Using contextual research to redesign Harford's tourism website
Harford County is located 25 miles northeast of Baltimore. Its tourism website, visitharford.com, provides information about various attractions, local events, recommended restaurants and hotels in and around the county area. With this project, we aimed to identify shortcomings and issues with the website, understand users' trip planning patterns, and inform the redesign of Harford's Tourism Website.
Harford County Tourism
UX Researcher, UX Designer
Anavi, Astha, Mahitha
Based on our initial conversations with the client, we came up with a set of goals to act as a basis for our research process.
Expand the reach of the website beyond 30-40 year-olds
Lay more emphasis on engaging business and vacationing visitors
Identify the wants of visitors and translate it into features and offerings by the county
Our approach is heavily influenced by the Contextual Design Process developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt. The 8-week research process started out with necessary background research, followed by 8 in-depth contextual inquiries and multiple rounds of interpretation and data consolidation sessions. This finally led us to the Ideation Phase which helped us come up with issues, design ideas, and product concepts.
We reviewed 3 successful county tourism websites - Montgomery County Website, Prince George’s County Website, and Lancaster Tourism Website - to recognize common themes that could further inform our interview and design focus.
The following themes emerged from the study :
Our analysis helped us narrow our focus and improve the website experience from the perspective of a younger audience (20-30-year-olds). It also influenced us to understand the different kinds of personalities that come into picture when users plan and decide on a trip.
Contextual Inquiries & Interps
8 participants in their 20s were recruited for the user research process. We decided to recruit a diverse set of users - with differing occupations, gender, and relationship status - to understand user behaviors in different contexts while planning a trip.
During the inquiry, we focused on understanding the following aspects of the user's browsing and trip planning experience
Each interview was followed by an Interpretation Session where the team met up to analyze and make sense of the Contextual Inquiry. Each interpretation session led to the following deliverables:
Concise interview notes were made containing all key observations, quotes, and issues that the team finds important.
The identity model helped us capture the identity elements revealed by the user throughout the interview. It indicated all traits and values unique to the user.
The sequence model helped us easily observe the steps the participants take and the problems they face while navigating through the website.
During the data consolidation phase, our aim was to consolidate all the interview notes and models to make it easier for us to make sense of the captured data. The final result was an Affinity Map with over 300 user data notes, grouped to reveal insights about how people interact with the website. The consolidated Identity Model gave us 9 different aspects of a user's personality and the Sequence Model gave an overview of a user's navigation journey.
An affinity diagram was created by consolidating all the affinity notes captured during interpretation sessions.
Individual identity models were analyzed to create one consolidated Identity Model. We were able to identify 9 user personalities (not mutually exclusive) that affect users' trip planning decisions.
Our team 'walked' the data, sticking design ideas up on the wall right next to the affinity map, identity model and sequence model. "Wall Walk" sessions helped us come up with Design Ideas that addressed the needs and wants of the users and helped identify Issues that plague the website.
Design Ideas generated from the wall walk session. These Ideas were then used to generate product concepts for the overall redesign of the website.
Visions & Product Concepts
Given a particular design idea, Visioning Session provides a team with a collaborative technique to spin out a user story or journey. We came up with two different visions - one based on the design idea of 'personalized trip ideas' and the other based on designing a 'trip planner' on the website.
Vision Board I - Personalized Trip Ideas
Vision Board II - Trip Planner
We then combined the two visions shown above to generate the product concepts. We also kept in mind the user's personalities and found workarounds for issues identified earlier in the process.
"The information on the homepage should be captivating enough to make me explore more"
"I take notes of places I want to visit or save for later"
My List : Wishlist on the navbar to access shortlisted acrtivities
My List : Wishlist on the navbar to access shortlisted acrtivities
"I plan with friends and family"
Share: Share your shortlisted activities with friends and families.
Show Itinerary: Option to build an itinerary
"I make a travel itinerary"
"I plan for others"
List of activities added by the user on the left
Day wise itinerary on the right
"I want the county website to have ratings"
"I expect pictures/want more pictures"
"Proximity of attractions to each others matter"
Photos with relevant details
Description of activity
Food and Lodging options nearby
"I like exploring new places"
"I don't like artificial or touristy places"
"I make choice based on popular opinion on what to do"
"Cost is important to me"
"I seek recommendations from people who have previously visited"
"I want information immediately"
"I am bounded by time"
Calendar to choose dates of visit
A list of events on selected dates
"I like to spend time with nature"
"I like to shop"
"Food is an important factor"
"I don't like drinking alcohol"
PERSONALIZED TRIP IDEAS
A fun quiz to find out user preferences
Gives a list of trip ideas, activities and events based on the answers.
"Duration of stay is important"
"Weather influences my decision"
"I want my peace and quiet"
BUILD YOUR OWN TRIP
The user selects duration of stay, traveling with, interesting activities and travel season.
A list of recommended activities is generated
This was the first detailed user research project I worked on where I had to conduct contextual inquiries, analyze and consolidate large amounts of user data and come up with unique solutions grounded in the research. This process helped me understand the importance of having a clearly structured process to follow from beginning to end so as to not get lost in the massive amounts of qualitative data!
With The Team
Thanks for checking out our project! Cheers!