Role: Lead Designer & Researcher (The Trips Area )
Tourlane provides end-to-end travel experiences via personalized itineraries including flight tickets, accommodation services, travel guides, experiences, and much more. Specialized Tourlane sales agents called Travel Experts consult travelers over the phone and build itineraries that are a perfect match to their needs. While building these custom made trips agents use a sophisticated SaaS application. I’ve been privileged to lead the design efforts for this platform with multiple users and conflicting user journeys where I gained tremendous experience establishing user-centered design processes for the area.
The internal tools that are used by the Travel Experts are designed, implemented, and maintained by feature teams in the Trips Area.
Design Lead, User Researcher, and UX Designer
I partner with PMs and tech leads on the overall execution of the initiatives from Idea to Implementation including the Research, Co-creation, Validation, and iteration phases. Below are two of the most complicated features Trips Area implemented. I lead the design process for both of them from scratch.
Above are two examples for previous initiatives where we built brand new internal tools. The process for building features & services are consistent and we follow the process described below. In both of these initiatives I lead the research & design processes and also worked hands-on scoping up the initiative, conducting research, designing the UX and user flows, grooming Jira tickets with final high fidelity comps.
Below, I describe the process for Flights Search as an example:
Status quo & the feature
At the time of this initiative, the internal Travel Experts were using a third-party tool provided by Cockpit. Our Travel Experts were looking up flights tickets for our customers who were flying internationally to all destinations Tourlane serves. The goal of this initiative was to release the MVP of the in-house flights search and reservation tool for our agents.
As a part of the research phase, I interviewed multiple Travel Experts to understand use cases for the existing third-party tool and the context Travel Experts were in. The research findings also determined the initial feature list that had to be included in the MVP scope. After the interviews, I documented and presented the findings to the team to collectively finalize the MVP scope & feature set.
Looking at the best practices in the market such as Google Flights, Skyscanner, KAYAK, as well as our third-party tool in hand, we’ve determined the ultimate search experience we could provide to our Travel Expert including the UX flow as well as the interaction patterns and UI elements needed.
User Story Mapping
I co-lead the workshop with PM to determine the user stories that have to be addressed in the MVP solution. Stakeholders as well as end-users were invited to this workshop where we’ve also addressed the feature set that has to be a part of the user flows.
With user research findings and User Story Mapping exercise deliverables, we had everything we need to go into the ideation phase:
- User Interview Takeaways
- Happy Path
- User Story Map & MVP Scope
- Best practices
The first step of the ideation phase is a series called Co-creation Session conducted with the participation of stakeholders as well as the users. Remotely, we’ve connected to each other via Google Hangouts, then collectively ideated on the potential solutions. I planned for and lead these session(s).
UX Design & Lo-fi Prototype
During this phase, I came up with potential solutions that would meet the user needs defined previously and documented in the user flows. I used inVision to put together these ideas as a prototype to be discussed with the team before being finalized.
In the design review, other designers, team members, and stakeholders join to look at all the designs that are being presented by me, then provide feedback. The main goal here is to collect red flags regarding potential issues from tech, product, and design perspectives. After this round, I collect all the feedback and make a decision with the PM whether to iterate on the prototype followed with another design review, or to go into the usability study straight away.
Final Prototype & Remote Usability Study
Once the prototype is finalized, I schedule usability study sessions with our Travel Experts to collect feedback on the solution idea. These sessions are ran with at least 3-5 Travel Experts. A report written by me shared with the team following these sessions. I lead a review session with the team on these findings to determine whether we’re confident enough to go into production. In my experience, I usually run 2-3 rounds of usability study sessions with iterated prototypes before locking down the MVP scope.
Finalizing the User Interface and UI Library
Working directly with the UI Designer on the High Fidelity Comps that are going to be used either for Usability Studies or Implementation is also a key part of my day to day work. One of the most important things here is to keep the UI designer and the UI Library/Design System engineers in the loop from the idea to implementation and spar together on every stage to provide consistency among UX and UI elements included in the feature.
Once I have the finalized comps in hand, we’re ready to go into Grooming Sessions with PMs and the tech team. During these sessions, I support PMs & UI Designers in finalizing the user stories and Acceptance Criteria on Jira tickets as we talk about every detail regarding new the feature with the front-end and back-end teams.
After the release it’s important to review the released feature on production and document UX inconsistencies or implementation flaws on Confluence. These review documentation are addresses during weekly meetings with the team and actions-to-be-taken that are decided with the PMs and turned into Jira tickets on the go.
Stakeholder & User Feedback
After the release, it’s very important to collect feedback on the new feature from users as well as stakeholders. Stakeholder feedback is usually collected by the PM during the Live Demo of the feature that is presented to the stakeholders. User feedback are collected by me in multiple ways such as:
- Usability Studies
The iterations that are ought to be done on new features are determined via mostly in these methods however we’re continuously collecting feedback from our users as well as the team to identify misalignment between business goals, user needs, and tech frugality and alter our solutions accordingly.
Thank you for reading all the way here.