Easy Vacay

A very large number of travelers begin to plan their trips by researching and choosing their destination.

It is difficult for travelers to make their destination choice because of the various options available in the market.

Easy Vacay is a design solution that provides a fully immersive and interactive virtual environment and helps travelers make easier choices while planning trips.  To facilitate trip planning, Easy Vacay considers users' schedules and flexibility to suggest destinations based on estimated travel time.

Project duration: 4 months

My Role: Interaction Designer

Skills: User Research

          Conceptualization

          Interaction Design

          Visual Design

          Usability Testing

          VR App development

          

Team: Shreya Mhatre, Interaction Designer

           

Research Question

How might we help people in finalising destinations while planning their trip?

Research Insights

Success Goals

  • Encouraging: Impress users with an exciting and smart design solution

  • Efficiency: Personalized results to make the selection process easier 

  • Valuable: Provide feature to use selected destinations for future  

Design Solution 

Easy Vacay is a Virtual Reality(VR) application that provides suggestions of places a traveler can visit within his or her available time. The user can interact within the virtual space and perform actions to shortlist destination choices to plan trips easily using the smartphone and a VR Headset. 

Consider Stela's journey as an example:

Task flow one/Selection process for destination

Stela is thinking about planning her next trip but she is not sure about the destination. So she launches the Easy Vacay application on her smartphone after connecting her VR headset. The first screen shows the logo and instructs Stela to press any key by tapping on the VR headset or clicking on the VR controller. Then the World Map appears which has interactive destinations. Stela selects California to explore more about it.

Task Flow one/ Selection process for destination

Task flow two/Select days and explore the suggested places 

Stela selects 3 days as she wants to spend 3 days in California. After her selection, the places which can be visited in3 days in California are displayed in the form of different panels. Stela reads the panel description and selects Monterey to explore it in a 360-degree environment.

Task Flow two/ Select days and explore the suggested places

Task flow three/Add destinations in the personalised list 

Stela likes the virtual experience of Monterey and 17 miles drive. So she adds both of them into her list by clicking on the "Add" button places in each  360-degree video. Once she is done adding the destinations, she clicks on "Return" to go back to the main menu to see her list.

Task Flow three/ Add destinations in the personalised list 

Task flow four/Use the personalised list for trip planning

She clicks on the "Come back to view your list" Panel on the Main Menu and sees her selected destinations. She can see the total count of the destinations besides the button called "List". Once she clicks on the "List" button, the name of the destinations appear. Then she clicks on the "+" button to see more details about the respective destination. She clicks on the "Send" button to send the list of her selected destinations to her email. At last, she clicks on the "Exit" button to leave the application.

Task Flow four/ Use the personalised list for trip planning

Design Decisions for

Success Goals

To achieve these three success metrics: EncouragingEfficiency, and Valuable, we took several design decisions which include a new technology called Virtual Reality(VR) and simple User Experience.

#Encouraging

Impress users with an exciting 

and smart design solution

Easy Vacay is a design solution that uses an emerging technology called Virtual Reality as the main platform. It does not only provides a sense of being in a different place but also allows users to feel like they have 'got away from it all'.  On top of that, it helps travelers plan their trips.

#Efficiency

Personalized results to make the selection process easier

Easy Vacay provides the feature of exploring the destinations virtually as well as allows users to select any destination to make the personalized list. To make a personalized list the user has to click on the "Add" button only. 

If the user directly jumps to see the list without any selection then the user will be directed to explore places and make any selection.

#Valuable

Provide feature to use selected destinations for future

With Easy Vacay helps in further trip planning as the personalized list of selected destinations can be saved and send it to the user's registered email-id for future trip planning. 

My Process

Research

Usability Testing

Design

Development

Prior art research

User interviews

Usability testing with different users with the paper prototype

 

Usability testing with VR Application

 

Brainstorming

Affinity Mapping

Wireframing

Prototyping

360-degree videos

 

Developed UI Designs

Developed functionalities 

Developed the whole User flow compatible with

VR Headset

Research

Prior art research

For the research, we started reading articles, blogs, existing solutions for trip planning. That helped me to understand the key points to consider while designing the Virtual Reality(VR) application.

 

Prior Art research

User interviews

The targeted group of users for our project was anyone who wants to travel. These informal interviews gave us the opportunity to understand how these people think about traveling.

We asked general questions for travel planning.

How do they come up with a plan?

How do they get inspired to plan the trip?

What are constraints or concerns while planning?

Hypothesis for user interview:

People want to travel, but need a clearer picture of what their journey will look like before they arrive".

