How might we encourage and make it easier for more women to travel solo?
Wanderette—A mobile app that allows solo female backpackers to feel more comfortable (and thus, empowered) by centralizing all resources, tips, notes, and emergency contacts.
Mobile Interaction Design
Individual Passion Project
Sketch, Illustrator, Photoshop,
After Effects, InVision
In 2016, I backpacked by myself in Southeast Asia for about a year. I've been in love with traveling solo ever since. It has made me more independent and free-spirited. I have also become a more empathetic and inclusive designer.
Traveling solo is a wonderful way to learn about yourself, while expanding your world view. However, the thought of traveling solo can be scary if you've never done it before. So I want to find ways to encourage more women to travel solo because of what it has done for me.
After coming back from backpacking, many people reached out to me for advice and tips. Many of them wanted to travel solo, but were nervous. I noticed that there were already many articles and videos online offering tips, but they still reached out to me. I know there is a need to make them feel more comfortable, so I set out to understand their pain points a bit more.
I conducted in-person interview, sent out a survey, reflected on the people who have reached out to me for advice, and synthesis the findings from my web eaves-droppings of different travel forums and other online communities.
Some of the questions I asked in the interviewees and during in surveys were:
- Why do you want to travel solo?
- Where do you want to travel and for how long?
- What are your concerns about traveling solo?
- How do you prepare for a solo trip?
- Why did you reach out to me if there are already some resources online?
I also analyzed how current solo backpackers and myself have tried to mitigate and overcome these concerns.
After researching, I synthesize the information by doing some affinity diagramming. I found 15 common pain points and decided to focus on the top 3 for the scope of my design. They were:
- Fear of Safety
- Fear of Language Barriers
- Fear of Uncertainty
Besides the pain points, there were some other interesting key insights that I found from the affinity diagram. From these insights, I derived design principles that would set the direction and scope of my design solution.
With the design principles in mind, I started sketching some ideas for the mobile app. The primary features that I wanted included were:
- Predefined 'folders' for countries so that the user can easily save and categorize a resource that they found on their own or in the app.
- The ability to read and add tips from other solo female backpackers.
- A place to take private notes for each country.
- A splash of delight accomplished by daily motivational quotes.
For inspiration (or rapid competitive analysis), I also looked at other travel apps that backpackers might use and noticed that all of them have some sort of review system for accommodations, restaurants, and tourist attractions. I didn't want to venture off into that realm because it has already be designed for. My design should focus on empowering more women to travel solo by providing them resources and tips from other women. Furthermore, I'm allowing them to collect all relevant resources into one place.
From my sketches, I narrowed down to the minimum viable product by repeatedly checking back with my design principles and validating my concepts with some of my previous research interviewees. Below are the low fidelity screens and the user journey from screen to screen (click to enlarge).
USER-TESTING + ITERATION
One of the most important aspects of the design process for me is to constantly testing my design and iterate based on the feedback. So I tested my low fidelity mockup to see if the user journey flow and interactions made sense before spending time moving them into higher fidelity.
I asked people to walk through the app to give me their general impressions of the structure, form, and content. Then I gave them two tasks: (1) favoriting a tip for a specific country (i.e. Vietnam) and (2) add a tip.
I made some changes to the interactions, language, and structure based on their feedback. Here are some of the main ones:
- Allowing a tip to be added from navigation menu instead of within the tips page makes sense because it's easy to find and can be pre-populated with the country based on where you are when you tap it.
- Initially, I only had the ability to favorite countries with the visual cues of stars, but I needed to add one for resources and tips, as well.
- I initially had the # of Wanderettes on the direct right of the country but that was confusing, so I created more of a hierarchical difference by right aligning it.
A big question that someone asked me is why just target solo female backpackers? This seems like it could be useful for anyone. My goal is to be inclusive and not exclusive, I don’t aim for the app to be singling anyone out. I want it to be a network of support and I found in my research that women who are nervous to solo backpack do seek comfort in hearing the stories and resources of other women. I want to build a network of women who encourage each other to solo travel. Perhaps, I can explore options to open up the app up to other demographics in the future.
HIGH FIDELITY DESIGN
After testing, iterating, and considering different color palettes and typography, I moved onto higher fidelity. Below is a video of the finished product - showing the evolution from sketch, to low-fidelity, to high-fidelity.
Below, I talk about the major interactions and design decisions for each of the major screens:
Here is a clickable prototype for you to play around with, if you'd like.
VISUAL DESIGN SYSTEM
I wanted a minimalistic look because I knew my page would have a lot of aggregated content from external pages. That's a lot of visuals coming together and I didn't want my color or typography to clash with that. I also wanted my design to be approachable, yet trustworthy.
The design centers around the color blue, which is often associated with trust, confidence, and calmness. These are qualities I want my users to feel when thinking about solo traveling.
WHAT I LEARNED
& NEXT STEPS
This was a solo side project and I’m really happy with the results thus far. There are so many directions that this app concept can scale to; for this project, I prioritize and scoped what I could to create a minimum viable product. This self-motivated project helped me learn how to scope and prioritize what informations should be on each screen.
Some good direction for the future are to:
- Build a web version
- Open it up to all genders ( I would have to change the name)
- Add a Messaging component for users to connect
- Add a 'Share' feature for Favorite lists
- Think about applications with AR
- Include a voting system for tips and resources
- Ability to add photos
- Expand beyond the digital space and create physical assets like meet ups, language cards, etc. I hope to incorporated with my Youtube Channel and Language Card.
Thank you for reading. :)