Thomson. A concept Project
Thomson Holidays identified an opportunity that will allow customers to customise and tailor their own holidays. This concept project focused on conceptualising a web app that will integrate seamlessly into the current website, allowing customers to chose and design their own holidays.
Thomson; one of the oldest and best known names in holidays and tours, the Thomson name is almost synonymous with sun, sea and sand.
Develop a microsite that will allow customers to easily discover, choose and customise an existing package holiday based on personal criteria as well as inspiration from alternate sources. The microsite should allow holidaymakers to design their own multi-destination, multi-activity trips.
Customers enjoy the thought of going on holiday and the initial planning stages of it. However, once the booking process begins, customers quickly become disillusioned by its long winded nature. The often irrelevant and uninspiring holiday options drive customers to make their final purchase either by phone or within a physical store.
An online platform for customers of all ages and needs to fully customise and book holidays through different forms of inspiration that mirrors the offline in-store experience that we all currently prefer using.
2 weeks, split into 2 sprints:
- Discovery Phase
- Design Phase
- Pen & Paper
- Google Forms
- Design Studio Method
- Content Prioritisation
- Rapid prototyping
- Paper Prototypes
- Digital Wireframes
- Participatory design
- Clickable Prototype
- Usability Testing
- Competitive Analysis
- Stakeholder Interviews
- User Interviews
- Concept mapping
- Task Analysis
- User Journey
- User Flows
- Feature Analysis
- Paper Prototype Testing
- Iterative Wireframe Testing
- High Fidelity Prototype Testing
The project began by examining the personas provided to us by Thomson. These personas were identified by Thomson as being a representation of their wide-ranging customer base who would typically want to customise their holiday.
Despite there being a variation of needs and frustrations between the users types, I identified a selection of key commonalities between them. This selection would help me to understand the wider issue among more of the user types. These will be used as a base for the planning of features and functionality needed for the site to be successful.
- Holiday Inspiration
- Customer Reviews
- Clear Pricing
- Sharing Options
- Flexible Itinerary
- Group bookings
Amit's Specific needs
- Customer Reviews
- Clear Pricing
- Customisation of Activities for all family
- Speak to an expert
- Easy & quick holiday comparison
In order to dig deeper into the user’s needs, emotions and behaviour when booking holidays online, I needed to focus on one of the personas. I chose Amit as the primary user type in this project, because I felt that his needs were the most advanced of the three, and if I was able to address his needs well (as well as taking into consideration the commonalities drawn from all three of the personas), then this would form a great base to build on.
Meet Amit; a well educated and financially secure family man with a wife and 2 young children, enjoys yearly family holidays. However, he does have very specific needs and of course a few pain points that he would need solving if this application was to make his experience enjoyable.
I targeted a mix of direct and indirect competitors. I was looking to see how these companies performed online and what features and functionality they used to help them to enhance the user’s experience when booking online. I wanted to see where they excelled and where they fell short and ultimately to see how we could take advantage and do things better.
Explore, Trail Finders and Travelbag were sites that I identified as direct competitors to Thomson. I identified Audley as an indirect competitor.
In order to analyse the findings from the competitive research clearly, I entered the data into a chart to closely examine where there might be any opportunities. The chart indicated that Thomson’s competitors were all providing great holiday inspiration, but they were not specifically solving our personas’ problems. Therefore, there was still great opportunity to obtain competitive advantage over them if we were to address our user's problems well through the Thomson microsite.
- Customise Holidays Online
- Purchase Custom Holidays Online
- Save & Share
- Control Budgets
Interviews & Task Analysis
In order to really understand the emotions and feelings of this user type, I had to identify and then interview users that matched Amit’s profile.
With the structured questions in hand, I went ahead and interviewed my users to find out more about their experiences in terms of booking holidays online for a young family. With the context established, I performed a task analysis with my users to identify the main tasks involved in ‘booking a holiday online’. I then I asked them to break down these main tasks into smaller actions and then interviewed them about their emotional feelings along the way in order to establish any pain points or points of positivity.
The interview and task analysis was a great way to find out the more specific details of our user type and to identify a path and any potential opportunities to improve their experience along the way.
- Research Period was usually long and complex
- Deciding on suitable activities for a group was complicated
- Looking for value for money was hard to do
- Getting everyone to approve the holiday choice(s) was complicated
- Decision to spend large sum of money online, was daunting
- Prefer to book in store with a consultant
Competitor Analysis continued...
It was clear that Thomson's competitors were doing a great job online in terms of inspiring holiday makers. However, I found that almost all of the companies did not allow customers to book their holidays online, after they had made some choices or got to a certain point in their decision making. Instead they would always be re-directed to a sales assistant either by phone or in-store to complete the booking.
This was also compounded by the fact that the users that I had interviewed almost always preferred to make their holiday booking in store. Before I could move forward with my user journey, I needed to find out a but more about the in-store experience and why it was still preferred.
My aim was to understand the appeal of booking in-store over booking online, in the hope that this may even aid the development of my final concept.
The experience customers have in-store is inspiring, educational and most of all, trustworthy. There was a clear, step by step process that they took me through when establishing my holiday needs. This process made much more sense than I had seen when researching online, I could understand people's frustrations. I needed to draw from this offline model to provide the same level of service and confidence on-line.
The in-store booking process (in order)
- Where are you planning on going?
- When are you planning on going?
- How many people are travelling?
- What’s your budget?
