I. Introduction

With the help of Internet, more and more people nowadays tend to create travel plans by themselves to better meet personal preferences and needs. EnRoute is a route-based trip advisory and planning application which aims to improve people’s itinerary constructing process. It combines both the convenience of auto-arranging locations into daily sequential routes and itinerary recommendation system contributed by other users to help travelers to better optimize and customize their own travel itinerary.

Timeline: 3 weeks
Individual project

II. Research

A. Preliminary Research

The statistic shows that more and more New Age travelers nowadays seek comfort in doing research by themselves and having full-control over their trips than having unclear or ready-made itineraries. Tripadvisor states that more than 70% of travelers use online sources to decide each thing and build their own itineraries themselves. According to the report by Hyderabad Express, the group tour packages and ready-made itineraries created by travel agencies and influencers are losing much of the appeal nowadays while younger millennial travelers are actively embracing travel as a Do-It-Yourself adventure and exclusively looking for a self-guided, customized journey.

How could we make the planning and itinerary constructing process easier, more integrated and enjoyable for the new-age travelers?

B. Target Users

In this project, I decided to focus on the new-age travelers and their patterns of creating plans by themselves.

C. Contextual Inquiry

In order to understand what the issues are with people’s current itinerary constructing process, I conducted contextual inquiry with 6 young people to comprehend the problem scope and user pain points with existing process.

You’re a traveler who are going to travel to a place for three days. You can choose any place you want. Please create a three-day itinerary for your journey. You are encouraged to speak aloud your thought process as you navigate through the task.

D. Insights from Contextual Inquiry

Screenshot: Example of participant’s current user flow of constructing an itinerary

After contextual inquiry I began affinity mapping in order to synthesize all of the information I collected from my research. I found out that the itinerary constructing process mainly consists of three steps, and each step involves multiple user pain points which cause inconvenience and great manual labor:

1. Personal narratives and route-based itinerary recommendation are desired
“Reading other people’s journals makes me feel more connected to the destination, and more confident about starting my own adventure.”
Top-attraction list s are not enough, and the participants actively searched for other people’s itineraries as inspirations and mentioned that they enjoyed reading them. Participants hope that they could easily save other people’s itineraries and attractions, and compare these itineraries with their own schedules.

2. Building itinerary and daily routes is “troublesome”
“The research only tells you which places you should go, but you have to manually do all the work yourself to connect those locations together into sequential daily routes.”
After research of locations, participants then constructed the itinerary on a document. Participants were especially frustrated with the route planning process which involves much calculation work such as the distance between places, and the optimized order of a group of places. Manually weaving isolated locations into a sequential, tight and cohesive travel itinerary takes away most of their time. Most participants used no less than 3 platforms together to outline their itineraries and expected a more optimized and integrated experience.

3. Current format of itinerary is hard to share
Participants complained that their schedule lack of a clear format and is hard to save as personal journal or share with other friends to read.

III. Define

A. Problem Scope

Given the three categories of pain points in the above affinity mapping, I decided that there’s a market for the inclusion of three forms of engagement during the trip planning process:

1.  Itinerary Recommendation
2. Intelligent Itinerary Optimization
3. Documentation and Shareability

B. Usability Test and Feedbacks

I then created wireframes and conducted usability test. In my first prototype,  the user has two entry point to the feature of intelligent itinerary optimization: first, the user could save locations to a wishlist and auto-optimize all locations in that withlist into an itinerary; or, the user could add a location directly to an itinerary which would then be auto-arranged into the most ideal day.

During my first usability test, some partcipant responded that the auto-optimization feature is overemphasized, and that some level of customization and self-editing is needed. I thus realized that a balance between optimization and customization needs to be reached: the user should have more freedom to edit the itinerary as the way they want, which may or may not be the same as the result of auto-optimization.

Thus in my second prototype I focused on developing the editing feature in the itinerary detail page. The user now have more options of customization – switching the order between days, choosing their preferences for transportation options, etc. They also have the option to auto-optimize the whole itinerary or auto-optimize one specific day whenever they want.

C. Information Architecture

IV. Prototype and Feature sets

A. Route Optimization 1

Create a journey from wishlist with optimization feature which automatically groups nearby attractions together into the same day of visit, calculates the optimized order of those places on the same day, and generates the optimized routes for each day.

B. Route Optimization 2

Easily save new locations to a journey, and unsave locations from a journey on the map view. Edit current itinerary with auto-optimization feature and live visual updates on the map.

C. Route Optimization 3

Easily create new itineraries on the map with auto-optimization feature and live visual updates. Directly compare multiple itineraries on the map.

D. Edit Itinerary

Easily edit the itinerary with various personalized features in the journey detail page. Auto-generates the best routes and provides detailed time, geography and transportation information.

E. Social Platform

Social platform feature for comparing, reviewing and sharing user-generated itineraries; easily save inspirational itineraries and locations to user’s own Journey page.