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Case Study: Localize

Localize is a mobile app I designed to empower US travelers by connecting them with knowledgeable locals who can provide personalized recommendations and insider tips when exploring new destinations. This case study details the design process, research findings, and key insights that led me to the development of Localize, a user-centered solution for overcoming language barriers and unfamiliarity when traveling abroad.

Role

UX/UI Designer

Time

8 Weeks

Device

iOS Mobile

Tools

Pen + Paper

Google Workspace

Figma

Illustrator

Otter.ai

Here's a quick walkthrough of the app before I dive into my process. This takes the user through the journey of adding a tour to an existing trip using the app.

Methodology

I used the Design Thinking method to first understand the problem, validate it and come up with different solutions. After solidifying a solution, I tested and iterated based on the feedback users gave me while interacting with the product in hand.

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Research Plan

Localize is a mobile app I designed to empower US travelers by connecting them with knowledgeable locals who can provide personalized recommendations and insider tips when exploring new destinations. This case study details the design process, research findings, and key insights that led me to the development of Localize, a user-centered solution for overcoming language barriers and unfamiliarity when traveling abroad.

Let's dig a bit deeper.

What's the issue anyway?

Many Americans are deterred from traveling abroad due to language barriers and a lack of knowledge about navigating unfamiliar locations. This results in missed opportunities for personal growth, cultural exchange, and economic stimulation for the travel industry.

Prove it!

US Travelers expressed frustrations while traveling abroad due to language barriers such as: getting lost, not being able to order food and even feeling safe abroad.

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75%

of Americans consider visiting new places important in their future travel plans.

34%

of US travelers find "authentic local experiences" more important now than pre-pandemic.

30%

of US travelers want to pack in more activities into their holiday travel plans.

41%

of US travelers prioritize visiting new destinations over past trips 

Given this information, it begs the question:

How might we help Americans who travel without knowing the destination's language or culture so that they can have a safe and respectful, yet enjoyable experience?

Here's what I think:

Given the information from the initial stage of the research, I was able to form these assumptions about US travelers:

  1. US travelers have a hard time enjoying their experiences due to language barriers.

  2. Translation apps don’t work all the time.

  3. US travelers want to do more than resorts/touristy stuff.

  4. US travelers don’t feel safe abroad.

  5. People don’t travel abroad because of language barriers.

  6. US travelers easily get lost abroad.

  7. US travelers like to travel alone in order to explore more.

Now, this is how I really feel:

I believe that American travelers want to have meaningful experiences in foreign cities but don't enjoy their time there because they don't feel safe, get lost and can't speak the language.


I will know I'm right when I see the following feedback from my interviews: when 3 out of 5 users express that they do want to have unique experiences and have had bad trips due to the language barriers and being unfamiliar with the cities.

Let's talk to some folks!

After reviewing the information I gathered so far and forming my assumptions, I need to validate them by finding out what users are actually saying and feeling. I decided to do research in the form of interviews to find out more information from 5 US international travelers to dig deeper into their travel experiences surrounding traveling internationally to countries they are unfamiliar with culturally or linguistically.  

Notepad on Desk

I’ve devised roughly open-ended 20 questions relating to the topic to further understand their experiences, gathering qualitative data about users' current pain points, motivations and behaviors.  

Invite-only interviewee requirements:

- Travels internationally at least twice a year
- US adult between 24-49 years of age
- Not travel to the same place each time
- Traveled to places beyond their native country

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What were they really saying?

Affinity Mapping

I used Affinity Mapping to identify shared motivations, pain points, and behaviors amongst the five travelers. Their pain points aligned with those seeking to explore different cultures but face language barriers. I categorized these pain points into common themes and extracted key insights from the data.

I was able to extract five different themes from the data I received from the interviews:
 

  1. Interaction with Locals

  2. Cultural Exploration

  3. Connecting with Other Travelers

  4. Knowing the Language is Important

  5. Navigability is Key

The Key Theme was Interaction with Locals. From the interviews, I found out that having a local helps make the trip a better experience.

