Utrip is a travel planning platform that combines human & artificial intelligence to make trip planning easy, enjoyable and personal. While the platform's end users are travelers, Utrip is a B2B white labeled platform with partners spanning all facets of the travel industry from DMOs to hotels to airlines and more. Because each partner has unique KPIs, the Utrip platform must be versatile to adapt to each partner's KPIs.
The goal in redesigning the trip planning platform included:
Despite a near magical recommendation engine that takes user preferences and geographically optimizes them into an organized itinerary, users were struggling with the fear-of-missing-out on activities. They didn't trust the recommendations and felt forced down a limited path. When the original platform was initially tested, 90% of users weren't even sure what the sliders did.
Changing the user flow to add the trip planner as a step between personalization and itinerary creation helped reduce the FOMO. In addition, by putting the travel preference controls in the same space as the recommendations, users could see recommendations update in real time as they engage with the tool. Because the POI grid re-ordered to put the most recommended items on top instead of only showing recommended items, the user didn't feel like their choices were being taken away.
This put the control back into the user's hands, and empowered them to adjust and readjust as preferred. This both helped to build trust in the recommendation engine.
The Utrip's core users were Planners, they type of traveler who prefers to research a destination before the trip and won't leave home without at least a few recommendations. But only a fraction of those users actually required a day-to-day itinerary. Many of the Planners we spoke to simply wanted a list of recommendations.
We emphasized wishlist creation by:
This helped to reinforce the importance of favoriting, which was being factored into the recommendation engine, and also gave users more freedom to create wishlists independent of itinerary creation.
Utrip had a vast array of wonderful trip planning content and functionality, the bulk of which most user's never accessed because it was either hidden or confusing to use.
Changing the site's architecture allowed us to bring the content and features onto the same page. This removed some friction from the trip planning process. However, turning a multi-page experience into a quasi single page experience meant every element needed to earn each pixel on the page.
Each piece of functionality represented another decision for the user. Too many decisions created an overwhelming experience. Too few decisions and the personalization suffered. We needed to find the sweet spot in the middle, which led to dozens of iterations just to improve page hierarchy alone.
Ultimately, the research process dictated which functionality was essential and which was simply nice to have. One example, the number of interest sliders.
The Travel Style UI was a particular thorn during the design process. Travel Styles are a key part of our personalization technology, but space was limited and we struggled to incorporate the functionality into the page. We prototyped at least a dozen different ways to present the travel style options. When we tested this hover state preview, we knew we'd nailed it! Not only was it a moment of delight in the user test, but it helped users understand how to use the technology.
Toward the end of the build, there were so many components and versions with similar sounding names that we needed a system just to keep them straight. I started calling the recommendations container "Narwhal" and it caught on. The functionality of the recommendations container has been an important selling point for the platform. However, hearing different teams reference "Narwhal" in casual conversation just brings me a moment of joy. Sometimes, it's the little things.
We had plans to add multiple recommendations containers to the Item Detail View. It was to be called a "NarPod."