UX Research, UX/UI Case Study

Culturs — an app for travelers designed in times of COVID-19

Culturs is an application that helps users to learn stories, legends and customs of a place / city through audio tours, integrating gastronomy and local commerce into the routes.

This project was made during the 6 months UX/ UI Bootcamp at Nuclio Digital School, Barcelona, by Andreea Dragomir and Juliana Montoya.

HOW DID OUR RESEARCH STARTED?

DESK RESEARCH

We have chosen tourism as the main theme, and we have launched a hypothesis: Do travelers get to have authentic experiences when traveling? Can they experience the places in a way like a local does? What interests them the most?

We started investigating several subtopics like mass tourism, how to generate a more responsible tourism, reasons to travel and found tons of statistics that show a rise in interest in cultural tourism, gastronomy and local diversity.

Travel statistics — Desk Research

The result of the study “What most attracts us to a tourist destination? Attractions, culture and gastronomy” of the Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, of April 2019, on 12 large European cities, show that to compete in this specific market, tourist products and packages, cultural attractions and gastronomy are the critical elements chosen to attract visitors. The 12 cities studied showed a significant amount of content dedicated to these issues on all the websites considered (over 40%).

According to UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) tourism revives traditional activities and customs, empowers communities and promotes awareness of the value of heritage.

INTERVIEWS & SURVEYS

We did two rounds of interviews (30 people) and a survey (85 people) to empathize with the users.

Most of the interviewed people have ranked traveling as one of the things they like to do the most. Their priorities when traveling are to discover cultures they do not know, seek authentic experiences, learn about gastronomy and what the places really are like. They like to do tours, especially with local people and they don’t trust so much as before the recommendations found on Trip Advisor or Google Maps.

Interviews & survey Culturs

What bothers the users most is when organizing their itineraries. It is the time taken, the false or outdated information, places that are sold as authentic from the site but are just a tourist trap. Also the fact that they do not find activities by zones or segmented by their interests.

With our survey we confirmed the hypothesis from our interviews, we got to know better what other platforms users are using, how much time are inverting in organizing a trip and how they do it.

It’s a global problem, but there is anything we could do to help?

When we started our project, in June, we said that COVID-19 will be over soon, so we can continue to concentrate on the problems tourism is bringing, like massification and what could be the alternatives.

But time was passing, and we started to see the city completely empty, local businesses that were forced to close, people that were losing their dreams from one day to another.

Empty streets and local businesses closing in Barcelona — September 2020

And while we were looking for travelers to interview, we met local people that are travelers and that are rediscovering the city. So we did a second survey, to see how local people feel about this whole situation, if they are more interested to invest in the local businesses, if they know about the options they have around and what are they missing.

Culturs Survey — September 2020 / Illustration by: Brandon Mendoza

PROBLEM

We identified two problems:

  1. There are local people / tourists who cannot have authentic experiences due to a lack of information and knowledge that brings them closer to local culture, gastronomy and commerce.
  2. With the current pandemic, we are going through difficult times that have affected, above all, the tourism industry and local commerce. Tourism is changing and campaigns have to include much more local people.

WHAT IS OUR SOLUTION THEN?

AUDIO TOURS: Routes and tours where the user can better experience the local culture of a place, with a qualitative and truthful content.

FOR LOCALS & TRAVELERS: It is an app focused on people who like to learn new things; those who love to travel and learn about history, gastronomy and culture.

SUPPORTING LOCAL COMMERCE: We integrate shops and restaurants on the routes. We tell their stories, the real ones; who are they, what dreams do they have?

Due to COVID-19 we wanted to offer our users the information they need to be able to choose which local businesses to support, we show weekly offers and we include all these commerces on our routes.

We also support social distancing, so our audio routes can be an option to spend some quality time even if alone or in a small group, without having to interact with a real guide.

HOW WAS OUR PROCESS TO DEFINE THE SOLUTION

USER PERSONA

We defined our user persona, a representation of our group of users, with their motivations, behaviors and pains. This tool helped us to empathise better with our users and to remember their goals during the design process.

User persona — a prototype of our users / Illustration by: Brandon Mendoza

CUSTOMER JOURNEY

We did “The Mind Reader” sprint in order to define our customer journey based on our user goals. The idea behind this sprint was to organize our platform the same way a traveler would talk with a local or with an information agency. It was really fun doing it and lots of ideas came along with it!

We validated the goals and found opportunities to develop proper solutions to come across our users needs.

Left illustration by: Brandon Mendoza / Right illustration: Andreea Dragomir

INSIGHTS

We put together all the information, all our desk research, qualitative and quantitative data, benchmarking of related applications from the market, and we did more sprints, like How we might.

Insight cluster

HOW DID OUR PROPOSAL COME ABOUT?

After analyzing the functionalities that our app may have, we decided to keep the following:

AUDIO TOURS: With stories for both locals and travelers; the user can choose when to do the tour, how many stops to make, and listen or read the content.

LOCAL BIZ: Stories of the businesses included in the tour routes. We wanted to give another value to the stories of people who have businesses, to show the more human side.

DESIGN: Visual, modern and clean design, with fluid navigation.

CONTENT: Images and stories difficult to find on other platforms.

UX DESIGN

Once we decided and organized all our features and our user flows and our IA (information architecture) we began to define the design of the app.

We started with some sketches on paper and then we defined our first wireframes that helped us a lot during the UI Design.

Medium-fidelity wireframes

UI DESIGN

BRANDING AND DESIGN GUIDES

For the naming, we started to combine different words like tours, routes, stories, audio, walking, discover and while brainstorming CULTURS came out. We liked the combination of culture and tours so it remained.

CULTURS logo

We chose our design palette, including colours that transmit happiness and trust. Avenir Text was the chosen one as a typography for our app.

Design Guides

HI-FIDELITY WIREFRAMES AND PROTOTYPE

We applied our design system and guides to all the pages, following our information architecture.

Screens Culturs app

All the photos included in the application were carefully selected, and we wanted to show that a platform can have good updated content and good images in the same time.

You can see more about the visual design and the app features here.

Local commerce page

You can see the prototype here.

USER TEST

After creating the prototype we prepared our test. We thought of two different journeys and asked our users to complete the tasks.

Our school, found the users for our test based on are user persona, and they couldn’t do a better job.

Testing Day — Nuclio Digital School — October 2020

We understood the importance of having these tests done as we could study our user behaviors, the pains and the gains. We saw that there is room for improvement, so we understood what needs to be changed to make the process smoother and clearer for the user. We also got some new ideas of features to add to the project in the future.

In general, we have received very good feedback for the appearance and the content of the app. The users told us that an app like this is missing on the market and they would enjoy having it on the market. This was priceless for us!

We learnt of the importance of being able to test a product in the early stages. This way you can validate your research and your ideas before programming it.

CONCLUSIONS

This is how we created Culturs, an app that provides unique stories and supports the local commerce. Our goal was to create an MVP passing through all the stages of an UX process, using different tools and design thinking.

The whole process helped us to create our product based on user needs and behavior. We covered a real problem and as they say, in difficult times, there is more space to create projects that can have a positive effect on our users and that can empathise with them and with the actual moment.

We saw the importance of UX Research, and how good data can give great insights that can be used to design valuable products that help our users achieve their goals.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this case study as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Say hi at andreea@meraki.design or connect via Linkedin.

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Andreea Dragomir

Andreea Dragomir

Graphic Designer | Editorial Designer | UX/UI Designer