Redesigning the experience of a
walking tour app
AnyTour provides self-guided audio walking tours via a mobile app on iOS and Android.
It can boast 35 cities with over 400 audio experiences. Users follow the route detailed on the screen and via location tracking the next audio point is triggered when a user steps into the Geofence. AnyTour also has a recommendations section where users can find the best places to eat and drink as well as areas to experience or explore that we could not factor into the tours.
Improve conversion of customers from free to paid.
Review the current app and improve the general User Experience.
Improve the onboarding process.
Explore the idea of adding preferences to filter through the tours.
One of our biggest constraints for this project was that it was carried out completely remotely. We started in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, amongst confusion and fear.
Also working on an app that required people to travel in order to succeed wasn’t ideal at the time, but the positive attitude of our clients, happy to have a fresher app once this situation would have been resolved, really helped us through.
When I started General Assembly, I was told that the path of any project would have resembled this; a ghastly mess to then turn into a beautiful straight line where everything would have been smooth.
I found that for this project it was more or less like this instead:
We didn't ignore design process, I can say without a doubt that we followed the steps as we were supposed to, but maybe assumptions seeped into our insights, maybe we wanted to get to the solution quickly, we could blame the COVID-19 lockdown for distracting us, but suddenly we realized that our decisions didn’t stand on solid ground and had to go back and dig deeper to get those foundations.
All the back and forth we had notwithstanding, we still followed the 4 stages of the Double Diamond; Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver.
A pivotal step to get to our solution was usability testing on the current app. AnyTour is designed in a way that users can listen to the first chapter of an audio tour and then have to buy access to listen more. With this access, the app improves drastically and users didn’t expect this, they simply assumed that the full access app would just be the same with more content. What we had to do was to bring users’ expectation higher to match the full access app by improving the preview.
We also added other details and implemented small changed but this one was the one thing that really would bring users to buy the content, to know exactly what they were going to get.
We kicked off with a user testing, both on the preview and the full version of the app. After some testing, we noticed that some users were perceiving the app was lacking something in the preview. As it is always the case, the full version was offering a lot more than the preview, but these improved features were not advertised. There was no way for users to find out, until they actually purchased the content, what they were going to get, and with no incentive to open their wallets, they didn’t.
To highlight this, even more, was that very often users were wishing for features that the full version would have actually disclosed.
We ran a competitive analysis with apps that would have a free version and a paid version, such as Spotify and HeadSpace. All of these apps would always be consistent with how they looked; even more, they would display openly what users were missing out by not buying their content. With a market so saturated with apps for any need, users expect to be instantly impressed and you will need to find a way to hook them to your app in less than 20 seconds.
When we tested the full version of the app, the reviews were a lot better and most users wondered why the app didn’t show that straight away.
So the main issue with the app became obvious; we had to make the preview of the app resemble the full version so that users would know from the start what they were missing out by not paying.
We got an overview of the market from an initial chat with our client. They claimed that the app market for tour apps is scattered and there is no big competitor. Many apps in this field have a short life and even more, apps are added to the App Store every month. After researching, we could only agree with them therefore we tried to have a look at the main apps and find out the best features they had.
We went on with our research, with interviews and surveys. We realized that people tend to wear rose-tinted sunglasses when thinking about their holidays, and the lockdown when everyone was forced into their living room only made those days in the sun even rosier and we would often come out of interviews with recollections of fun times spent in the sun. We often had to find ways to ask better questions and to be more inquisitive, without leading the users too much. We needed to know when, while taking any kind of tour, they felt uneasy, annoyed and regretted having spent the money on it, we also wanted to know what would be the situation that they would be in for using an app that does walking tours.
Over 80% had taken a tour while on holiday
People are happy to pay for a quality tour
Only willing to pay for an app if they really like/want it or use it regularly (e.g. Spotify)
People are keen to go off the beaten track
Museum audio tours are an information overload
What we found out during interviews:
The Discover phase culminated with an affinity map and an empathy map to help us sort through all the material we had. All of the maps were done remotely on Miro.
All of this helped up create our Persona so that our users could finally have a face and a name.
After our initial chat with the clients from AnyTour, we found out that their ideal target was users from 20 up to 35 years old, as according to their research they were more tech-savvy and more likely to use an app for walking tours.
Many of the people we interviews mentioned their job while talking about their travels, whether it was a chef looking for some food pairings for try out in his restaurant or an artist looking for inspiration in street art, so we decided to add that aspect to our persona.
