Redesigning Tripadvisor’s Website

Ironhack Challenge 3: Usability Evaluation and Site Redesign

Backround

For this third Ironhack challenge, I was tasked with redesigning a popular trip planning website based on respondents’ main problems with the way it currently looks and works.

Before tackling this task, I had to choose a target audience that was going to plan a trip in the near future. I also had to keep in mind that later on I would have to contact and record this target audience to investigate how they were going to plan a trip using the choosen website. As such, I choose the target audience “young couple” between 20 and 40 years old, who were planning a trip of a lifetime and had quite some time to invest in planning a trip eervy stage of the way. They had the choice of going to visit any of the 7 wonders of the world. As a personal favorite, I choose Petra, Jordan as the desired trip destination in our hypothetical scenario. There were others things to consider such as budget, time, accessibility, etc. All these aspects were later presented to interviewees when I asked them to plan this fictive trip.

Next, before the interview stage it was important to compare these 4 websites to each other user using Usability Heuristics evaluation with Nielsen’s Principles. I choose Rome2Rio (a personal favourite), Skycanner, Tripadvisor, and KAYAK. It was important that in the end the website that most catered to the target group was chosen.

Rome2Rio

As it turns out my personal favourite wasn’t the best website for my target group. Although it did fairly well against Nielsen’s principles, it is mostly a “get from point A to point B” website. And even in that, it is not great as it will only redirect you to the relevant websites after you’ve created this journey. It is very easy to use, a clean and minimalist aesthetic and has a good amount of user control and freedom. Ultimately however, it just isn’t the right website to plan an entire trip on.

Skyscanner

Before I even evaluated this website, I had my personal grudge against Skyscanner as I remember it being quite a bulky page with too much information and pops up. Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised, the ticketing options were well sorted by “best value,” it eliminated some error prone conditions I tried to create, and it was relatively easy to use. There were however some frustrating things such as unsolicited pop-ups even though you have ad blockers (mostly about keeping informed about price alerts.) Also, their help section was difficulty to find though admittedly was quite useful as you had a search function and could browse through topics. At the end of the day, it works fine as a “get from point A to point B” website, but is not enough to plan an entire trip on.

Kayak

When I saw that Kayak was a Booking.com website, I had reservations. While Booking.com is great at what they do, I personally find their website annoying and overloaded with information. Right off the bat, we had problems. It did not even recognize Petra, Jordan as a location or recommended location. I had to do extra work just to get the right destination. Like all other websites, it did not allow me to make errors, and in fact felt very similar to Skyscanner in its usability. It even had the same unsolicited pop-ups as Skyscanner. I didn’t find it particularly aesthetic, but at least the themes were consistent across the board. Ultimately again however, I felt like this was another “get from point A to point B” website, and thus not the right option for our target group.

Tripadvisor

Would this be the one? I remember using Tripadvisor a while ago and even banned their emails in my gmail account as permanent spam. I could have sworn I unsubcriibed to their emails and they kept sending me some. Needless to say, I had my reservations. Surprisingly however, it seems they’ve redesigned their website. I asked a friend if he remembered looking like it currently does and he also noticed that it looked different. Right off the bat, I felt this was the one for planning an entire trip. The main home page doesn’t even start with a “from” and “to” journey, but a simple “where to” search box. It looked good because you just enter where you want to go and go from there (without first putting in an origin destination). It also looks like you can create trips and save ideas, and already many recommendations are made from your current location which can be inspiring. Apart from that, the aesthetic was nice with rounded features and vivid colours, and after more examination the search function for flights seemed to work similarly to our other websites. Like all the other websites, there was a high degree of user control and freedom. The only negative was the help center which was just awful, with no ability to search for topics or FAQs.

The Final Choice

Chosen? Tripadvisor

Reason why? For the target group chosen, this should be a target group that is pretty experienced in browsing the web. In addition, the target group wants to have special moments in their target location (Petra) and this website has the most options for planning a trip with more than just the possibility of booking flights and accommodations, but also booking experiences and planning them in advance. These experiences are also rated by users, and should give the young couple enough information to plan the trip of a lifetime. Because the young coupe also has a lot of time before the actual trip, they will be able to come back to the website and add or take away different elements over time, which Tripadvisor is good for as you need to make an account to save your itinerary.