Persona

I used the Design Thinking method to first understand the problem, validate it and come up with different solutions. After solidifying a solution, I tested and iterated based on the feedback users gave me while interacting with the product in hand.

Let's 're-beg' the question.

How might we leverage technology to connect travelers with knowledgeable locals who can provide personalized recommendations and insider tips for exploring a new destination, enhancing the overall travel experience?

Experience Mapping

Based on these themes, I was able to come up with an Experience Map for Stef outlining how she felt as she went through the process of booking a trip abroad with the goal of wanting to be immersed in the culture.

Task Selection

After reviewing the Experience Map it was time to hone in on Stef’s goals for travel and craft 30 user stories which align with my chosen key theme from the interviews: travelers wanting to experience their time abroad like locals. I then grouped the themes into epics that were similar in tasks and goals.

From the user stories, I was able to curate five different epics, with ‘Finding & Booking Local Guides’ and ‘Manage/Personalize Booking’ being my two main epics. I first considered ‘Finding & Booking Guides’ to be my chosen epic, however the task flow was not making any sense. I finally decided to pivot and chose ‘Manage/Personalize Booking’ as The Chosen One.

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Initial Task Flow

I started with this task flow, but it just didn’t seem right for some reason. I felt like there was a disconnect from Stef and the app. Maybe it was too simple? 

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Revised Task Flow

I decided to review the chosen epic and combined a couple of user stories to create a new task flow. This task flow takes Stef through the steps in locating her current booking, adding a tour, selecting a guide and paying with Apple Pay, since it’s her everyday payment method. It went better with the context of Stef's experience map.

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Ideate

UI Inspiration

Given the task flow, I referred to current apps and websites for inspiration. I was able to gather certain features, icons and even animations that would be familiar to the apps that Stef already uses such as Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Kayak and other similar apps.

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Sketching

With this inspiration in mind, I was now ready to get some ideas down on paper with a great point of reference. I decided to sketch 3 different ideas for each screen of the task flow. I took certain elements from existing apps that worked well with users and included them in the sketches.

Wireframes

After I completed all my sketches and had the solution sketches picked out, next was wireframing those sketches into actual screens Stef would interact with. I used Roboto as my Typeface with its different fonts as variations for thickness. I also used the grayscale hex codes on the right.

Prototype

Prototyping

Alright, so now that I've got my wireframes all set up, it's time to jump into prototyping. I went back to the task flow to figure out how I can link these pages together with really smooth, clean flow with transitions for an intuitive user experience.

Test

Usability Testing
Round 1

After I've solidified my prototype, I prepared to facilitate two rounds of 5 usability tests with participants who met the required criteria. During these tests, I instructed participants to complete 5 distinct tasks as laid out in the task flow. I closely observed their interactions and took note of any instances where they exhibited any kind of uncertainty or encountered difficulties in their tasks.

Test Results

In the initial round, I found a few design issues that needed attention. Participants had difficulty with filtering, legibility of images and carousels, and finding the guide due to unimplemented filter chips.

Prioritization Matrix

Through these observations, I made a list of possible changes that would make the user flow more cohesive and eliminate some of the areas where participants struggled. I also took some suggestions into account and added them to the prioritization matrix.

These will be grouped into four categories on the Prioritization Matrix:

  1. High Effort; High User Value - Maybe

  2. High Effort; Low User Value - No

  3. Low Effort; High User Value - Yes

  4. Low Effort; Low User Value - Maybe

I decided to do all of these changes since they coincided with one another and seemed pretty easy. All except number 4, which only one user expressed as a suggestion.

Usability Testing
Round 2

In the second round of testing, I identified only a few design issues. However, the main concerns centered on the small size of filter options and the Tours list on the Guide Profile page.

Test Results

In the initial test, we found a few design issues that need attention. Participants had difficulty with filtering, legibility of images and carousels, and finding the guide due to unimplemented filter chips.

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I decided to do all of these changes since they coincided with one another and also seemed pretty easy. The pictures were still an issue, so I chose better pictures.