Ask a UXpert: What is the Most UX-Friendly Summer Vacation You’ve Ever Been On?
Summer’s upon us, and with the season come opportunities for memorable vacations. If you’re a UX designer, your idea of a great vacation is likely a bit different than the rest of the population. One thing’s for sure: just because you’re on a getaway doesn’t mean that you’re giving up tech. Far from it, you’re relying on it even more to make your vacation all the better.
Many of today’s most popular apps have been created with the specific purpose of making your vacation more enjoyable. In fact, some apps you may use on a regular basis also come in handy for vacation enhancement.
With this in mind, we sat down with a few UX designers to get their take on the most UX-friendly vacations they’ve ever been on.
A series of apps boosts the entire Disneyland Paris experience
My girlfriend and I relied on mobile apps during our long weekend in Paris a few weeks back. I drove to Paris for my recent holiday, so the first big use of a mobile app came in the form of BMW Connected Drive.
The Send to Vehicle function, coupled with the expected user experience of map/navigation on a mobile app, allowed me to very quickly locate our destination in France, then, with one tap, send these navigation instructions to my car. All that was left to do was get in the car, open the message containing the destination that it had received from the app, and select Start Navigation.
The second (but brief) use of a mobile app with great UX came upon arrival at our hotel in Paris, when I was able to very quickly reference my booking with reception. Using the booking.com card, I was able to add to my Apple Wallet.
The Disneyland Paris app itself is brilliant when you’re at home on the sofa using your Wi-Fi connection. In reality, when you’re in the park, it’s not so great. There were two things that mattered to me — which of the rides are the best/highest rated, and what’s the current queue time (which essentially indicated which ones were the best). When you’re in the middle of the park, sunshine glaring off your screen with a flaky internet connection, you find that Disney’s pretty interactive map only frustrates you.
Fortunately, we have a huge Disney fanboy here at Hedgehog Lab, and he recommended a third-party app called MagiPark, which I installed before I went. MagiPark simply displayed a list of live queue times for each ride, sorted from highest to lowest (which in turn suggested to me which rides were the best), as well as which of these rides had a fast-track option, which is free to use at Disneyland. MagiPark was exactly what I was looking for — all that was left to do was navigate to the ride, easy with our trusty paper map we picked up at the entrance.
Finally, I have to give huge credit to Google Maps. Google Maps took care of us for the other two days we spent in Paris sightseeing, with super-clear, perfect navigation around the city’s public transport as we visited different attractions. We don’t mind walking, so the ability to type in a destination, then quickly toggle between walking and public transport to see the difference in time/route was great. Google Maps’ knowledge and routing through the trains in Paris was perfect, telling me only what I needed to know — what color/number line to get on, which direction to go, and how many stops there are. I could navigate the city like a local.
– Michael Hutchinson, lead designer at Hedgehog Lab
A combo of apps improves a vacation in Mexico
This spring I traveled to both Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca to relax, explore, and spend time with friends. This trip was my first time to Mexico, and my Spanish is still at the “took a few years of it in high school but forgot” level, so everything was new for me. In the spirit of disconnecting, I avoided any of the “time sucks” on my phone, but leveraged the utility of a few apps that have changed the way I travel.
- Google Maps (secret weapon: offline mode): You most likely have this on your phone right now, but let me tell you this: Offline. Maps. Before your trip, download the map of your destination over Wi-Fi, so that you can get directions anywhere you want to go without using that sweet, sweet data, or worse, getting stuck in a place with no connection.
- Google Translate (secret weapon: voice/image translation): Traffic in Mexico City is no joke, so get comfortable with your Uber driver and whip out Google Translate after your vocabulary fails you. You’re also no longer relegated to typing in everything you want to translate — you can speak to the app as well as use the camera to translate physical objects in real time.
- Elk (secret weapon: math, which is hard): A clean and simple currency conversion app that eliminates the guesswork of mental math. Use it to justify another tlayuda.
- Google Photos (secret weapon: smart shared albums): I love using this app while traveling to back-up my photos to the cloud in case I lose my phone. My favorite feature is using it to combine the photos I took with my friends’ phones into a shared album. When you create a new album, it will prompt you to upload all the photos that were taken in that location, relieving you of the arduous task of manually selecting each photo you want to add to the album. Meanwhile, as your friends or family upload theirs, the photos will be organized by time taken, rather than when they were uploaded, so that you can relive your trip chronologically. It’s a truly seamless experience.
– Matt Kubota, UX designer at WillowTree
One app makes a Bruce Springsteen fan’s dream come true
I grew up in New Jersey, and, as you can imagine, I am a diehard Springsteen fan. When I recently took a trip to New York, I was eager to see the Springsteen on Broadway show. I was disappointed to learn that the tickets are in such hot demand that it makes trying to score a Hamilton ticket look easy.
Enter the StubHub app. The UX is spot on. It was straightforward to filter down to the desired performance, seat preferences, and target price. I was able to set a push alert to notify me when my target was matched and see the view from my seat prior to purchasing.
In the end, I was able to see the show, and one fan’s dream came true through this app.
I even was able to wait around after the show and see Bruce exit the theater.
– Adam Fingerman, founder and chief experience officer at ArcTouch
The overall user-friendliness of vacations today
When it comes to travel, there isn’t one specific “UX-friendly vacation” that comes to mind. With that said, the idea of vacation is so much more user-friendly than it used to be. Things like Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, Uber, and more have completely changed the way travelers plan — as well as live out — their dream getaways.
Taking things a step further, the future of augmented reality (AR) and what it can do for the world of travel is very exciting. As destinations continue to look for ways to provide more robust experiences, AR, in my opinion, will play a crucial part. We’ve been seeing more and more museums use AR to enliven and better educate visitors, as well as the tourism and hospitality industry using it to create more tailored and compelling experiences.
– Matt Faulk, UX designer and CEO of BASIC Agency