A new way to solo travel
A social travel app to find and plan unique travel experiences recommended by previous travelers.
Having lived in 5 countries by the age of 21, travel has always been a huge part of my life. This motivated me to create a product that could help travel enthusiasts find unique, off the beaten path experiences as well as fellow adventurers to share the travel experience with. I began this project in my 1st semester of grad school but decided to revisit it in my final semester to improve it using what I had learned in grad school.
V1 - 3 weeks in Dec 2019
V2 - 3 weeks in Nov 2020
Solo travelers struggle to find unique travel experiences and people to enjoy them with.
Most millennial solo travelers aren't looking for a Top 10 Things to Do list on Trip Advisor when they travel. Instead, they want the unique, off the beaten path experiences that are often only found through personal recommendations or hours of browsing through travel blogs. But more often than not, once they find something cool to do, finding someone to go with is equally challenging.
How might we help travelers discover unique travel experiences and people to enjoy them with?
Trella: A new social travel app that helps travelers find unique experiences recommended by previous travelers.
Browse upcoming travel plans and join other travelers' plans
The homepage showcases recommendations and upcoming travel plans in a user's area added by other travelers. Users can join travel plans created by other travelers to enjoy the experience with others. Clicking on a plan will allow them to view the original recommendation as well as travel plans created by travelers to visit the spot.
Create their own plan that other travelers can join
If none of the upcoming plans interest a user, they can choose a recommendation and create their own travel plan! In just a few steps, users can create their own plan and share it to social media to spread the word (Trella will also notify users of the newly created plan)
Ok, but how did I actually get there?
In my first sprint, I focused more on designing an experience that addressed the pain points I found. In the second sprint, I transitioned my focus to making Trella more viable by spending more time thinking about the product strategy, go-to market strategy, and edge cases.
INITIAL MARKET RESEARCH
58% of millennials prefer solo travel, and 26% have already done so.
The solo travel industry has boomed massively in recent years, with millennials and Gen Z travelers, mostly women, driving a lot of its growth. In fact, solo travel is responsible for 18% of travel worldwide with Pinterest seeing a 350% increase in "solo travel" pins. All of the research reinforced that there was massive potential in this industry and helped me narrow down my target demographic to millennials.
Interviews revealed 3 pain points in solo travelers' journeys.
I conducted 5 interviews with millennials who had solo traveled in the past or who would like to solo travel in the future to understand their needs and frustrations. Through a synthesis, I was able to create a typical journey map of a solo travelers' experience and extracted travelers' 3 main pain points while traveling.
but also revealed areas of excitement that I could capitalize on to create an end-to-end travel experience.
How could I translate these pain points into design opportunities?
Existing products addressed some of the pain points, but no one product did it all.
Many products have tried to capitalize on the growth rate of the solo travel industry and changing travel behaviors of millennials. Through research, I realized competitors could be categorized into 2 groups: products that focused solely on solo travelers such as Travello and products that have introduced features that appeal to solo travelers like Airbnb Experiences and Meetup.
How might we aid the discovery of unique experiences?
Solo travelers trust other solo travelers, so what if I could leverage that trust?
Solo travelers enjoy sharing their experiences on social media so that other solo travelers can benefit from their first-hand knowledge. So, why not leverage that behavior to create a collection of trustworthy recommendations added personally by solo travelers? To make the data more useful and digestible to users, Trella could curate the recommendations by categorizing them into categories that are more appealing to users.
How might we make it easier for travelers to find other travelers to do activities with?
Existing products focus more on making the initial connection between travelers vs. connecting travelers with similar interests.
Meetup is a good example of a product that fosters social connections around events that both sides are interested in.
I took inspiration from this concept and adapted it for Trella's use case; travelers will be able to join upcoming plans created by other travelers so that they can enjoy the experience with other solo travelers.
How might we offer travelers with more control over their own plans?
Airbnb Experiences does a great job at offering local experiences, but they are paid and can still feel like guided tours.
Airbnb's experiences are completed planned by hosts. This can make experiences feel structured and dissuade more independent solo travelers that prefer to be the boss of their own travel plans.
This made me wonder...
Is there a hybrid solution that could offer travel guidance while still offering travelers control over their travel plans?
Trella could offer users the ability to create their own travel plans that other travelers can join.
To provide a hybrid of independent and guided travel, recommendation listings will include travel tips added by the person who originally added the recommendation. This acts as first-hand advice from a trusted traveler while still giving travelers full control over their trip.
At this point, I had a product that addressed user pain points. But, I wanted Trella to actually be viable... which meant there were a ton of strategic factors to consider! How could it be monetized? How could it grow?
Trella could include sponsored recommendations while still maintaining user trust by being transparent.
The Trella team could do paid collaborations with places and personally recommend the experience ONLY after experiencing it themselves and truly believing that other travelers would enjoy it too. While they are sponsored recommendations, I want there to be as much transparency as possible so that user trust is not affected.
Trella could integrate with popular social media apps to encourage users to share their plans with their network
Knowing how important sharing their travels to social media is for millennial solo travelers, I wanted to leverage that behavior to promote user growth. Posting their plans to social media would be both a way to share what they're up to while traveling as well as potentially find travelers in their social media network that might want to tag along.
Trella could send out push notifications to users in the area or who plan to visit the area when new plans are created.
Trella could help raise awareness of plans by sending push notifications of new plans to those in the area or who had indicated they might be visiting the area soon. This will help promote newly created plans to relevant Trella users to help it gain traction.
Trella was a passion project that I revisited toward the end of my HCI degree and seeing my growth between the two versions makes me so proud.
This was the first real UX project I'd ever done. The idea was fairly similar to what it is now, but the execution and thought process was way different. My homepage looked my an Instagram feed because I thought it was cool. There was no thought about the product strategy. And, its usability wasn't the best - users didn't understand what the navigation tabs meant and struggled to read the small font size.
With 1 internship and a few design strategy courses down, I found myself making far more intentional and strategic design decisions. I designed pages that were more informed by research rather than visual design trends on Dribble, brainstormed potential non-happy paths, and really thought about the product's viability and integrated it into my designs. I also saw a big improvement in the quality of my visual design. I