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Lonely Planet

NEW FEATURE AND RE-DESIGN
Supporting digital nomads' travel research needs
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Overview

Scope

DYNAMIC

Collaborative

DURATION

Two week sprint

TEAMMEMBERS

Jenny Pham, Kait Tripp-Addison, Lorenza Gerber

MY ROLE

Project Manager, Research Lead, UI Designer

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Client

MISSION AND VALUES

"Our goal is to help more people experience the joy of exploration... We have learned that the best travel is about putting yourself out there, about immersing yourself, rather than just seeing the sights...

 

We believe travel is ultimately about joy and delight. And the planning process should be enjoyable, too, filled with serendipity and connection wherever the path leads us"

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Challenge

As remote work has become more prevalent, the number of remote workers who travel while working has also increased, a group called digital nomads. Lonely Planet seeks to understand this growing group and their travel needs.

 

Our challenge is to draw upon the mission and values of Lonely Planet in designing solutions to address the needs of digital nomads.

Solution

A new feature roll out and redesign, improving functionality of and optimizing preexisting content for digital nomads. Our redesign and new features include:

  • Planet Nomad home page for filterable top 20 lists of destinations for digital nomads

  • Profile feature 

  • Bookmark feature

  • Attractions/Sights renaming → things to do

  • “Things to do” re-organization + re-design

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OVERVIEW

Evaluation of Current Solution

DIGITAL NOMAD HANDBOOK
DIGITAL NOMAD TRAVEL NEWS PAGE

Lonely Planet offers the following pre-existing digital nomad content:

Digital Nomad Handbook a print book available for purchase, advertised on digital nomad-tagged articles, which are difficult to find.

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Digital Nomad Travel News page, only accessible if users happen upon a tagged article or news story on their news + stories page. 

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1 Discovery + Analysis

Preliminary Research

In our first phase, we wanted to cast a wider net to understand basics about the scope of people who identify as digital nomads. We chose to conduct an online survey of 35 digital nomads with participants sourced from forums and Reddit, and remote work Slack channels.

The amount of time spent in one place varied widely among participants

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57%

stayed in Airbnbs

77%

did not use coworking spaces

This data surprised us, we wondered about how digital nomads work while they travel, and their experience with accommodations.

1 DISCOVERY + ANALYSIS

1.2 In-depth Discovery

User Interview Process

We interviewed 5 digital nomads with the goal of better understanding their values and pain points when it comes to traveling while working. We used survey results to inform our interview guide, asking questions like:

  • What has been a particularly valuable travel experience? Why?

  • How do you find things to do? Why?

We synthesized our interview findings using an affinity map to identify trends and commonalities.

Interview Insights

1

Immersion is what makes a digital nomads travel experiences feel most valuable; they particularly enjoy discovering new things while out and about, but will use a search engine to find activities to do while they travel. 

2

They find its difficult to make meaningful social connections while traveling. 

3

Digital nomads have very specific needs to consider when planning their travels that impact the destination decisions they make, both to allow for work and life while traveling. 

4

They use their web browser on desktop to research future destinations - its easier to open tabs and compare.

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1 DISCOVERY + ANALYSIS

1.3 Competitive  Analysis

Lonely Planet

The top 10, best-of listicle format is a very common content strategy for Lonely Planet.

LP's Lisbon "city page" with news, stories, and sightseeing, hotels, and restaurant suggestions.

After conducting and synthesizing user research, we wanted to do a structured examination and comparison of Lonely Planet with other businesses. 

 

For our competitive analysis, we chose a digital nomad specific product (Kayak - Work from Wherever), and a popular product mentioned in our survey findings (AirBnB). 

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FOR DIGITAL NOMADS

Kayak (Work from Wherever) 

Kayak's Work from Wherever Lisbon "city page", offering digital nomad-specific information in an easy to compare format. 

Kayak provides a platform for buying flights and they identified digital nomads as an important user base, and rolled out a product to address their unique needs. Having a similar goal, we wanted to take a close look at their solution.

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Lonely Planet

Activity browsing

From city pages, users can select attraction suggestions.

Activity filtering

6 pared down filters for attractions.

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AirBnb Experiences

POPULAR PRODUCT 
Activity browsing

AirBnb UI is designed to encourage exploration through browsing.