Interviews and Main Problems

Now that we had our wesbite of choice, it was time to interview 3 people and get them to use Tripadvisor and see what they thought of it.

First, I planned some interviews with friends and asked to record their screen while I ran them through a series of questions. I won’t bore you with the details, but here is a summary of the main problems I found when interviewing users:

  • No distance from airport on map
  • NO MAP, this was the most important blocker that all interviewees had that created a frustrating experience. The interviewees wanted to see everything on a map, how far the airport was from the main attractions, how far the hotels were from Petra, how far each experience was from one another. The map feature either: sucked, didn’t load properly, or was largely incomplete. As such one interviewee even went on Google Maps to find out more information, which is not something Tripadvisor would want.
  • There was too much information for some, with the experiences not being filtered properly and causing an anxious experience on the site. You don’t know where to start with experiences and therefore need recommendations based on dates
  • Some clicked opened new tabs while others did not, this was confusing and annoying, interviewees would “click and open in new tab” function through Google Chrome
  • Interviewees would have liked to have map + distance + recommended routes
  • When choosing the “non-stop” flight filter, Tripadvisor could not find any but also did not recommend any alternatives, showing bad visibility of system status. Pop-ups were also annoying and unnecessary

Planning to redesign

Oh man, if I had to solve all the pain points I would need to do this as a full time job. Ultimately, I decided to focus on providing a simpler experience for users and I wanted to achieve this in the following ways: getting rid of useless information, making the pages simple and lastly, having a progress bar which shows which part of the trip planning process you are on. While I was keen to add maps, I mostly focused on the flights and hotels tab and did not have the time to explore the experiences tab in more detail. I also wanted to search functions to be more specific and the results having information in relation to your actual destination of choice. This meant adding a “kilometres to destination” text next to the Hotels, and also next to the airport where the couple would be flying into. I also wanted to add some easy options for the hotels and make them more obvious. I wanted these to focus on “budget” and “distance from destination” so that our users could have this search function made clear to them so that the first results would already be more relevant.

Lastly, I got some good feedback from the interviewees about what they liked from the hotels tab. Tripadvisor did a pretty good job of this in the first place, so it was important to keep the ratings in addition to the number of reviews obvious. It was also important to make it clear that the price for each hotel was per night. Finally, I wanted to add to small features, to “like” a travel options in terms of flight or hotel to save it for later, and also a share button like you see on mobile so often. This would make it easier if one person from the couple was responsible for flights, and the other for hotels. It would also make it easier to quickly share an option in order to get feedback for it.

Mid-fi wireframes

A Smple Tripadvisor Redesign

Ultimately, I would have liked to go in more detail, but I had already spent a lot of time on this challenge and time was running out. You can take a look at the above Wireframes on my Invision here

Learnings

Oh boy, this was an interesting challenge. A lot of new concepts were learned and most of this was very new to me. For one, even if I found Nielsen’s Principles interesting, I found that most websites actually did pretty well and ultimately it wasn’t enough to consider the principles but what was also equally important was the target group that uses the website or app. You could have a great website that works perfectly in order to plan a flight, but if your target group’s aim is to plan an entire trip down to the experiences, the flight website will only get you so far. That is why despite Tripadvisor probably not being the best “from point A to point B” website, it was certainly the most comprehensive if you want to create an entire trip down to the T.

The interviews are again the most insightful part of this journey. Similarly to Challenge 2, the most important learning is listen to your audience. Throw out all your preconceptions and react only to what you know is true of the people you interview.

Lastly, you’ll also never satisfy 100% of all user groups. Although this is something you might assume before the challenge, it will be confirmed when you’re doing your interviews and see how different people react to different features or options on the website. As such, I think when redesigning a website these things are also the most important to consider: who is your main target group that uses the website, and how do you make the most amount of people in that target group like your website. Think of it as a percentage of a percentage. At the end of the day, your website will cater to Group A which makes up X percentage of all groups, and in that Group you’ll want your website to cater to the most % of the total number.

If you want to check out my full notes for this challenge, feel free to do so here

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to challenge me on any of the above or provide some feedback; after all, I’m pretty new to this.

Redefining your interactions with the world, one experience at a time