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About Travel Monkey

Travel Monkey is a mobile app that enables travelers to book local guides for private and authentic travel tours and experiences. The app is also attractive to local guides because they have the opportunity to earn 
money from giving tours based on a schedule they choose.

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Overview

When I began working with Travel Monkey, their iOS app was partially completed by a digital agency that couldn't finish the project. I led the team while also working closely with leadership to complete their complex app, get it approved, and launched into the Apple app store.

Team & Role

I was brought on as the lead product designer and was tasked with assessing the app's current state, fixing what was necessary, adding new features, and launching the app into the app store. I wore many hats while leading this project, which included overseeing an engineering team of three, project manager, product designer, and quality assurance lead. 

Users & Audience

Travel Monkey has two main user groups that include tourists and local guides.
 

  • Tourist - A tourist is a traveler who pays a local guide for a private tour of the location the tourist is visiting.

  • Local Guide - A local guide is a person who earns money by providing private tours to Tourists from around the world.

Evaluation Of The App

We began by evaluating the current state of the app from a design and engineering standpoint. I directed the engineering team to review the code and report back with their findings. During that time, I began to evaluate the comprehensive documentation and user experience of the app.

Design Evaluation Findings

When I began reviewing the documentation, I immediately noticed large portions of the information architecture and logic documentation were missing. This gave me a hint that I will be finding issues with many aspects of the app. Upon reviewing the user experience, I was able to track down flaws in the scheduling process, payment process, profile information, reviews, chat, and much more. 

Development Evaluation Findings

Since Travel Monkey was missing critical documentation, I assumed that there would be severe issues regarding the app's code. The engineering team reported that the app's backbone, the booking component, had flawed logic, and the code was incomplete. They also found that the payment, messaging, notifications, chat, and reviews were a mix of unfinished or not started at all.  

Where We Began

We began by figuring out what portion of the app we should start with. Through our research we found that the majority of the app is based around the booking component. We found our starting point and began to map out the logic behind the booking component. Without having documentation to base my decisions on, I worked closely with leadership to determine the specifics. 
 

Below is an example of the logic architecture I created for the booking component of the app. This logic architecture was used by both myself and the engineering team throughout the creation of the app.

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Design Process

Please note the process I'm sharing below is an overview. Due to the complexity of Travel Monkey I'm highlighting the key components of our process.

Once we completed the booking logic, we began to build out the other main features of the app, including payment integration, messaging, notifications, profiles, and reviews. As we continued to map out the app, we created Travel Monkeys' information architecture, wireframes, and user flows. Below you will find an example of the user flow designed for the document upload process when a local guide connects their bank account.

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User Interface

It was essential to leadership that I optimized the UI where necessary as I worked through the app. Travel Monkey's goal was to have a modern, simplistic, and fun look to their app.
 

I have found that the secret to creating a beautiful interface is consistency. To create consistency for Travel Monkey, I made a visual design language that myself and engineering could follow. I used the visual design language to optimize the design and improve consistency throughout the app. 

Iterative UI Process

Creating an excellent UI solution rarely happens on the first attempt. To find the best solution, you need to research, design, test, review findings, iterate, and repeat. For Travel Monkey I used this process to optimize some of the most important features, and it substantially helped us improve our solutions to fit user needs better.

For an example of my iterative UI process being applied to improve Travel Monkey's bookings screen for tourists, please view the slider below.

Tourist’s Bookings Old Version UI

Through usability testing, we found the following issues with their old version created by the agency.

  • Users were having trouble locating where to view their past bookings.
     

  • The majority of users didn’t realize they could tap on the local guides image to view their profile.
     

  • Many users also stated that the text was too small and they had trouble determining the status of their tours. 

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UI Design & Team Collaboration

As I worked my way through optimizing the app, I collaborated with the engineering team and leadership to make sure I was working within the time and budget constraints of the project. The use of open collaboration amongst the team helped us all gain more understanding and empathy towards the product and amongst the group. 

You can view a few examples of the finalized UI of the app using the slider below.

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Creating App Store Presence & App Icon

I worked with leadership closely to establish Travel Monkey's app store presence and app icon.

 

  • App Store Presence - Leadership gave me an outline of what to include for their app store presence. It was up to me to use their branding and messaging to create a beautiful app store presence. I researched successful app store presences and trends to help inspire the look and layout. Once I completed the presence we tested it with users and got a very positive response.
     

  • App Icon -  I began by working with leadership to touch up their monkey emblem. We went through multiple iterations until we found a version that leadership loved. We then used the emblem as the centerpiece of their app icon. After a few iterations that we tested with users, we found the app icon's final version.

You can view the app store presence and the icon using the slider below.

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Outcome

I worked closely with engineering throughout the implementation of my designs, logic architecture, and provided QA testing. We overcame many problems as a team and completed the mobile app, got it approved by Apple, and launched it into the app store. Leadership was thrilled with the result and felt very confident about the product we produced for them. Travel Monkey has since launched and has been seeking funding to market and provide the necessary support to users.

Reflections

Stepping out of my comfort zone by taking on new roles during this project helped me grow as a product designer and a team member. I found open collaboration with the rest of the team helped us prioritize our efforts and built more trust and respect amongst the team. By managing an engineering team of three, I learned a tremendous amount about their processes and how to coordinate my design efforts with their tasks to meet our goals on time. 

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