Omakase

Personalized mystery trips to Japan for spontaneous travelers
Header image

Background

According to JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., over 2 million visitors traveled to Japan in June 2023, making it one of the world’s top travel destinations. With its extensive railway system and other public transportation options, travel within the country is super convenient. In addition, Japan is one of the world’s safest countries to visit so it’s the perfect destination for both group and solo travelers. Having been to Japan multiple times in the past as a solo traveler myself, a trip can be overwhelming to book and plan especially for travelers visiting for the first time or travelers who wish to go off-the-beaten path.

How might we help spontaneous travelers who feel mixed emotions about planning a vacation to Japan book a trip to go there while taking into consideration their concerns and personal vacation preferences so that the trip is tailored to their interests and needs?
Desktop mockup of Omakase's homepage

Presenting - Omakase

Omakase offers mystery trips to Japan that are personalized to each traveler’s preferences. They take the planning, flights, accommodations, and bookings out of the traveler’s hands which alleviates the stress of planning. The itinerary is a mystery and all one has to do is just pack up and arrive. The responsive website showcases Omakase’s trip offers as well as provide important informational resources for people going to Japan through their service.

My role

UX/UI Designer

Tools used

  • Google suite
  • Figma & FigJam
  • Miro
  • Clip Studio Paint
  • Calendly
  • Zoom
  • Optimal workshop

Duration

6 weeks
August to September 2023

Research

Goals and objectives

  • To learn about the user’s journey while they plan an international trip
  • To discover any frustrations they encounter during the planning and booking process
  • To learn about how the user handles unforeseen situations before or during the trip (ex. Flight delays, cancellations, getting lost, etc.)

Competitive analysis

Key insights

  • All 3 competitors have a pre-trip survey for potential travelers ranging from very detailed to basic, with the goal of gathering the essential information for travel
  • Journee and Pack Up + Go sells personalized booking and itinerary services whereas World Mystery Trips are geared towards group travel with an in-person guide
  • All 3 companies are budget conscious and place emphasis on the personalized and curated aspects of their service

User interviews

I interviewed 6 people who have traveled recently, either internationally or within their country for vacation, to discuss their planning process and uncover any frustrations before and during their travels.

Key insights

1) On average, participants traveled for a little over a week for their vacations. This provides a baseline reference for offering trip packages based on the length of stay.

2) All participants are budget conscious and always look for the best deals on flights and accommodations, which tells us that price plays a big factor in their planning.

3) During the “research and planning” phase of a vacation, participants felt mixed emotions. Depending on the trip, some felt that it was fun, chill, and interesting. Others felt stressed or overwhelmed when it came to finding local spots to visit while trying to avoid tourist traps.

4) Language barriers appear to be a big issue when it comes to traveling to a foreign country and it makes the planning stage harder when it came to making reservations for restaurants or activities.

5) Among all participants, they like the idea of a mystery trip - especially since it essentially plans the entire trip for them. Rather than following a guide and strict schedule, all participants expressed that they would like a list of recommendations geared towards local businesses or activities that they can do freely each day.

Define & Ideate

Revisiting the question:

How might we help spontaneous travelers who feel mixed emotions about planning a vacation to Japan book a trip to go there while taking into consideration their concerns and personal vacation preferences so that the trip is tailored to their interests and needs?

Persona - Luke

User journey map

I created a user journey map based on the persona Luke to better understand the emotions felt throughout the planning process and to identify improvement opportunities. From there, I can devise the core functions of Omakase. The service can help take away the stress and anxiety that comes with researching and planning a vacation to Japan. By taking care of the leg work, Luke can feel at ease knowing that everything will be taken care of based on his travel preferences and should he need assistance during the trip, 24/7 support is available with Omakase.

Sitemap

To help construct the sitemap, I first conducted a hybrid card sort on Optimal Workshop with 10 participants.

Card sort results

Standardization grid from the hybrid card sort

My six initial categories were home page, footer section, trips, about us, how it works, and FAQs & policies. From the results, I finalized my navigation menu options and added an additional “Resources” category for items that were not standardized. I used the standardization grid to help determine which menu option each page would fall under.

Final sitemap

Task flows

After finalizing the sitemap, I made four task flows essential to the functionality of Omakase’s website.

Main task flows

  • View information about a standard trip and then pay the deposit to book it
  • Fill out the pre-trip survey
Task flow 1 for "view information about a standard trip and then pay the deposit to book it"
Task flow 2 for "Fill out the pre-trip survey"

Additional task flows

  • While reviewing the final page on the pre-trip survey, edit one of the answers
  • Finding more information about flights or answers to other questions in general
Task flow 3 for "While reviewing the final page of the pre-trip survey, edit one of the answers"
Task flow 4 for "finding more information about flights or answers to other questions in general"

Design

Low and mid-fidelity wireframes

Branding

Omakase's logo features Mount Fuji at the focal point of the location icon to evoke a sense of adventure and travel. The primary shades of green offers a calming color palette that aligns with Omakase's mission of making vacations in Japan easy and stress-free. Noto Sans JP is the main typeface because of its versatility and it's suitable for both English and Japanese text.

