01 — Overview
2021 Technica Hackaton Winning Project
Buddy emerged as the winning project from a 24-hour hackathon, representing my first-ever design sprint. Collaborating with designers Yiwen Yu and Odalis Llerena, we developed Buddy, an app tailored for female, LGBTQ, and BIPOC solo travelers.
Problem Statement
It's no secret that many people are scared of traveling alone because of matters like safety, uncertainty, or fear of discrimination in a foreign city. However, the majority of these concerns come from women, BIPOC, and queer people. 
Buddy was created to provide safety information and specific tips for each city, as well as to create a community that fosters mutual support through the selection of travel buddies, users who might be traveling to the same location for the first time, or who just need support from other Buddies. Also, by encouraging people to share their solo travel experience, Buddy aims to motivate other users to step out into the world of solo traveling.
02 — Process
The first phase involved researching the current market for travel apps, and we were happy to find a niche that we could cater to.
I managed to interview two people and obtained survey replies from three more, which was a fair amount considering the time limitations. One one of the interviewees was a cisgender woman who had previously traveled alone, whereas the other one was a member of the LGBTQ community who had concerns about traveling solo for the first time. I tailored the interview questions differently to each of them in order to to better understand their unique experiences. I made sure to ask non-leading, open-ended questions.
According to their responses, both were highly concerned about safety when traveling solo. More specifically, one of them mentioned how they were worried about having to use the bathroom as a trans person, as well as understanding gender-neutral pronouns in other languages. Also, the acceptance of trans people in other regions of the world varies from country to country. These were among some of the issues we highlighted in our user personas, which were designed to help us empathize with our prospective users.
Competitive analysis
Questions for people who had traveled alone before
• Tell us about your experience traveling alone.
• How did you feel before you travel? 
• What were your concerns about traveling as a woman?
• What are some things you would have liked to know before you traveled?
• How safe did you feel during your trip?
• What resources did you use to get informed before traveling?

Questions for people who had never traveled alone: 
• What are some concerns keeping you from traveling alone?
•Do you have any concerns about traveling as a woman? If so, what are they?
• Do you have any concerns about traveling as part of the LGBTQ community? If so, what are they?
• If you were to travel alone, what resources would you like to have access to?
• And if you were to travel alone, what would make you feel safer?
The first user has traveled alone previously, but wishes to better prepare for her trips and is willing to offer support to more novice travelers
The second user has never traveled before, and has other concerns, such as their status as a trans individual, and how that might affect their experience while abroad.
Despite the brevity of the research phase, we successfully incorporated many of the users' concerns and suggestions into our project. The following are some of the conclusions we reached based on our post-research analysis: 
• Providing users with a thorough and empathetic onboarding experience is crucial for ensuring a positive initial engagement with the app. 
• Striking a balance between addressing both the positive and negative aspects of traveling is essential to avoid conveying an overly positive or negative message. 
• Offering knowledge and advice plays a significant role in encouraging users to step out of their comfort zones. The 'Buddy' system was designed to provide emotional support, while our Tips section addressed a wide range of questions in an objective yet empathetic manner.
Due to the nature of the design challenge, we faced time constraints but managed to prioritize the creation of well-established wireframes, which played a crucial role in guiding our design decisions. Throughout the process, I collaborated closely with my teammates, taking on the primary responsibility for UI design. Additionally, I took the lead in crafting the UX writing within the app. 
Considering that many of Buddy's potential users are young and inexperienced, venturing into unfamiliar territory, it was vital to establish a safe and inclusive environment within the app. To achieve this, I opted for a color palette that incorporated soothing pastel shades alongside vibrant, saturated tones. Furthermore, I employed a dark blue hue for most text and graphic elements, striking a balance that was visually appealing, gentle on the eyes, and exuded a friendly and playful vibe.

The onboarding process is key to tailoring the app to the user's needs and concerns.

Buddy gives the user a birdseye view of their prospective trips.

Perhaps the most important part of Buddy is its social and informational aspect.

03 — Conclusion
Outcomes and takeaways
We successfully developed a functional prototype for an app that addressed a gap in the market. Our focus was on addressing genuine concerns of solo travelers, going beyond the superficial aspects typically covered by general travel apps, such as destination choices and budgeting. 
Given more time, we would have loved to conduct user testing to validate our prototype and ensure it truly delivered value to women and minority travelers. We take pride in accomplishing the ideation of Buddy within a tight timeframe of less than 24 hours. This hackathon experience provided invaluable lessons in unconventional time management, quick thinking, and rapid design iteration. Collaborating with fellow designers allowed for effective idea exchange and maximized our team's productivity during our time together.
Our main takeaway was the chance to dive deep into the struggles women, the LGBTQ community, and BIPOC face when traveling alone, something I've already done before, but never stopped to think about how my experience as a woman affected how I went about doing so. That's why I believe it was so important for me to understand that the struggles people face when traveling should not be shrugged off, and instead, listened to and addressed through design.
Click on the icon below to access the prototype on Devpost.

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