Ironhack Challenge 3: Evaluating and Improving the Usability of a Travel App

Muge Hizal Dogaroglu
5 min readDec 2, 2020


Hello and welcome back. In this article, I’ll walk you through my process of evaluating and improving the usability of Tripadvisor for my third challenge at Ironhack.

The Task

The task in Challenge 3 was to evaluate and improve the usability of a travel app according to a specific use case and designated target group.

Before choosing the app to work on and improving it, I had to determine my target user group and use scenario. At this stage, Ironhack provided me with a general idea that I had the opportunity to customize: a group of people would like to visit one of the New7Wonders of the world.

I chose Colosseum in Rome as the destination and “young couple 20–40 y/o” as my target group. This combination presented itself in requirements and/or conditions such as below:

  • Flexible budget: “You realize you have both saved enough for the tickets and are planning to save as much as possible for the next 6 months to do this trip.”
  • Planned and organized rather than spontaneity: “You want to be efficient and have everything you need organized to enjoy at 100% while there.”
  • Special moments: “Even if you’re young, you want to have special moments to celebrate being together.”
  • Ease of accessibility: Rome is a major tourist attraction and has two airports and a well-connected public transport system which makes it quite easy to visit Colosseum and other tourist sights in the city.

The next step was to determine the travel app that I was going to evaluate. Again Ironhack has provided me with several options to choose from such as Kayak, Hopper, Tripadvisor, and Skyscanner. I decided to compare these apps by trying out different use cases and evaluate their usability by keeping Jacob Nielsen’s Heuristics in mind.

I tested out two scenarios that included booking a flight to Rome and booking accommodation. Since the apps suggested by Ironhack were very accomplished apps, most of them did well for these tasks. However, I ended up deciding to use Tripadvisor due to several reasons:

  • When opening the app for the first time, Tripadvisor lets you select currency and language which was a huge plus because other apps didn’t ask it and assumed the wrong currency/language.
  • Since Tripadvisor is a travel app in its essence, it has the ability to filter out the accommodation that is near landmarks which was a great feature to have for my task at hand. This was not the case for apps such as Skyscanner which is essentially a booking service.
  • Tripadvisor had a cleaner interface that was easier for the eyes than other ones. Especially when it came to displaying necessary information about various accommodation options, this made a difference.

User Testing

As I decided to use Tripadvisor for my task, the next step was to conduct user testing. The user testing consisted of doing a 5 seconds test to understand the first impressions of my users about Tripadvisor and then have them try to achieve a goal involving using the Tripadvisor app.

My user group consisted of 5 people; all of them aged between 20 and 40 and have partners.

For the 5 seconds test, I showed them the main screen of the Tripadvisor app for 5 seconds and asked them:

  • What is the purpose of the page?
  • What are the main elements you can recall?
  • Who do you think the intended audience is?
  • What was your impression of the design?
  • Did the design/brand appear trustworthy?

The results of the test indicated that everyone understood what the product was about and recalled the main elements, however, some of them questioned whether the product was geared towards them due to the usage of the photo:

“The image indicates that the app is more geared towards adventurers or a younger crowd. It doesn’t look like an app to book a luxury hotel for instance.” — Sinem

Despite some confusion about the target group, the overall impression was positive:

“It’s very important for me to get things done easily. The menu seems straightforward and I like it.” — Thomas

For the task-oriented usability test, I wanted to test something that is more special to the Tripadvisor app compared to other travel apps: finding a restaurant for a romantic dinner. I chose this task because it is highly relevant for my persona; a couple who intends to spend quality time and celebrate their time together.

It. was important to set some requirements for this task that would show any areas of improvement but also fit well to my user group’s conditions. So I briefed them about the following requirements before starting the task:

  • They want to have a romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant to celebrate their relationship.
  • Their budget is mid-range: They need to be mindful of their money but can indulge here and there.
  • Transportation: Mostly on foot, public transport but can use Uber if restaurant is not easily accessible.

After briefing them about the task, I conducted remote user testing by using Zoom.

Evaluating and improving usability

While going over the answers of the users, I noticed two major issues; lack of flexibility when it comes to customization of results and the loss of credibility due to usage of sponsored content.

For this challenge, I decided to focus on improving the flexibility of customization. The main reason being is that the issue with sponsored seemed more related to dark UX patterns which put business goals before customer goals and results in lack of trust rather than problems in usability. Therefore, while it is an important problem that needs to be fixed (two of my users closed and deleted the app after encountering unrelated sponsored content in a row), I chose the other problem for the sake of this task.

Following my decision, I thought about how to offer more agency and flexibility for my user group and decided to extend Tripadvisor’s filtering systems by adding two more features that can be selected:

  1. Preferred by couples
  2. Number of reviews from a “minimum of 50” to “more than 500”.

While other ideas that I explored also solved the problem of my target group such as adding tags on cards or relying on user-generated content such as photos and reviews, some of them would make the user interface too complicated or the information not too accurate, so I decided on adding more filters.

I believe this solution serves both my user group by giving them the option to further customize their choices and Tripadvisor by fitting into their existing filtering infrastructure. Since Tripadvisor already has filtering options for “families with children” and “number of stars”, adding a “couples” and “number of reviews” filter can be easy.


One of the takeaways from this task was to never assume what your target audience might think. Another would be to push yourself to expand your ideas, no matter how much your first idea seems like the best one.

Thank you once again for joining me in my journey in getting into UX Design. I believe this challenge has been immensely useful to learn more about usability principles and practice remote user interviewing and testing, as well as ideation.