Image of Omakase's branding showing the color palette, logos, and typography

UI components

Image featuring some  UI components for Omakase, includes reviews, trips, progress bars, and activity sliders.
Image featuring some  UI components for Omakase, includes buttons, radio buttons, and form fields.

High-fidelity wireframes

Usability test

I conducted a moderated usability test with a desktop version of the prototype with 6 participants on Google Meets and each session lasted about 30 minutes. Since I wanted to focus more on how each participant explored and interacted with the website, I decided that a moderated usability test would be best in order to gather qualitative insights and first impressions.

Desktop mockup of Omakase's homepage

Usability test research goals

  • Identify any usability issues when exploring the prototype and going through the tasks
  • Understand how users feel about Omakase overall in terms of its concept
  • Identify how users feel about the overall design of Omakase’s website

Task flows tested

  • View information about a standard trip and then pay the deposit to book the trip
  • Fill out the pre-trip survey for the trip that was booked
  • Revise a section of the pre-trip survey upon arriving at the review page (before submitting the survey)
  • Find information about flights

Findings

Participants were asked to rate each task on how easy or difficult they felt the task was based on a five-point scale. The overall average rating for all tasks was that they were easy.

Usability test rating scale for Omakase. Average rating was easy.

Although participants felt that the tasks were easy and straightforward, there were a few common concerns identified:

  • The “Edit” button on the pre-trip survey review page was not very noticeable
  • The pre-trip survey review page can use more separation between sections
  • Buttons throughout the website felt a bit small (not wide enough)

Feedback grid

The overall feedback from all participants was organized on a feedback grid to help identify things that worked well versus aspects of the website that needed changing or were unclear.

Things that worked well:

  • Omakase’s concept and goals were clear
  • Color palette was pleasing and nice to look at
  • Overall UI design was consistent across pages and the website felt natural

Prioritization matrix - MoSCoW

The other items identified on the feedback grid were placed on a prioritization matrix using the MoSCoW method to help focus on the high priority changes for the next iteration.

Iterations

The main changes implemented were those that would improve overall usability. They were also the most common concerns amongst participants so these changes were high priority.

Pre-trip survey review page

  • Added headings and increased spacing between the different sections so that they’re more distinguishable from one another
  • Redesigned the “Edit” button to be more prominent and also features a hover interaction

Checkout pages

  • Added asterisks to required fields on the form so that it’s consistent with the pre-trip survey form and to provide more clarity
  • Added “Edit” buttons so users can conveniently edit information before completing the payment process
  • Added a deposition confirmation number text line on the confirmation page because this information is needed on the pre-trip survey

Additional changes across pages

  • Made the buttons wider and sizing more consistent across pages
  • It was unclear on the search bar if it was searching all FAQs or a specific category, so I added additional label text to indicate that it will search all FAQs
  • Increased the font size of functional text from 12px to 13 px
  • Added profile pictures to the reviews section of the homepage for more visual clarity, credibility, and increased personal connection. Without the profile picture, a participant pointed out that it seemed like an introduction to a travel spot at first glance rather than a review
Image of the updated search bar
Before and after images of a trip review on the home page

Final prototype

Prototype GIF of scrolling through the home page of Omakase
Prototype GIF of scrolling through the trips of Omakase

Responsive tablet screens

Select pages were optimized for responsiveness after iterating on the desktop size versions. The tablet size used is based on the iPad Pro 11”

Image of Omakase tablet mockups

Project takeaways and future considerations

One of the biggest challenges of designing Omakase’s website was making the pre-trip survey. I knew it was going to be long so I had to figure out how to break it down into separate sections that would make it easier to digest for the user. I was able to achieve my final result by implementing common design patterns such as the progress bar and an option to save a draft.

In addition to the overall visual design, I also faced the challenge of UX writing for this project. I had to make sure that the content and form instructions made sense so that users could successfully go through the checkout process and fill out the pre-trip survey. I also had to be careful on the confirmation pages so that the tone of the messages sounded more personable rather than robotic.

Designing a responsive website from scratch was certainly a challenge but enjoyable at the same time due to the large degree of freedom I had. For future iterations, I would add a newsletter signup section to the homepage and experiment more with hover interactions over images. Additionally, I would also like to add loading screens with animated graphics to go before the confirmation screens. By adding cosmetic changes, it can enhance the overall enjoyability of exploring Omakase’s website.

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