen activity to their travel plan and/or create a new travel plan.
Assumptions - the user:
  • Has access to reliable WiFi or cell data and no connection problems
  • Has adequate budget, vacation time and motivation to travel
  • Is looking for cultural activities to do on an upcoming vacation
  • Is ok with the duration and price of the activity
  • Already has an account and knows their password
  • Is not familiar with how the app functions
Constraints - the user:
  • Can only view information and book one activity at a time
  • Can only add one activity to a travel plan at a time
  • Can only create one travel plan at a time
  • Search results only return Indonesia as pre-filled destination created for this prototype
  • Other features like “Experiences”, “Near Me, and “Profile” were not built out as part of this prototype

Iterations Based on Testing Feedback:
In the first wireframe version, the user would select either an activity or a destination on the home screen (#1). They were then presented with a category screen to choose an activity category (#2). A tester stated this layout was confusing, that the categories and activities should be combined into one screen and “made obvious”.

In the final design (#3), top level categories were added in a horizontal slider above the activities seen by the user after they select a travel destination.
In the first version of the lo-fi wireframes, there weren’t clear instructions on the home screen telling the user what action to take (#1). This was pointed out by testers and corrected in version two by adding the “Where will your travel dreams take you?” call to action directly under the header as the first thing the user sees (#2). This can also be seen in the final hi-fidelity version of the prototype (#3).
In the first and second version of the lo-fi wireframes, there was no input area for login information (#1 & #2). It was purposefully left out because onboarding was not a part of this user flow, however, testers stated that this seemed strange.

An input area for user login information was added along with a login button to the final prototype version (#3).

Conclusion

My plan for the design of this app was to create a modern UI that would delight users while allowing them to easily navigate and solve the problem we identified in the User Research and Definition phase of this project.

The result was a modular, multi-directional scrollable, card based mobile layout with bottom main navigation to allow the user to see and experience the content.

Next Steps:
  • Build out other features like “Experiences”, “Near Me, and “Profile”
  • Add more travel destinations
  • Ability to recall saved travel plans
  • Ability to save payment methods