Activity filtering

AirBnb was a product that we found in our survey and interviews many digital nomads use to find housing. They more recently rolled out AirBnB experiences, which has a similar UI but instead of housing, crowd-sourcing local experiences.

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Their horizontal scroll filter bar includes 17 categories, including niche ones like "Magic" and "Wellness". AirBnb flagship product has a similar filter UI.

Competitive Analysis Insights

Our most valuable insights from this exercise came from AirBnb. The values of someone who might seek out local-led experiences on their product (travelers vs tourists) felt relevant for our product.

We noted that AirBnb’s UI felt geared towards curiosity, browsing, and the joy of exploration. This felt very in line with Lonely Planets’ mission, but weren't sure how to leverage this insight at this point in the process. 

2
Establish
the Problem

Empathize

USER PERSONA

Constrain the Problem Scope

Define the Solution Space

HOW MIGHT WE?

1 + 2 felt similar, but the type of research and time scale that each required were very different.

GOALS

To discover and explore their current destination, and have meaningful, exciting travel experiences

To feel confident in making an informed decision about their next move

FRUSTRATIONS

It's hard to find accommodations that meet all of their needs

Researching places to relocate to that meets all of their unique work/life needs is time consuming

NARRATIVE

Digital Nomad uses desktop browser for research, especially planning long-term travel. They love exploring, and discovering new things to do.

 

Last week, they found a flyer at the grocery store for a house show, and they had the best time.

DIGITAL NOMAD

"its about shaping work around your life, not shaping your life around your work”

Now, we felt prepared to narrow in on our problem space; we wrote a problem statement, addressing the business’s and digital nomads needs, and where they intersect:

Lonely Planet offers all types of travelers curated guides to explore different countries and the activities within them. They aim to assist digital nomads in curating their travel experiences. 

 

Digital nomads need a way to find valuable insights about the places they want to travel to, that help them navigate accommodation, activities, budgeting, and work. However, there are no websites that specialize in guides for digital nomads that could help them travel and explore within their constraints.

After we narrowed the scope of our problem space, we wanted to narrow the limitations to ideate within, and define our solution space.

  1. How might we support digital nomads planning their travel in ways that will equip them to successfully work while they travel the world?

  2. How might we inspire digital nomads to immerse themselves in the culture of each location as they travel while working? 

3
Ideate
and Design

Solution Flows

We tailored our decision-making and subsequent methods in our process to be sensitive to the two types of research digital nomads do captured both types of research digital nomads need to be able to do:

1 Future-oriented When they're exploring and vetting a new place to live and work from 

2 Weekend Plans When they’re looking for fun activities to enjoy their time where they already are. 

Our process narrative will be easier to follow if I split this section into two parts, to reflect the two types of travel research (1 future-oriented research and 2 weekend plans) we want digital nomads to conduct on Lonely Planet.

 

I’ll trace our design processes independently straight through from user flows to hi-fi prototype, and all the steps in between, through what I'm calling Solution Flow 1, and Solution Flow 2. 

Future-oriented Research
3 IDEATE AND DESIGN

Solution Flow 1

How Might We 1:  How might we support digital nomads planning their travel in ways that will equip them to successfully work while they travel the world? 

User Goal 1 : Digital Nomad wants to research new destinations to live and work from.

 USER GOAL 1: WIREFRAMES

Planet Nomad

Home page for digital nomads, accessible from the primary nav.

We included Work Requirements, Quality of Life, and Community as filters - users can prioritize one aspect, and return a different top list of places.

We use familiar Lonely Planet content formats (News and Stories) to present digital nomad specific news and stories in our new Planet Nomad home page.

 USER GOAL 1: WIREFRAMES

City Page Redesign

"Add to profile" feature, allowing users to save this information and return later, to more easily compare for long-term travel research.

A place on the city page for long-term stay information

Usability Testing
3/5 finished user task 1

We returned to our interview findings for factors that are important to digital nomads when finding a place to stay, and broke them down into 3 categories:

ONE, work requirements

(eg. visa information, average internet speed, number of coffeeshops)

TWO,
quality of life

(eg. cost of living information, average cost of rent)​

THREE, must do and see

(eg. cultural sites, things to do and explore, attractions, museums) ​

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What we found
What we did

Home Page

​​​Users couldn't easily find the digital nomads home page, instead they were clicking around the destinations drop down.

We arranged the primary nav alphabetically, which moved the digital nomads dropdown farther left.

