Case Study 05 | MS HCDE Capstone Project – Collaborative travel planning prototype


Travel planning can be a frustrating experience, especially when you need to coordinate with a group of people. It doesn’t take long to discover that everyone has different priorities and preferences, and it can be tough to stay organized.

Copilot is a tool that makes group trip planning simple and delightful by facilitating collaboration and leveraging existing communication technology.

Travel planners can generate ideas for trip activities, organize them, and get feedback from members of their group on the platforms they already use, such as Facebook Messenger, email, and text messaging.


Fall 2016 – Winter 2017

My Role

UX/UI Design
Project Management
UX Research


Milestone 1: Research
Milestone 2: Design
Milestone 3: Prototyping
Process Book
Showcase Poster
Product Video


Competitive Analysis
Persona Development
Usability Studies
Rapid Prototyping


How might we improve the trip planning experience for people who travel together?


We conducted a competitive analysis of 8 of the top trip planning products currently available, as well as, 8 one-on-one semi-structured interviews with people who had group trip planning experience. We also distributed a 44-question branching-logic survey, receiving 284 responses.

Variety of communication methods

People use a variety of methods, including both digital and nondigital channels, to communicate when trip planning. Copilot incorporates different forms of communication in order to keep everyone (including the system) in the loop.

Follow the leader

Most groups seem to have one key trip organizer who takes the lead on the trip planning. We made Copilot sharable / distributable, so that if one traveler is taking the lead, they can easily inform the other travelers in their group.

Group decision making is challenging

The most significant challenges of collaborative trip planning involve a lot of group decision making. Based on this finding, we decided to focus on creating design solutions to facilitate effective group decision making within the trip planning process.

Design Principles

Based on our research, we created a set of design principles that guided our design process:

• Every core feature should facilitate collaboration
• Meet travelers where they currently are
• Empower travelers, don't constrain them
• Keep information scannable and clear
• Update travelers, don't overwhelm them
• Surface relevant information at the right moment
• Focus on functionality

Ideation & Prototyping

We used the RITE method to conduct three rounds of iterative prototyping and testing, to ensure that our ideas made sense to users and to keep our design headed in the right direction.

Improved the way users indicate their preferences about certain activities

Although we made changes from previous designs based on user feedback, the “Like” button was still not sufficient to indicate participants’ level of interest. We decided to remove the Like button and instead give users three options to indicate their interest level: “Very interested”, “Interested”, and “Not Interested”.

Redesigned the poll feature

The design of the poll feature was not successful in many ways. As a result, we decided to reconsider this feature, redesigning the flow and visual elements to match it with users’ mental models.

Design & Iteration

Our final prototype was built in HTML, CSS and Javascript and leveraged an API built by our sponsor, Utrip, to include real curated data into our design. We also included samples of how trip planning communications originated through our design might appear in Facebook Messenger and email.

Support SMS/text messaging collaboration

In order to scope our project appropriately, we focused mostly on collaboration through Facebook Messenger and email. One of our immediate next steps would be to extend our solution to SMS by doing research into how it can be usefully leveraged, then design a flow that effectively and naturally integrates with our platform.

More complete social media integration

We determined early in our research process that social media is an important source of inspiration when planning activities for a trip. Further research and design is needed to more fully envision what this feature would look like and how it would function.

The right notifications at the right time

Determining the optimal solution for notification features requires more research and design than our short time frame allowed. Solving for this design problem would be a key direction for our project going forward.

Flexible level of interest

We could provide multiple ways for users to express their level of interest, such as commenting, ranking, and creating a poll—letting users decide which options they would use.

What I Learned

Overall, I learned a lot from our HCDE Capstone project team and our professors. The (collaborative) travel planning space is complex, however, I'm excited to see what solutions society dreams up and creates.

Narrow scope

We took a complex problem and identified an avenue that we were not only able to address and explore, but design a solution for. However, when we began the project, our scope was intentionally broad because, as designers who love to travel, we had a desire to address many of the most frustrating aspects of collaborative planning (that we had previously experienced ourselves). Had we started with a narrower and well-defined scope in the first place, we could have spent less time thinking about what not to design, and more time building the solution.

Less second guessing, more user testing

After our interim presentation, we realized that our original intuition was mostly correct and that our focus should have been solely on integration with existing communication technology. In retrospect, we felt that we likely would have arrived at the same conclusions through more user testing rather than spending a significant amount of time second guessing our project’s direction.

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