- Go through brochure and package holiday options & itinerar
- Explore day by day and activity by activity options
- Use of the map to highlight the points of interest
- Inspiration through sales representative's own experiences in that country and on those activities she was talking about.
User Journey Map
With the information from my primary persona, user interviews and the tasks set out in the task analysis, I was able to map a typical journey for my users using a user journey map.
The Customer experience map really brought to light the areas that Amit was having trouble with. I established there to be three key stages in Amit’s booking journey; Research, Explore and Purchase. However, it was the stage in which he was exploring his options, which really provided the biggest pain points for him. Some of the comments mentioned at this stage were “A lot of these holidays are not relevant to my family!” (during the choosing a holiday step), “Are my flight connections correct” (during the exploring travel options step) and “Will the activities be suitable for my children?” (during the step of choosing activities).
I noted down all aspects that they liked and those that they had problems with. This helped me to develop a comprehensive features list to incorporate into my proposal.
- Provide holiday inspiration via themes and/or preset holiday itineraries
- Allow users to generate options within a budget
- Allow users find customise suggested itineraries
- Allow users to share their custom itineraries
- Allow users to view user-generated itineraries
- Allow users to rate and comment on itineraries
- Save itineraries for a later time
- 'Chat' to experts
- User generated inspiration
- Holiday comparison tool
User feature list:
- Interactive maps
- Mulitple customer access to a single holiday itineray for custimisation
- Weather details per location
- Activity previews per holiday type
- Individual activity customisation
- Holiday Inspiration
- Customer Reviews
- Clear Pricing
- Sharing Options
- Flexible Itinerary
I combined and prioritised the key features necessary to meet Amit's needs the business's needs and the tech requirements.
I needed to understand how the web app will fit into the current site structure and what categories I would need and how and at what point the web app would hand the customers back over to the main site. To start off with I performed an open card sort to establish what type of categories might work well for this type of feature. I asked users to think of associated categories with holidays and inspiration. I then cross referenced this with the site structure of our competitors analysis. Testing over 5 times developed some patterns in the categories. I then affirmed these categories by performing a closed card sort asking users to place the subcategories under the categories they felt fit best.
Drawing from the knowledge and understanding gained from the Discovery Phase, we began to tackle the Design Phase.
This phase begin with a Design studio, whereby design concepts and the initial thinking behind how the microsite would work was sketched out through quick and dirty sketches. Ideas were developed rapidly until the group, came to a point in which collectively, we were happy to move ahead.
The decision was made to approach the design through a mixture of a ‘Get-Do’ and a ‘Do-Get’ approach, whereby users would be asked to input their initial details and then they would be presented with holidays. Once this was achieved then users would be able to amend and customise further themselves. Several rounds of sketching were conducted and after each round, as a team, we used a system of up-voting the design solutions, functionality and screen flow that we liked. The most voted for designs were then refined again as a team.
- Spoiler Alerts
- Walkthrough Text & Image Descriptions
- Suggested Video Lists
- Author Validation
- Video Length
- Date uploaded/created
- Custom Hub Page
- Predefined Tags
- Annotations on Video
- Video-Game-Walkthrough-Creator User Profile
- Payment review
- Filtering/ Sorting of Videos
- Recording date
Paper Prototype & Testing
The first design iteration began and soon we were in the process of designing, testing and revising the designs based on user feedback.
The initial design iteration was to understand the flow of the process between individual pages. Already there was plenty of feedback and changes began to be made as a result of the first round of user testing.
The second design iteration focused on redesigning the pages and understanding the features that would be necessary to make the experience as easy as possible for the user. Changes such as the layout of the holiday summary pages and options for filtering were discussed and acted on.
A design using a 'Do-Get' step by step wizard process was tested early on, however, this concept did not test well amongst 5 individual users and as a result, it was removed as a feature. I was then tasked with coming up with another way to take users through the journey.
More filtering options were introduced in the 3rd design iteration and CTA button messaging was altered according to the feedback I was provided with. I resorted to a 'Get- Do' design whereby users would get their holidays (based on initial basic information input) and then they would customise it later on to suit their needs. This tested much better with our users. I was also encouraged to include a budget filtering option on the holiday category page, allowing users to filter the holidays live on this page.
Low Fidelity Digital Wireframe
The feedback from the testing was noted and the changes were implemented to a low-fidelity wireframe, using Omnigraffle. Once the design was ready I created a clickable/tappable prototype using Marvel.
My prototype was now ready for interactive testing. To ensure that the microsite was in line with what our user (Amit) needed, a task was set based on his persona’s explicit needs. User’s that matched Amit’s persona were asked to book a 3 star, cultural, family holiday to Mexico in March, for two adults and 2 children with a budget of £5,000. User's were asked to change their hotel room and activities on day one of the chosen holiday and then save their holiday in order to share it, before making the final booking.
In order to book the holiday, customers would be redirected to Thomson’s main website.
Test my prototype
I used Marvel to create the digital clickable/tappable prototype.
Test it out here:
More testing would be necessary to develop the idea further, there is still plenty of work to be done to bring it into a high-fidelity prototype.
Potential future features and changes include:
- Introduce more subcategory themes through user tested card sorting.
- Develop the idea of an expert’s advice area, whereby I could make use of experts who had experienced the holidays that users were searching for.
- Explore the use of videos and more User Generated Content through photography and customer reviews to enhance the validation of the activities and holidays.
- ...MORE TESTING...
Thank you for reading.