The white text of the nav bar on the full color image was low contrast, so we added a transparent black filter onto the photographs.

City Page 

2/5 didn't click "add to profile button" to save the page or item. When asked they said the language was confusing.

We changed the button name to "bookmark”, a change suggested by our users, and found in standard UI patterns.

3 IDEATE AND DESIGN

Solution Flow 2

Weekend Plans

How might We #2: How might we inspire digital nomads to immerse themselves in the culture of each location as they travel while working?

User goal 2: Digital Nomad wants to find a nearby activity for this weekend in their new city

Card Sort
METHODS
Self-identified "travelers" grouped 25 cards from LP's Dublin attractions. 
 
RESULTS:
Inconsistent group name + size
 

User goal 2: Digital Nomad wants to find a nearby activity for this weekend in their new city

Browsing + Discovery Centered Approach

Was there a solution that experientially reflects the mission of Lonely Planet, to inspire the joy of exploration and travel?

BACK TO AIRBNB!
 

User goal 2: Digital Nomad wants to find a nearby activity for this weekend in their new city

WIREFRAME
Attractions Re-design

Renamed Attractions - Things to do

Filters: presented in a horizontal scroll bar, inspired by AirBnb, with more and narrower categories sourced from card sort data.

"Thing to do" card re-design: larger images, with reviews and price listed.

HI-FI PROTOTYPE

User goal 2: Digital Nomad wants to find a nearby activity for this weekend in their new city

Weekend Plans
PROCESS  OUTLINE

User flows

Sketching

Wireframes

Card Sort

Hi-fi prototype

For our second solution flow, we were working from How might we #2 to create our second user goal and flow. 

We wanted to create a user goal that captures the user’s need to explore, discover, and enjoy their time, in the city they are currently living in, in a more immediate time frame, which I'm calling "Weekend plans".

This goal was achievable on their preexisting site, but, based on our user interview findings, we had questions about the appeal of the preexisting solution.

 

We found two specific problems with the pre-existing solution for new nomadic users and their values:​

Language 

Words like "sights" and "attractions" felt tourist-y, and unappealing l to the values of digital nomads, who prefer immersive travel. 

Usefulness of filters

"Sights" as a filter for attractions felt too broad to even really be useful.

We decided to use a card sort to understand how users would group/categorize different types of activities.

We tested 20 participants who identify as “travelers” vs “tourists” on 25 cards that were sourced from LP’s list of Dublin attractions. This group of people (travelers) we felt would prefer immersive travel experiences and consider travel attractions similarly to digital nomads.

Our data agreed with LP’s pre-existing category “Shopping”, and there was significant overlap with “Nightlife” and “Restaurants” categories.

 

Participants grouped items from LP's preexisting "Sights" category very inconsistently, not agreeing on either group name or size of group.

On average, participants created 5 categories, but there was a wide range of number of groupings: 21 created 3 groupings, and 5 created 10 groupings. One participant called an overlapping group "municipal sites" while another "government buildings" and yet another, "cultural sites".

Our data pointed to the same bloated category of “attractions” and/or “sights”. But not one participant used “attractions” or “sights” to name any category.

We wanted to see if we could operationalize this card sort data, and the many categories our participants created, while returning to an earlier question about designing a flow that mirrored that same sense of joy in discovery. Then, I thought to return to our AirBnb Comparative data.

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At this point, I realized their filters aren't meant to narrow down the menu of categories or to reflect how users tend to group types of dwellings for a manageable sitemap. Airbnb's user flow piques the interest of the curious - users are rewarded by more niche categories as they scroll horizontally. 

 

AirBnb's UI encourages delighted browsing, a sort of discovery-centered UI solution.

This AirBnb insight, combined with the card sort data, directed our design decisions for “attractions” and “sights”.

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Moving Forward

4

In the end, we did produce a product I feel proud of, and I feel like as a group we engaged rigorously at several points with the design process. That being said, I have some recommendations moving forward with this project:

I would also conduct usability testing on User Flow #2, to see if its intuitive, and if its working in the way we intended. Intuitive and fun or difficult and annoying?

I would conduct several more card sorts from different cities, to see if we could find some more emergent categories for the horizontal scroll. 

 

I would conduct further interviews on what is important for users who find it is difficult to make meaningful social connections while traveling, in order to figure out the best method for supporting users in seeking this out.

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