A Little Less Lonely Planet — A UX Case Study

A travel-based social connection app design concept for Lonely Planet

This was a research and design project through General Assembly and is not associated or affiliated with Lonely Planet

Team: ‘The Prototypes’ Jenny Lee & Adrienne LaFlam

Role: UI Designer

Duration: 2-Week Sprint

Tools: Figma, Zoom, Miro, Google Suite, Trello, Slack, Pen and Paper

What I did: Project Management, Business Analysis, Design System, UI Design, Prototyping

The Brief: Despite the strength of their brand with young travelers, Lonely Planet’s business has shrunk significantly due to Covid-19. Lonely Planet wants to design a digital tool for young users living in social isolation during the pandemic.

View Final Prototype

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else. — Lawrence Block

Around The World in 48 Years

In 1973, married couple, Maureen and Tony Wheeler embarked on a trip across Asia and Europe. When they returned home from their trip they were broke and inspired to write about their travels. They wrote their first guidebook Across Asia On The Cheap in one night sitting at their kitchen table and spent what little money they had left to publish it. Within a week they sold over 1500 copies. Since then, they’ve published hundreds of guidebooks and sold tens of millions of copies that has earned Lonely Planet as the number one travel guidebook brand and the world’s leading travel media company.

Pre-boarding Information: The Research Phase

Survey & Contextual Interviews

The first phase of our research process consisted of a survey and contextual interviews to gather insights from people who love to travel. The survey consisted of 14 questions, with 18 participants between the ages of 21–36 and we conducted interviews with four individuals within the same age range. These questions helped us collect demographics, travel habits and planning, how COVID-19 has impacted their travel, and alternatives to traveling they’ve done (if any) in 2020. From our results we gathered three major insights about their travel behaviors and patterns.

Identifying the Problem

Our research insights revealed that young adults find traveling to be a very social affair. Of our participants, 73.7% said that they travel with someone other than themselves and 60% said that they currently find it difficult to feel connected. With many of our participants feeling isolated and needing social connection, we knew that with any design solution, it would be imperative to approach the design with empathy and understanding.

Pictured: Survey results that revealed users had travel plans cancelled, felt it hard to connect, but have tried a virtual experience as an alternative to travel.

Passenger Information

Identifying the User Persona

From our interviews and survey results, we learned that users typically lean toward budget-friendly travel, they value new experiences, and are interested in discovering different cultures. These insights helped us identify our persona — Ray. Ray travels a lot to break outside of their routine and engage with new people and explore new interests. Due to COVID-19 travel bans and restrictions, Ray is feeling bored and lonely at home.

Pictured: Our user persona Ray and their needs and frustrations due to social isolation

User Needs Meet Business Goals

Competitive and Comparative Analysis

In December 2020, Red Ventures, a platform of digital businesses, acquired Lonely Planet. Red Ventures believes the travel industry will bounce back stronger than ever, and fully supports Lonely Planet’s values putting “the traveler at the heart of everything.” Now Red Ventures wants to propel Lonely Planet into the digital era while remaining committed to publishing the guidebooks that have made Lonely Planet the iconic brand it is today.

Pictured: Competitor audit between Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, AirBnb, Rick Stevens, YouTube, and Museums

My team conducted a competitive and comparative analysis to better understand how businesses in the travel industry are adjusting and how this new acquisition might impact the future of Lonely Planet’s digital presence. Through our interview and survey participants we found companies that are either competing with Lonely Planet or comparative businesses that are offering creative solutions to travel and large-group events. We came to the conclusion that Lonely Planet lacked alternatives to their travel tours, while many of their competitors were offering virtual experiences.

After our comprehensive research phase, we asked ourselves these three questions to consider how to help young travelers who feel bored and isolated at home feel more connected.

Our solution: Our team believes that developing a travel-based social app with virtual experiences will allow young people to connect with others. Users who have the opportunity to connect with others from around the world while learning about new travel destinations might be more likely to utilize Lonely Planet’s travel services again when traveling becomes safer.

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Now Boarding: The Ideation Phase

Information Architecture & Wireframe Testing

As a team we hosted a 2-hour design studio to try and sketch as many ideas and rough designs as we could. This helped us narrow down what we thought would be beneficial to users and test a potential layout and navigation schema. Then we began to test out our ideas onto wireframes to try and see what features we thought would be necessary, test user flows, and set the tone for how we wanted the app to look.

Wireframes & Usability Testing

Pictured: Preliminary wireframes to test user flow, navigation bar, and overall app tone

From our wireframes we did usability testing with four participants and provided a series of tasks. Example: Open your messages and check out the experience a friend sent you, or find and book a new online experience to try. These tests led us to a couple of major insights:

Through our wireframe testing with users we were able to restructure and organize the the user flow and app navigation bar. ​This was the final iteration of the mobile app site map that we designed — providing a more recognizable social feed and layout with familiar social features.

Information Architecture

Pictured: Site map of the Lonely Planet App

Style Guide & Branding

Pictured: Style guide with Lonely Planet logos, typography, color palette, brand adjectives, social cards, buttons, and iconograpy

Final Boarding Call: High-Fidelity Mockups & Prototype

Splash Screen: This is the loading screen for an existing user when they open the app.

The splash screen features bright travel photography of colorful and beautiful locations.

The loading animation is a plane traveling around a globe to promote Lonely Planet’s adventurous and energetic brand.

Main Feed: On the main social feed, users can view posts and updates from their friends, view the stories of the friends and locations they follow, and add to their own stories and create posts.

Experiences Page: Users can explore the world literally at their fingertips through Lonely Planet’s collection of experiences. Users can find categorized experiences: Experience Your City, Become a Master Chef, Great for Groups as well as featured experiences from certain locations.

Events that are virtual are tagged with an ‘Online’ marker.

Explore Page: The Explore section serves as a search engine where users can search for destinations, tours, and experiences.

They can also see what other users have liked, saved, shared, or booked through the app and can comment, like, or share.

User Profile: User can see their posts, saved likes, future and planned trips, and experiences.

User can also see who they’re following and who is following them.

Travel Diary: Reflections

In UX, there’s always more research and testing that to be done. With more time on the project, we would have loved to ideate and design more features and pages for the app. We would have also liked to create mockups for the iPad.

For this team project, we worked remotely, so it was imperative to stay connected and communicate. We were also working from different time zones, so it became more challenging to find a time to accommodate each other’s schedules. My team worked incredibly well together, and we were able to complete a lot of the project in the timeframe given. We leaned on Zoom and Slack to communicate with each other throughout the project and Figma was a powerful tool to be able to collaborate and design together as a team.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. — Ernest Hemingway

A Little Less Lonely Planet — A UX Case Study was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.