01 — Overview
2021 Technica Hackaton Winning Project
Buddy was the result of a 24 hour-long hackathon, and my first design sprint ever. I teamed up with UX designers Yiwen Yu and Odalis Llerena to carry out the idea for Buddy, an app for female, LGBTQ, and BIPOC solo travelers.
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 were able to make good use of many of the user's concerns and suggestions. Some of the post-research conclusions we came to were:
• Easing the user into the app through a thorough, yet empathetic onboarding experience is key to a positive initial experience
• Both the negative and positive aspects of traveling had to be addressed so that we wouldn't make the mistake of being overly negative or positive in the message we were trying to convey
• Knowledge and advice are key to getting users out of their comfort zone. The 'Buddy' system would offer emotional support whereas our Tips section would address all sorts of questions in an objective, yet empathetic manner.
Due to the nature of the design challenge, we moved from wireframe to interface in a very short amount of time but still found time to design well-established wireframes, which would then inform our design decisions.
While I collaborated with my teammates in every stage of the process, my main role within the team was designing the UI. I also did most of the UX writing within the app.
Many of Buddy's prospective users are young, inexperienced, and would be stepping out of their comfort zone for the first time. This meant that I had to create a safe space for anyone and everyone who chose to use the app. Lighter shades tend to calm us down, which is why I went for a palette of pastel colors, complemented with more fun, saturated tones and a dark blue present in most text and graphic elements. This created a pleasant combination that was easy on the eyes, yet friendly and playful.

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

Buddy gives the user a birds eye view of their prospective trips.

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

03 — Conclusion
We managed to create a functional prototype for an app previously not found in the market. We successfully addressed some users' genuine worries regarding solo travel, versus the more frivolous concerns, such as where to go and how much money to spend that general travel apps tend to address.
If we had had more time, we would've liked to test our prototype with real users to understand if we were capable of turning insight into an app that women and minorities would actually derive value from.
We're proud of having been able to complete the ideation of Buddy within the established timeframe — less than 24 hours. As this was my first hackathon ever, it taught me a lot about unconventional time management, quick thinking, and even quicker designing! I was also glad to be able to work in collaboration with other designers, bouncing ideas off each other and making the most of our time together as a team.
We got 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 view the project and access the prototype on Devpost (external link).

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