Omni Rewards, a large hotel loyalty program, wants to create a digital experience for guests. Omni has partnered with many high-end hotels and wishes their guests to feel comfortable and at home no matter which they are in. Omni’s loyalty program is primarily comprised of frequent business travelers. Their research shows that common complaints from guests include the frustration of having learn new hotel room control systems. Hotel owners, meanwhile, cite the high numbers of calls to the desk as a frustration both for hotel workers and guests.
Target User Demographics
- Omni Rewards’ members: frequent travelers who often stay at unfamiliar hotels
- Smart phone owners who are familiar with apps
- Travelers with strong preferences regarding their accommodations
- Guests who dislike having to continuously learn new hotel room systems
- I want my hotel room to be comfortable, relaxing, and tailored to my preferences.
- I want to be easily able to control the functions of my room without learning new software and hardware
- I want rest and comfort after a taxing journey.
- I want travelers to choose my hotel over the competition.
- I want my customers to have a good experience during their stay, generating repeat business and recommendations.
- I want my front desk staff to not be overburdened with customer requests so they can focus on making guests feel welcome in person.
- I want customers to chose my partnering hotels over competition, generating shared revenue.
- I want customers to feel loyalty with my brand, even as they enjoy the unique experiences my partnering hotels foster.
- I want to bring new hotels into my network easily while maintaining a consistently excellent experience for guests.
With the client’s research and preliminary user stories at hand, I created an affinity diagram to map the problem space from the guest’s perspective. Because this experience will be used during a hotel stay, it is transient. Users will encounter the system during a trip, and then not again until a subsequent trip. For this reason, I mapped the problem along the timeline of the guest’s experience. Below the timeline are potential uncertainties and problems. Above the timeline are opportunities for creating a positive experience.
Throughout the design process, I made visual notes. Some were as loosely formed as a sudden insight, while others were more structural interface drawings. By recording ideas visually, I iterate and improve concepts before having to commit to pixels or code.
As I mapped out the problem space and sketched ideas, several findings presented themselves to guide future iterative work:
- The vital moment occurs when the guest enters his hotel room for the first time. This instance maximizes two important factors:
- a. The guest’s exhaustion is highest. This is the moment the guest’s travel has finally ceased. He will likely be tired, sore, and possibly jetlagged. The exhaustion the guest faces likely puts him at cognitive disadvantage, experiencing a shorter attention span, longer processing time, and less reliable memory.
b. The guest’s information is lowest. While the guest’s exhaustion weighs on him, his needs are many at this moment. He may need to communicate with family, eat a meal, mentally unwind, or take a shower. But, the unfamiliar environment of the new hotel room impedes him, presenting unfamiliar systems in the way of these needs.
- The experience must involve as little configuration as possible. This is particularly true at the moment of guest arrival. Combating the frustrating complexity of learning new systems and interfaces will require an easy, familiar interface with as few steps as possible. Additionally, many functions of a hotel room are binary: lights on/off, coffee on/off, curtains open/closed, etc. As much as possible, letting users control room functions via a single action will minimize configuration time.
- The experience must be familiar to users, yet service multiple unique hotels. Herein lies the business challenge: this must be a system that guests only need to learn once, yet easy for hotel owners to configure to their unique offerings and services. To balance these needs will require standard modular functionality which can create custom systems for hotels. A consistent system benefits users by allowing them to become experts, benefits hotel owners by giving them an easy tool to create bespoke systems, and benefits Omni Rewards by allowing them to create one system consistent with their brand guidelines.
With Hestia, guests can control all aspects of their hotel experience using their smartphone. With a single tap, a guest’s hotel room is prepared exactly as they like it, before they even enter the door. The temperature is perfect, the lights are at their preferred setting, and their favorite music is already playing. With Hestia, every hotel room feels like returning home.
Hestia is named for the Greek goddess of the home and hearth. Hestia’s flame was carried to new settlements to symbolize the extension of the Greek homeland. Similarly, the Hestia app is carried with travelers to make new spaces feel like a familiar extension of their home.
These wireframes outline Hestia’s basic functionality and configuration. The system works via a simple toggle. Room controls are turned on and off all from the same screen, so users need not juggle multiple windows. For more fine-grained customization of hotel room feature, tapping and holding a control opens advanced settings inline.
The mockups below show Hestia’s core interaction – tapping and holding – in greater detail. Room light controls are shown as an example. The colored background in this example was specified by the individual hotel, consistent with their branding and unique style.
- Gather and analyze existing data. Even before research and design begins, there’s a multitude of data which can guide design. A design team should first seek information in the field performed by other organizations, companies, and governments. I’d ask Omni Rewards for data on their user demographics and behavior. Next, I’d ask hotel owners to share the feedback and complaints they receive from guest. I’d then record and analyze this data, looking for trends that could reveal what parts of the hotel experience systematically are failing and succeeding.
- Conduct contextual research with travelers and hotel owners. While feedback and data can give a quantitative backing to design recommendations, qualitative feedback that can often only be collected from the users themselves. To gain the insights these can reveal, I’d work with hotel owners to offer incentives, such as free hotel stays, to guests willing to let two to three researchers watch their entire guest entry process, including checking in and unpacking their bags. I’d pay particular attention to where guests had negative or positive experiences.
- Create a series of user personas based on customer research. Particularly when working in a team, personalizing the “user” with names and personal information can be a helpful design tool. I recommend that personas are based on real research on the target demographic being designed for. In this scenario, my team and I would use our data and research on travelers and hotel owners to create a few “fictional” users to design for.
For this exercise, I created my own Persona to guide my own process: Amy Wan, a 32-year old financial analyst. Amy’s based in Brooklyn and travels frequently to Tokyo and Hong Kong, but often has to visit other cities with only a few weeks’ notice. She owns a Nexus 5 Android phone and a Dell laptop. Amy uses phone apps for maps, gaming, finding restaurants, email, and social networking. She relies on technology for her job and contact with friends, but she doesn’t consider herself a technology enthusiast. She likes rooms a bit warmer than most people, likes lights dim after a long day of florescent airport lighting, and enjoys classic rock.
- Perform a diary study with a few frequent travelers. Once a working prototype was ready, I’d identify a few frequent travelers to participate in a two-week long study in which they’d use Hestia for their travel. With their permission, I’d also record their use of the app, noting how usage changes over time. The quantitative “key-logging” data and qualitative sentiment reports would help inform what improvements should guide subsequent versions.
• Lightbulb, phone, and TV icon: Creative Commons Attribution from icons8
• Flame icon: Creative Commons – Attribution (CC BY 3.0), Designed by Nadav Barkan from the Noun Project
• Curtains icon: Creative Commons – Attribution (CC BY 3.0), Designed by Murali Krishna from the Noun Project