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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Traveler-centered Product Strategy and Design

My design proposal for a travel booking app

There were some travel sites, almost dominate the online travel booking market in the past, but their products seems have been acting slowly to keep up with the time change, which are not just as ugly as 20 years ago, but also boring, no engagement, and lack of understanding of traveler's needs at modern era. As a result, they are losing market shares. Their past successes have become their burden, the products are just so conservative in taking new innovations, what a shame. Below are some examples.

Such an app, the navigation, layouts, are not mobile friendly. It is visually ugly, yet experience wise not friendly.

It is still position itself as a booking tool, which lack of user engagement, most users barely open the app.

1. Solve frequency issue, make it part of people's daily life

When I was designing this traveler-center product, the first problem I would like to address is "frequency". Most travel app has such an issue, that when people are not going to travel, they will never open the app or go to the website. It is just like a hammer in the garage, people almost will never look for it unless he/she need to pound a nail. So how to fix this frequency issue? My answer is, redefine the border of "travel".

Travel can be daily, "weekenly", or "holidaily". Everyday, after work, people may want to travel to the city for some fun events; every weekend, people may want to travel to the suburbs some activities with families or friends; every holidays, long weekends, people may want to travel even further to other cities, or even other countries.

So my first menu item for this app is "Explore", which people can explore activities nearby, which are happening today so users can explore and book one event; people can also explore activities for a little further, which can be for the weekend. For some people, even they are having a busy day, they may still like to browse such events nearby, in town, suburbs, or cities around, to feel the passion and energy of this area.

Users can also explore holiday activities, and explore even further in distance. So they can feel the energy of the world, and plan ahead for their own PTO or holidays. Users can always switch between map view and card view as well.

2. Solve engagement issue, bring the world to the users' hand

A lot of users including myself, love to watch travel images, blogs, and videos, so why not also build a vertical social channel within this app, so travelers can share their photos, video clips here, simple sharing, but also may receive incentives.

It is a mixed collage of images and video clips, user can brow as waterfall view or switch to card view. It has a posting icon on the bottom right, users can always click and start to post. When viewing each image or video clip, it also has a "Let's go" button, so when user inspired by this photo or video, they can one click and start the booking process, which will led them to a search result page, with transportation, accommodation, and activities recommendations in the search result.

3. Solve the cost issue, empower travelers to make money

Travel cost money, it is a common sense, yet it has been stopping many people from traveling more often. So what if people can make money while traveling? There are many people has been trying to do so, e.g. become a Youtuber or Instagrammer, earning money from advertisement sharing programs from Youtube and Instagram.

As a travel app, this becomes much easier and it is a win-win situation. Users can post photo, video, or write a travel guide or blog here. There will always be a "Let's go" button, content generators will receive booking profit sharing. Some travel guide they can also set a price for others pay to read. Winning together with the travelers, this strategy shall help building a great ecosystem.

4. Solve operating issue, empower vendors to take more initiatives

Vendors do not have to be passive, and wait for the site to bring bookings to their products and services, vendors can also take initiatives, as long as we empower them by providing such tools. E.g. vendors can post couples with location info. When travelers open their AR augmented reality feature, they can see nearby merchants with discount coupons through their camera. It is good for traveler to save money, for vendors to attract more customers, yet great for this travel platform to make more profit. So it is a win-win-win model.

5. Solve the ownership issue, give traveler a virtual home

Every product has a "my account", "my profile" or "my dashboard" page, all travel apps also has such a place. However, this page can become more important to the users/travelers, it can really become a "home" for the users, to make become feel "belonged to", yet none of them have done so or achieve so.

In my design, "my home" page will not just record all the booking histories, but also allow users to set up their life goals/check list for travel, places they want to go, activities they want to do, it will record and mark users' footprints around the globe. The feeling of accomplishment, ownership, will greatly encourage users to travel more, and to use this product more.

Loyalty programs from the credit cards, flight agency memberships, club points, and so on, have been a mess and difficulty to figure out all clearly. Helping users to manage their loyalty programs in one place, will not just save money for the users; but also bond them strongly with this platform.

6. Solve the hassle of travel planning, make more money by better service

Current travel app, user will have to select among stays, flights, cars, things to do, cruises first, then go to the page to fill in their travel dates, and search for a related result in each category. In this case, if a user want to travel to Hawaii, he/she will has to search for flight, book a flight; then go to stays, search for hotels and then book a hotel; then go to cars to search and book a rental car...

In my design, because users' travel plan info is the same, so I would make the search in for stays, flights, cars, etc. in one page, user can check or uncheck which info they want. After search, the platform will provide related best suggested options, and they can change the filter to adjust preferences, or go to the list to see all results of flights, or stays or activities, and so on.

The shopping cart can be used as a travel planner. After users pick some product from the search results and come to this cart page, the page will be listed as a time line, depends on users journey, each vacant time slot can be suggested for an activity, or event. Any distance between each destination can also be suggested with a way of transportation. So before final check out, this shopping cart can actually serve as a travel planner for the customer to schedule a well managed trip plan with rich activities like the most considerate butler. And yet, this can also bring this platform with maximum profit possibilities from each travelers' trip. Besides, it can also sell local train/bus/events tickets, or even insurances to the travelers.

7. Solve the channel issue, co-development with partners

For any business, gaining users, bringing traffics have been quite a challenge and yet big costs. In my strategy planning, I also proposed a "Go" button, this button is not just everywhere across this platform, it can also be embedded to other partners' sites. For example, maybe users see an interesting photo on Pinterest, then they can simply click the "Go" button, and it will bring them to the search result page, take the traveler to that destination. Maybe users were watching a Netflix video, and fall in love with one destination, they can also click the "Go" button, and get everything ready for their trip.

More can be explored. Anyone who is interested, welcome to contact me.

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