How might we make trip planning a true group effort?
This is my Master thesis.
Planning a trip with groups can be stressful, overwhelming, and time-consuming. With multiple parties involved, decisions on where to go, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do can be challenging. While there are many travel planning tools on the market, none of them succeed in aligning expectations and facilitating group decisions.
Ditto is a platform that streamlines the process of planning a group trip by distributing tasks and polling the group to form decisions together. A master itinerary keeps everyone on the same page before, during, and after the adventure.
Each group member shares their personal interests and preferences for the trip during the onboarding. As the group shares updates via chat, individuals can bookmark favorites into an integrated repository from which the trip is built. Saving you from delay, indecisiveness, and unnecessary tension, Ditto polls the group on matters requiring advanced booking, allowing everyone’s voices to be heard.
Scope : 8 months
Advisors : Pingyi Wang (Frog), Rose Matsa (Shutterstock), Eric Forman (SVA), Graham Letorney (SVA)
Continue reading if you are interested in my creative process and journey.
HOW IT STARTED
My trip to Peru has truly inspired my thesis without a doubt. In August 2018, I went to Peru for 14 days with two of my beloved classmates. It was definitely one of the most memorable adventures of my life. From tasting world-class fine dining in Lima, to a full day Inca cultural tour of Sacred Valley, to a hike up to the ancient wonder - Machu Picchu, to a eight-hour car ride down to the Amazon rainforest, to a trip to one of the world’s highest lakes - Lake Titicaca, to many laughs and unexpected moments along the trip.
(Feel free to reach out to me for travel tips!)
EXPLORE POSSIBLE CHALLENGES
I knew I want to design within the travel space. But what’s next? I began thinking about what are the current challenges.
01. Planning a pitch perfect trip is complex.
As I planned my trip to Peru early this Summer, I used various tools to help me with the logistics: Google Doc / Sheet / Maps, TripAdvisor, Hostelworld, Booking.com, Facebook Messenger, other personal blogs, and word of mouth. Is there a tool that can streamline the process and communication among fellow voyagers? So that trip planning doesn’t feel like another project management.
02. Aggregating information for adventurous travelers.
Today’s travelers demand more unique activities or local experiences that are tailored to their interests? But, the information is scattered and often outdates. How can we better serve this group of people-- skiers, skydivers, scuba divers, trekking-lovers, campers, surfers, etc. Airbnb Adventure just took their first step to make such experiences accessible to everyone., but what else is possible?
03. Connecting small business owners with travelers.
After browsing all the available tours, we discovered one-of-a-kind 4 day-3 night jungle adventure with our private guide, Fredy. He is his own boss, his friend is the driver, and his mom is our private chef. It is difficult to manage business with insufficient internet connection and time. He explained his struggles to promote and market his tour. How might we empower small business owners like Fredy to differentiate themselves?
04. Dealing with emergencies while traveling.
During my Peru trip, one of my travelmates got her passport and wallet stolen at a cafe in Cusco. It was a chaotic situation. Many information on official/unofficial websites is outdated, creating stress and anxiety. While traveling, many things can go unexpected. How might we provide up-to-date information to help travelers to deal with emergencies, crises, or difficult situations?
05. Is food sharing the future?
Some countries have a culture of food sharing. Solo travel makes it difficult to enjoy the tastes. While traveling from Lima to Cusco, we met a biological researcher at a hostel, who ended up taking the same airplane, sharing Uber rides, and having dinner with us. What if we connect people through food sharing experiences?
To better understand my target audience - group travelers, I went out on the street of NYC and hung out with tourists at the parks and hotel lobbies. From field research and surveys, I learned the biggest challenge is - Will the trip actually happen? When it comes to group traveling, there are many logistics needed to be ironed out before the trip, especially when people are on a budget.
The causes for making group travel hard:
Differences in preferences, schedules, and level of efforts.
Unsure if everyone is happy about the itinerary and budget.
Communication is messy.
To understand group travelers’ behaviors, we have to consider two aspects: types of “travel” and “travelers.” Planning a family retreat at a beach resort is very different from a two-week backpacking trip to Europe.
We gathered 46 responses from NYC commuters on their travel experience with public transportation, including subway, bus, ferry, taxi, private car, and shared rides. Users have helped us to identify that commute between Brooklyn and Queens is more stressful and difficult. And they value travel time and convenience the most.
“ They are very unpredictable, thus making it difficult for me to calculate my travel time. Sometimes the wait is so long I decide to walk instead. And when you’re almost there, you see two or more buses arrive.”
- Diana, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
“ I live in the border of Queens and Brooklyn. I have to take the bus to get to the train. I wait 5 minutes on a good day, and 20 minutes on a bad day.”
- Amy, Maspeth, Queens
WIZARD OF OZ
In order to understand and validate our hypothesis, we mocked up a field trip to test the travel experience from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Ridgewood, Queens. We compared the travel time via subway, bus, and a car we rented (following ride-sharing route).
What we learned from this experiment:
We need to limit the distance and stop numbers for passengers.
We are not replacing the whole MTA Bus System with on-demand service.
We need to target people that live far (not walking distance) from a subway stop.
We need to optimize the road space or bus size to fit buses on local road.
We might need terminals or meeting points in between the preferred stops.
Our team sketched out and iterated the storyboard, asking people to identify confusion and validating the concept. With a script, we eventually used it in producing the concept video.
FINAL APP DESIGN
HOW IT WORKS - MTA FLEX NETWORK DIAGRAM
FINAL PRESENTATION AT HAVAS
Our team presented a 7-minute concept pitch to transit experts, Havas team, and a group of panelist, including Rachel Haot (Executive Director, Transit Innovation Partnership), Youssef Kalad (Program Director, NYCx), Seth Ullman (VP, Ports & Transportation, NYCEDC), Harry Bernstein (Chief Creative Officer, Havas New York).
Visitors adored our project and had enthusiastic reactions, like "I want this tomorrow!" or "Why doesn't this exist already?" Demo Day was a morning Open House event hosted by the NYC Media Lab at the RLab, Brooklyn Navy Yard to gather engineers, designers, data scientists and creative technologists who showed their demonstrations of new technologies and user experiences.
About NYC Media Lab
Founded in 2010, NYC Media Lab is dedicated to driving innovation and ultimately job growth in media and technology by facilitating collaboration between the City’s universities and its companies. Comprised of a consortium including New York City Economic Development Corporation, School of Visual Arts, New York University, Columbia University, The New School, CUNY, IESE, and Pratt Institute, NYC Media Lab's goals are to include generate research and development, knowledge transfer, and talent across all of the city’s campuses.
About Havas Media
Havas is a company devoted to building meaningful brands and meaningful experiences. While big brand campaigns are needed, the company also strives to make a positive impact on real people’s lives and better communities through building experiences. Impact comes in many forms. It could be utility, inspiration, or support. And a little can go a long way. Key is to be alert to shifting needs and proactively offer solutions and support when they are needed most.