Archie needs a way to find a tour tailored to his interests whilst travelling because he wants to find inspiration for his projects while also avoiding the main tourist sights.
We met again with our clients during one of the design studios we ran to put into reality our ideas and to align our thoughts into one final output.
I ran the design studio with them using Zoom, explaining the importance of design studios and of their involvement. I explained how even if the idea seemed unattainable, it was still worth drawing them down, as maybe an element from that idea could inspire the final outcome. We showed them the results of our testings and research and then kicked off with a drawing game to put everyone in a happy mood.
When it came to the design studio itself, we draw our ideas in answer to “How Might We” that we devised to help users improve the experience.
Going back to our first user testing of AnyTour, we concentrate on how to bridge the discrepancies between the preview and the full version, so the How Might We for the design studio was:
HOW MIGHT WE Help Archie understand the app before he pays for it so that he can buy a tour with confidence?
Using miro we each uploaded a picture of our sketches and then proceeded to explain our ideas, we then voted on the ones we liked the most.
From the design studio, we also gained more insight from the clients, we were getting a bit too far away from the main objective with our solutions; sometimes it’s easy to be sidetracked by wanting to find a groundbreaking solution, a way to revolutionize walking tours as we know them in our case. I learnt that often the best solution is the most simple once, however cliche it might sound. Also, our need as designers needs to come after the client and above all, after the users.
It wasn’t an easy solution to get to, and this was the part when we had to get back and reconsider what we did. This was a pivotal moment for us because after realizing that we couldn’t explain all of our choices, we started making sure each and every one of our choices had solid foundations.
Basing our ideas on the final sketches of the design studio, we decided to go straight into Figma so that all of us could collaborate at the same time.
We tested right away, noting down all the comments we got.
We used post-its and colours to group the changes into different levels of priority and then proceeded to make changes accordingly.
The main structure of the app was very clear from the very first user testings, but there were some elements that would confuse most. The “Discover” option on the main nav was almost never clear to what it could be. We experimented with different icons and words until we found something that everyone would understand. “Discover” is selected experiences for users, not every single restaurant in the city, but a small selection of excellent restaurants. We called “Experiences”, a term made popular by Airbnb and now adopted also by Culture Trip and many other apps.
We also decided to have the profile icon on every page and to give the chance of finding easily the tours you previously liked by placing them in the “Saved” section.
When testing the original AnyTour app, the reviews about the main colours and typography used for the app were positive so we decided we would only change minor elements.
We swapped the pitched black background for dark gunmetal and we made sure that all the text was easy to read so we tested for accessibility and we were happy to see that all of the colour combinations qualified as triple or double-A.
One of the main points of the brief was to improve the onboarding process. We decided to go for a function-oriented onboarding. The reasoning behind this was that some functions of the app, like being able to share the audio via Bluetooth or that you had to download a tour before listening to it, were not very straightforward and required some explaining.
In the onboarding, we gave users the chance to sign up using Gmail or Facebook as most users trying the app found having to type down the email address annoying.
We also had to consider that users might skip the Onboarding or forget about it, so we added small reminders the first time an action took place.
The path of this projects didn’t go in a straight line, many times we had to go back to the User Research and we realized halfway through the project that we were going too wide with our ideas and we were supposed to keep it a lot simpler. Maybe it was because of this that we felt so proud in the end. By the end of the project, we knew that every part of our prototype was backed up by research or user testing and it was standing on steady ground.
We had a confirmation of this when the clients themselves said they absolutely loved it and they would swap the current app for our version immediately.
What I've learnt from this project
Realizing you are wrong halfway through the project and changing the route mean you’ll have to do more work but it’s much better than finding yourself with a solution without foundations.
When we started, we wanted to find a groundbreaking solution, but I learnt that sometimes the best solution is the most simple and even it’s not, it’s easier to at least start from the simplest solution and then expand from there.
You have to be able to justify every decision you take, after the initial mistakes, we started really considering this and at the end, we could have been attacked on every front but we would have had a reply ready. It’s only natural that some people won’t like what you do, but many decisions could look better to the client’s eyes if they are justified and explained by research and testing.
Finding a team that will bond over difficulties instead of finding a reason to argue is winning the teammates lottery.
I love chatting over a cup of coffee
(in person or over Zoom)
Drop me a line and I'll get back to you :)