Feedback:

  • Dependency on online resources for trip planning is higher.

  • Time availability is an important factor in choosing a destination, as they are always short of time, yet they want to explore more. 

Conclusion:

We came up with the solution of categorizing destinations by the expected time to visit those places. 

Usability Testing

To understand the user’s point of view regarding the virtual reality environment, we performed two user testing with a paper prototype.

 

Setup for initial testing with a paper prototype

Feedback:

Got the gist of being in a virtual environment.

Help in holiday planning, especially when he had not yet started planning his trip. 

This application could be suitable for people who can not go out and visit places.

Average time to use the application:

10-15 minutes

Pictures taken while doing the initial user testing

Design

Brainstorming

We put our ideas on paper and sketched them, to understand the end-to-end flow of this application. This step helped us to define the product's workflow.

Affinity Mapping

It is a business tool to organize ideas and data. We started by putting our ideas on sticky notes and voted individually to finalize the main focus and features of the application. The idea which has the maximum number of votes was finalized for the application.

The output of Affinity Mapping in order to sort out and finalize our features

Wireframing & Sketches

Before starting to design the actual workflow, digital versions of finalized sketches and workflows helped us to fix the structure of the application.

 
 
 
 
 

 Early sketches of our application

Wireframing

Prototyping

It is challenging to create in a 360-degree environment, as one's focus is not only on the 2D screen but on the entire space around the

user’s vision.

User flow of Easy Vacay

Color:

We settled on a color palette in shades of blue, green, and black.

A hard jolt from reality to VR can cause feelings of motion sickness. To reduce motion sickness, we have faded blue and green shades into black.

Bright whites and vibrant colors should be used in moderation because the increased light is more tiring for the eyes. We have used white only for the text.

Fonts:

In a 3D space, it is important to place fonts approximately at eye level, as the position of the viewer is fixed and defined in advance with 3D headsets.  Easy Vacay maintains a font position perpendicularly to the observer.

Font style:

Title: Lato-Bold

Description: Lato-Thin

Logo:

The logo has a big circle which represents earth and the man wearing VR headset shows the use of the technology virtual reality(VR). The line which passes around the earth and the man represents traveling around the world. The overall logo is designed to represent the objective of helping people to make their trip planning easier.

Development

360-degree videos

We had to make sure that the videos were 360-degree VR-compatible. We used the GoPro Max camera on-location to shoot content.  Our main objective when shooting was to optimize camera position, tripod position, and lighting.

Using the GoPro Player, we stitched our 360-degree videos together and edited them in Premiere Pro.

Developed UI Designs

We took design inspiration from various Unity asset store GUI (Graphical User Interface)samples, existing VR applications, blogs, and posts related to VR user interface design to design and develop the UI for Easy Vacay.

Developed functionalities 

Simple Navigation for different screens

Integrated 360-degree videos in Unity game engine

Global Map

creation

Add, Return, Next buttons functionalities

Save the list and send an email to your account

Save the list and send an email to your account

Functionality for "Exit"button

Developed the whole User flow

compatible with VR Headset

Whole User flow of Easy Vacay compatible with VR Headset

The second round of Usability Testing

After creating our virtual reality application in Unity, we did remote user testing with a software developer who was familiar with VR. The user testing process was done using a Samsung Gear VR headset, a Samsung Smartphone, and a TV monitor.

Feedback:

The flow of the application was understandable with the buttons and the panels.  It definitely helps in making decisions about where I should travel.

Suggestions:

The screens are flat and floating in the environment, which makes me feel like there is no point in having a 360-degree environment with these screens.

Pictures taken while doing the final prototype user testing

Another Usability test after incorporating the suggestions

We created a 360-degree ocean reef, which matched the layout of the background of the application and added it to all scenes. Then we did the user testing again with the same user to evaluate the difference.  

Result:

The difference in his experience was visible, as he tried to stay balanced and walk over the ocean reef. The user was happy to experience the 3D environment in the virtual world. He enjoyed the user flow better than he did in the previous user testing.

Pictures were taken while doing the second round of final prototype user testing

 

Challenges

  • Use of Mapbox SDK to create a global map 

  • 360-degree video preparation and editing

  • Functionality to add the destinations in a list

Solutions

  • Switched to the 2D Graphic Map and made it interactive

  • Ordered and used a new GoPro max 360-degree camera instead of Insta 360 and stitched it in iMac (32 GB).

  • Learned the basics of C# to develop the functionality using Unity manuals, unity Q/A portals, youtube tutorials.

  • Virtual User Testing because of Covid-19 Pandemic and VR Headset dependency

© 2020 by Bansari Shah

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