MSc User Experience Design
My name is Sara Granados and I'm a designer based in Dublin but originally from Louisiana. My creative interests and experience range from marketing, brand strategy, visual design, user experience, web design, and animation. For my final year research project, I focused on a topic about which I am passionate – travel. Using an empowerment-focused design methodology and empowering design principles, I created an app for solo female travellers focusing on trip planning, safety, and community to investigate if the UX design of a mobile application can influence a user’s feeling of empowerment and help women have a more enriching and transformative solo travel experience.
Walkthrough of the final iteration of the WING WOMAN app, an app designed to empowerment and help solo female travellers before, during, and after their solo trips. Below is an outline of the process of creating this app!
First, I performed a literature review focused on 4 main areas: solo female travel, mobile tourism, designing for empowerment, and research gaps.
Solo female travel has become more popular in recent years based on a change in women’s socio-economic status and freedom from gender norms. It is also widely regarded as a vehicle of empowerment for women, and more and more women are choosing to travel alone and not just travelling alone because they have no other choice.
Mobile phones are changing travel with how many travel-related apps are now available. A competitor analysis was performed on competitor apps aimed at solo travellers.
I also looked empowering design principles as well as choice and participation as crucial elements of empowerment.
Finally, while looking at research gaps I noticed that most of the research on solo female travel looked at women who had already travelled solo before. As well, many studies had geographical constraints.
I also looked at the lack of research on what makes good onboarding and how it can be used to give users a sense of empowerment.
Next, I looked at empowering design principles found in research. These are 3 different sets of what researchers have defined as what makes up empowerment. It is important to note that all 3 have "choice” somehow integrated.
Riddle's principles (right), includes onboarding as one of the aspects of empowering UX design. This would influence the decision to make onboarding the element to run an A/B test on. Some users would receive a traditional onboarding experience which listed the functionalities of the app, and some users would receive a customisable onboarding experience where they could customise their app page, giving users more choice and control over their app experience and hopefully leading to empowerment.
These principles would be the backbone of the project, especially when it came to deciding on functionality for the app.
There is currently no design methodology that focuses specifically on user empowerment, so for this project I brought in elements of User Empowering Design developed by Gallula & Frank into my design methodology, as well as participatory design.
According to Gallula & Frank, functionality allows users to accomplish a required task, experience gives the user a quality experience and is more about their feelings and sensations, and then empowerment brings in the 4 dimensions of empowerment: meaning, choice, impact, and self efficacy.
Including participatory design into the design methodology allows users to be actively involved in the research, design, and development of a product. This offers users choice and control, leading to empowerment.
To incorporate participatory design, I held a remote co-design workshop with 4 participants.
Throughout the 2-hour workshop they performed a series of brainstorming activities, a card sort, a crazy 8s exercise where they sketched out app screen ideas and they were even given the opportunity to brainstorm the app’s colour theme and name. This would all be directly implemented into the final product meaning they got to have a direct say.
To read more about the co-design workshop, please see the Pictorial attached.
Most of my user research data came from a remote survey, which had 768 responses from women in over 44 countries
Also, 3 interviews were conducted with subject matter experts in both solo female travel and empowering design, and desk research was performed by doing an analysis of solo female traveller groups on Facebook.
The results of the online survey are shown here.
With all the data I got from that user research, I created a primary persona and accompanying empathy map based on someone who had travelled solo before, and was an experienced solo traveller.
I also looked at apps in the competitive landscape for design inspiration and to see how these apps measured against empowering design principles.
Next, I came up with the overall look and feel of the app.
The app name came directly from a one of the co-design workshop participants.
One of the exercises of the the workshop was also for participants to brainstorm colour schemes they liked and their suggestions influenced the final colour scheme.
The proposed app went through several iterations. Initial wireframes were guerrilla tested. Then, the first iteration prototype was pilot tested on a group of 17 participants. Feedback was implemented and a final iteration was ready to test.
Here are examples of key app screens at the wireframe stage and at the final iteration stage.
Here are examples of key app screens at the wireframe stage, then at the first iteration stage, and finally at the final iteration stage.
Usability tests were performed on Maze with 62 participants, with an even 31 split of those who did the test with traditional onboarding versus customisable onboarding.
The majority of participants were aged 25-34, had a high online usage level, and most were from Ireland or the US. As well, the majority of participants had travelled solo before at least once.
Results found that there was an increase in psychological empowerment scores of the whole group from pre-test to post-test, indicating that the app did increase users' feelings of empowerment. The post-test user experience score was also positive.
However, there was no significant difference between the psychological empowerment scores or user experience scores between Groups A and B, meaning that onboarding did not affect user empowerment or user experience.
There was a significant increase in psychological empowerment scores from before the intervention to after, meaning that incorporating empowering design principles into the design of the app, and using a methodology focusing on empowerment, did help increase users’ feeling of empowerment
Designing for Empowerment: Can the UX of a mobile app empower and enrich the solo female traveller experience?
Solo travel is a transformative experience for women, leading to self-discovery and feeling empowered, enriched, brave, free, and in control. Even still, the female solo travel experience has barriers and constraints. Loneliness, safety and security, lack of confidence, and fear of social stigma have been identified as barriers that keep women from fully enjoying, or even being completely deterred from, travelling alone. This study further explored the factors that enhance and hinder the female solo travel experience, as well as investigated if the UX design of a mobile application can influence a user’s feeling of empowerment and, more specifically, help women have a more enriching and transformative solo travel experience. A group of 62 participants completed usability testing to determine if implementing empowering UX principles into the design of a mobile application and giving users choice and control in the form of customisable onboarding affected their feeling of empowerment and their overall user experience.