Case Study: Lonely Planet Social App Design Concept

Design Concept // General Assembly UXDI Program

Adrienne LaFlam
6 min readDec 23, 2020

Young travelers are struggling to connect and explore new places during the Pandemic. How can we design an app that allows them to keep exploring, and to feel connected to other travelers?

Lonely Planet is a well-known travel and tourism company based in the United States. Despite the strength of their brand with young travelers, Lonely Planet has experienced a significant decline in business during the Pandemic. They want a way to keep young travelers engaged and feeling a sense of connection right now, so that when it’s safe to travel again, they’ll be more likely to use their travel services. LP would like to design a digital tool for young users living in social isolation during this pandemic, utilizing a human-centered design process.

The problem belongs not only to these world travelers who are feeling isolated, but also to Lonely Planet. Because Travel is off-limits in most areas during the pandemic, and because many people have lost work and therefor cannot afford travel, Lonely Planet’s business has suffered a substantial financial hit.

The Team: Katlyn Conklin, Jenny Lee, Adrienne LaFlam

Tools Used: Slack, Google Surveys, Google Sheets, Figma, Miro

Timeline: 2 weeks

I was lucky to have an incredible team of talented, hardworking UX Designers. I took on the role of research in the first phase. Specifically, conducting Competitive and Comparative Analysis. I also synthesized the data collected from user interviews and surveys in order to create our affinity map. Out of the raw data, my team and I arrived at key insights and tangible takeaways that helped us to create our Persona and begin solving the key problem.


Survey Results

We began by brainstorming a list of questions we wanted to ask young travelers, in order to learn their travel habits and to ascertain what they are doing in lieu of travel for entertainment during the pandemic. Our survey had 18 questions, and our interview had 12 questions.


  • 100% of travelers had their travel plans disrupted by the pandemic
  • Over 90% had to cancel plans
  • Over 60% feel socially isolated right now
  • 38% have participated in a virtual event of some sort
  • More than 50% said virtual events they’ve tried weren’t enjoyable

Interview Results


My team and I created a Persona based on the results of our extensive survey and our user testing. We came up with “Ray”, a young travel photographer. Ray is feeling isolated since the Pandemic, and wants to find more ways to feel connected. Ray also wants to keep exploring travel destinations, even though they can’t travel currently. We believe that Ray embodies most of the traits of the young travelers that Lonely Planet is trying to maintain connection with during the pandemic.


This project was assigned in early December of 2020. We had 2 weeks to complete the entire project, including research, ideation, design, and deliverables. We were limited in scope (time, money) because this was an educational experience. Also, we had limited time to find user testers, and to find young travelers to take our survey. The survey was sent out on a Friday and we had all of our results by the following Monday.



  • How might we help Ray meet new people but in a safe environment?
  • How might we create an online community that offers experiences and adventures for people to explore while travel is down?



My teammates and I began putting our ideas and possible user flows into basic sketches. We then discussed how to best accomplish the goals of both Lonely Planet, and their target customers.

With a better understanding of what users want, and considering the goals of Lonely Planet, we started sketching some user flows based on the idea that we wanted to create a social app for travelers. This app would allow users to do 2 basic things: To explore, and to connect.

After our first mid-fidelity prototype was built, we conducted usability testing on 5 users. We asked them to:

  • Log in as an existing user
  • Someone sent you a message, go ahead and read it
  • Try and book the experience your friend sent you


  • Wanted more social features like comments, tags and location
  • There was no search bar
  • There was no way to see which messages had been read
  • The social feed layout was unfamiliar
  • People didn’t understand how to connect with and find other users


Considering the feedback from our usability testing, we implemented changes in order to solve the issues presented. We created a high-fidelity prototype in Figma, so that users could click through our app and test it out again with the changes. It was really exciting to see it come together!


The thinking behind our prototype was that we’d offer an “experiences feed” so that users could log in and see trending stories about travel, posted by top users or friends on the app. We also added a messaging feature, so that friends are able to message one another, share experiences, and then book those experiences, as shown below:


After this project, we had time to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and what we’d change. I think most of the project went really well. For example, my team worked really well together. We communicated clearly and often, and we organized our tasks and schedule well. We also did really well with our user research. We were able to do both a survey and user interviews, which gave us more useful data than if we’d just done interviews. This led to clearer insights, which of course led to a better solution.

Some things that didn’t go well were that I didn’t voice my concerns about certain app aspects from the get-go. I was concerned that the “feed feature” might be confusing for someone trying to find new connections


  • I’d want to add more questions to our User Interviews about virtual experiences
  • Research what makes some virtual experiences more enjoyable than others
  • Spend more time on C & C analysis
  • Create prototypes that work on iPad, desktop, and laptops as well
  • Possibly pare down some features to focus more on the connection aspect