A new way to solo travel.
Trella is a personal project that addresses a problem many solo travelers often face: solo travelers often struggle to find unique adventures that aren't on a Top 10 Things To Do list and if they do, they then struggle to find someone to enjoy it with. Trella addresses this by offering a new discovery and social networking experience for travelers.
UX Designer, User Researcher
Solo female travelers want to connect with other solo female travelers.
Being a big travel enthusiast and blogger, I knew I wanted to create an experience that helps solo female travelers. Reflecting on my own travels and that of my friends', I initially assumed that safety and loneliness were the main concerns of solo female travel. To address this, my first instinct was to design a social networking app that connects solo female travelers.
I was wrong. Instead, solo travelers actually struggle more with finding unique experience and people to enjoy them with.
Interviewees quipped that they "didn't want to just meet women", which made me realize my assumptions were wrong. Solo travelers are avid researchers and crave off the beaten path adventures that aren't on a Trip Advisor Top 10 list. When they finally discover unique experiences after hours of searching, the lack of travel companions often stops them from going.
How might we help travelers discover unique experiences and companions to enjoy them with?
Discover unique adventures nearby or at your destination of choice.
Users can browse through recommendations nearby to get inspired or use the quick search tool to search different types of adventures. Users can also use the search engine to search at their destination of choice and use filters to best meet their needs.
Browse through recommendations that are trending during your dates.
Users can filter results by adding dates and preferences to quickly find what they need. Trella highlights the recommendations that have active plans during users' intended dates for quick discovery and planning.
Join or create a plan in seconds.
Users can view the recommendation in more detail and can choose to join a plan made by another traveler or create their own if none of the dates suit them.
I first focused on understanding the market for solo travel ✈️
Trusting my travel inundated Instagram feed as proof of market demand would have been incredibly naive of me. I needed to ensure there was real market demand and opportunities to capitalize on in the solo travel market. The main question on my mind was - is this a viable and strategic route to pursue? Yes - secondary research indicated so.
Interviews revealed 3 opportunity areas in the solo travel journey 👀
I conducted interviews with 5 individuals who had previously solo traveled or would like to in the next year to better understand their needs and frustrations. With more time, I would have preferred to reach a wider range of demographics, but due to time constraints, my sample size was more limited.
I synthesized interview results to form a typical user's travel journey and discovered there were three clear phases where users struggled and realized the pain points were interdependent on each other: planning the trip, connecting with other travelers, and exploring the destination solo.
Instagram is a big part of solo travelers' travel experiences.
Users like its its visual appeal and access to travel accounts and thus, use it for inspiration, researching, connecting with travelers, and sharing.
Solo travelers want unique experiences not a Top 10 tourist attractions list.
They prefer recommendations from travel bloggers, friends, or fellow travelers over larger websites.
It's hard to find people who want to do the same things.
Its easier to find somebody to eat with or explore the city with than to find somebody who wants to travel 4 hours to go on a 5 hour hike.
Turning the pain points into design opportunities 💪
What if you could browse through recommendations of unique adventures from previous travelers and create plans with other travelers?
A set of design principles to guide decisions 🙌
I created a set of design principles to guide and validate the design decisions I was making. Such practice helped me to hold myself accountable to the end user goals as well as the business goals and create a cohesive and unified experience.
What could we learn from other players in the market?
When starting to think about design, I remembered Jakob's law - users prefer products that are in line with what they are used to. With that, I identified a few products that were already exemplifying aspects of my design goals really well to see what I could learn from them.
...what if there was a way to combine the best of
Getting feedback early before designing the entire experience was important.
I started with basic wireframes of the discover and the detail page of each recommendation - the two I believed were most essential to the concept. I tested the wireframes with two interviewees to understand which they preferred in terms of search and discovery, extracting information, and visual appeal. This guided how I designed the rest of the experience.
Bigger thumbnails and images, more information
More visual, less information,
+ Trending recommendations
Both users preferred #2 because it was more visual and more like Instagram. They also liked the "trending experiences" feature and suggested a feature that showed the experiences / plans happening during their dates.
Long scroll - less work.
Both interviewees preferred the long scroll option. I initially believed the tab option worked better because it better categorized information, but users believed that the long scroll was easier and faster to navigate and access information, especially if they're impatient.
Long scroll - all information in one page
Tabs - plans, photos, and reviews in three tabs
Creating a visual language 🌻
Before creating high fidelity prototypes, I wanted to develop a visual language to keep things consistent across all the elements in the product. I wanted the look and feel of nature and adventure - vivid colors but also illiciting feelings of calmness.
What did I learn from this project?
Balancing business and user needs is key to the feature's success.
Launching a new feature is a huge move both in terms of risk and resources. While a new feature may seem desirable to users, it is essential to phase it in with smaller moves so usability testing can be performed with more specific metrics to assess potential.
We all have something to learn from
Our group was both smaller and included a non-HCI student, which made us the anomaly. This became an advantage because we had very unique ways of working. The non designer pushed us to more efficiently and not get caught up in the smaller details when our focus should be on the bigger picture.
Testing insights 💬
I recruited three participants who had or planned to solo travel to perform usability testing with. I used Sketch mirror to simulate the experience and asked participants to think out loud as they used the app. Overall, users loved the visual appeal of the app but had concerns about readability and information hierarchy.
Thinking further down the product roadmap 🎯
There were so many possibilities for Trella, but I had to be smart about what features I included in the MVP. With the MVP likely to be fairly basic and free to users, I wanted to also think about how this product could eventually monetize the experience and grow market share. Some ideas I had were...
Work with local individuals and groups
This could help grow the uniqueness of recommendations as well as help the local economy.
Partner with social media influencers
It's clear that Instagram is a huge part of travelers' journeys so it makes sense to capitalize on it. Partnering with influencers will raise brand awareness and encourage adoption of Trella.
Expand into other activities
Currently, Trella only offers adventures but as the product gains traction, more categories could be added to expand the user base and grow market share.
There's still open questions and challenges to solve 🤔
The design phase of this project was about a week, which meant I was limited in what I could address and the problems I could solve. As I reflected on and interviewed with this case study - clear areas for concern arose. Unfortunately, I did not have time to address these concerns but if I do work on this project again, these are the problem areas I would like to tackle.
How do we encourage users to upload high quality images?
Since it’s a crowd sourced app, ensuring that users upload high quality photos is a challenge. Low quality photos will affect the engagement of the app.
How could we prevent users from adding generic or touristy experiences?
Currently, there’s nothing to prevent users from uploading more touristy recommendations, but that would defeat the purpose of the app. What qualifies something as 'unique'?
How can we grow the supply and demand for both sides of the marketplace?
The apps functions like a marketplace - it needs users adding recommendations and users viewing them in order to be of value. So far, I haven't put much thought into the experience of people adding recommendations, which is just as important.
My takeaways ✨
Don't become attached to ideas - listen to users.
As a solo female traveler myself, I was really proud of my initial idea to connect solo female travelers, especially there seemed to be a gap in the market for it. But when my user research suggested otherwise, I knew I had to let it go and address the users' real needs and frustrations. I'm so glad I did because now I'm confident I have a design that is backed by my findings and insights.