UX Case Study • Mobile

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Tripadvisor. This is simply a case study to test and improve the usability of the product.


I used Tripadvisor most recently on a solo trip through India and Thailand this winter. Around the world, it has guided me to some of the most popular destinations in each city I have visited, and the mobile app is an equally great tool for planning trips in advance and days of spontaneous adventure.
To identify and alleviate pain points within the attractions and restaurants sections of Tripadvisor that a user may experience while traveling.
I began this case study to refine my research skills and design process, and to help create actionable and simple solutions to pain points I and others have experienced with the iOS app.

Through this study, I gained a comprehensive understanding of how user research plays a role in the decisions that designers make, and how simple testing can reveal simple and effective improvements in usability.


As advertised in the iTunes App store, Tripadvisor's main selling point is helping people discover new restaurants and attractions reviewed by others.

Using the Jobs To Be Done Framework, I developed the primary job story of Tripadvisor users before I began usability testing:


When I am traveling or planning to travel,


I want to discover a variety of vetted restaurants and attractions


so that I can have a great traveling experience.

In order to get a good idea of the pain points experienced by a variety of users in this app, I conducted Guerilla Usability testing with seven users in San Francisco. This research method also helped me to eliminate bias and get an accurate picture of how users interact with this app.

Framing the objectives with a story, I asked users to find some of the top-rated activities near Chiang Mai, Thailand, find and choose a highly-rated and ethical elephant sanctuary, and decide on a cheap Thai place for dinner. I aimed to test users in their 20s-30s.

Using the data I gathered from the guerilla usability testing, I consolidated the major pain points from each interview and put them down onto post it notes, with each color representing a different user.
Key insights
  • 7/7 users mentioned that average rating and number of reviews were their main metrics when evaluating a potential restaurant or attraction. This means the usability of filters if of utmost priority.
  • 6/7 users either struggled with filters, were confused by inconsistent labeling of filters, or didn't use filters at all.​
  • 4/7 users stayed at the top of a scrolling page when searching for highly-rated attractions and missed CTA’s and buttons (such as the filter button) towards the bottom.
  • 2/7 users were frustrated by the lack of sorting capabilities, especially since they were looking for the top-rated or highly reviewed restaurants and attractions.
Taking all of my overall pain points, I put them on a 2x2, comparing the importance to both the user and Tripadvisor - taking into account the company's business goals. Tripadvisor’s business model runs off of display ads on each page, so the most important business metrics to optimize while improving the app’s usability are:
  • increasing pageviews
  • increasing click-throughs
The biggest pain points I found through my testing were usability issues in the filter tool and lack of sorting when searching for restaurants and attractions, so taking the business and user needs into account, I settled on 3 major issues to resolve in my redesign:
  1. Making top ranked attractions easier to find
  2. Improving the usability of filters
  3. Adding sorting
The ideal user flow involves users being able to use filters effectively to find what they need in the app. By giving users what they need to find what they are looking for, users will have a better experience and will return when they need more recommendations.

In the short term, not providing sorting and filters may increase page views and click throughs, furthering the business goals of the company. However, I believe that providing better search and filter options will create a better experience for users and generate a higher number of return users.

Reducing the amount of time users may take looking for what they need in the short term may reduce frustration and resulting churn in the long term.


With my pain points and goals in mind, I began making sketches to improve the UI of the app. Taking inspiration from other review-based platforms like Yelp and Foursquare, I played around with the ordering of filters, and aligned them with general best practices. I also created a more eye-catching version of the "Top Things To Do" page to help users find it easier towards the top of the page. I tried several different solutions to these problems, and iterated till I found the most cost-effective and simple solution.
I then used my paper sketches to create mockups of different screens in Sketch. Below is a diagram of the key screens I re-designed in order to improve usability of the app according to the major pain points. I followed the existing branding and design of the tripadvisor app, and tried to keep solutions as simple and cost-effective as possible to align with the business goals.


Through validation studies, I showed that 7/7 users were able to navigate to the top things to do page and use the filter and sort functions to narrow down their results as needed.​ Through a few relatively simple and low cost changes, I was able to improve the usability of Tripadvisor. By providing filter and browse features to users, I believe that churn would decrease, and in turn help meet business goals by increasing the number of return users.
Through this case study, I learned the value of the user experience design process. From guerilla usability testing and affinity mapping to building a prototype and conducting validation testing, I found that user behavior very naturally revealed the subtle usability issues of this app. The best way to naturally find issues and pain points is by testing. Users never do what is expected, and patterns reveal themselves after having just a few users test a product.