What I did
UX research, wireframing, prototyping, usability testing
InVision, Axure, Sketch
AnySpace is an online event booking company that connects event planners and venues. They asked us to design an improved flow for booking events. Our goal was to streamline the event booking process for people who needed to find venues for events.
Planning an event isn’t easy and the current online offerings don’t make it any easier. Venue booking sites were found to be inconsistent and frustrating to use. They lacked customization options, online booking, quick response times and updated availability.
We created a solution that solved most of the problems listed above. Our design prioritized user flexibility in finding a venue that best fit their needs. Due to business constraints the ability to book on the site was not included in the final design. Through testing we determined that our solution simplified a once complicated and frustrating experience.
Exploring the domain
This industry was an exciting and interesting space for my team. We had never booked a venue before so we started by looking at AnySpace’s competition to see what they are doing.
As we researched these companies we focused on how easy the process was to book a venue. We determined that filters, pictures, booking online, checking availability and RFP systems were the important features to look at, as they were the most common across multiple sites.
Venuebook has more freedom, but you can’t book venues online. We also looked at Airbnb and Priceline as indirect competitors. We wanted to see what popular booking sites in other industries were doing well.
None of the event booking sites allowed planners to check availability, book online or send proposals. This is where AnySpace would be able to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Understanding our users
We needed to better understand the issues users encountered when booking events. Our client said their users were non-professional event planners. People who plan events as part of their job, but it isn’t their main focus. That was a good start, but we wanted to know if there were other types of people who could use AnySpace.
From our interviews, we wanted to know how difficult the process was, specific pain points users encountered and what features they valued the most when booking an event.
“I feel the current way is unnecessarily complicated and difficult.” – Igor
From start to finish the booking process is more complicated than it needs to be. Users got overwhelmed by the amount of information available when searching. Once they found a venue it was hard to get in contact with them. We had to streamline the booking process to reduce the frustrations faced by users.
“If time wasn’t an issue, we would book every weekend.” – Will
The time it took to find and book a place was a common frustration among users. They would have to wait days to find out the availability of a venue and even more to actually book it. We wanted to focus on speeding up the process so the users time wasn’t wasted.
“The total price after the event came as a surprise.” – Audra
In our research, venues didn’t like providing information upfront when a user tries to book. Users would encounter venues who wouldn’t provide the entire cost of the booking upfront. This was a problem for users who have budget constraints. Our goal for AnySpace was to increase transparency as much as possible, so users could make more confident booking decisions.
We agreed with our client that one of our users was the Executive Assistant user type.
The Executive Assistant books events as part of their job, but it’s not their main focus. They book events for board meetings and CEO’s, so the events need to be perfect. This can cause a lot of stress and is not helped by the current process. They are busy with other duties and need a simpler way to book events.
We also identified a new type of user our client hadn’t thought of, we called this user the Social Booker (SB).
We talked to people who booked events for weekend parties or other small social events. Compared to the Executive Assistant the SB runs into different issues. We found that this type of user had to deal with longer wait times as they didn’t have a large name behind their event. They plan events quite often so they needed a more convenient way to find and book venues online.
Synthesize and define
With our initial research done we were ready to define the problem facing our users.
- Users needed a more transparent event booking process.
- Varied response times from venues is a major hassle for planners to deal with.
- Reduce information overload and irrelevant information displayed to users.
- Users needed a simpler way to find and book events.
The problem was pretty clear at this point. Our users needed a simpler way to book events that worked for them instead of against them.
Tech savvy, but infrequent event planners need a transparent, centralized system to make the venue decision making and booking process more streamlined and tailored.
With our problem defined, we created a few principles to guide us in the creation of our concepts. These cover areas we determined to be major issues with the current booking process.
These guidelines helped focus our designs and served as a reminder of our initial goal with AnySpace. Keeping in mind the biggest pain points faced by users allowed us to create concepts that were in line with the problem we needed to solve.
With our problem defined and guidelines in place, we started creating our initial concepts. We conceived the booking process as well as RFP system AnySpace wanted. We diverged in how we were going to present the booking process by trying out different layouts and features.
My concept focused on checking if a venue was available and offers the option to book venues online. One of the biggest difficulties for users was finding new venues. I included extra tabs for new and upcoming venues on the search results page. I also included the ability to select food and beverage packages in the, “How AnySpace Works” section and a list of amenities for the venue.
This concept was well received in testing. Users liked how easy it was to search, find and book a venue. They did wish there was more information displayed while searching.
Users liked being able to book right away but it wasn’t a necessity. On the venue and event planner side, we found they would want to vet the venue or the party booking. They didn’t mind waiting for up to a day to hear back from a venue.
The second concept focused on the “Request for Proposal” side of AnySpace. You could fill out a form with details of your event and submit them to venues to bid on. It also included filters to help narrow down the results to make finding the right venue easier.
In testing, users liked the amount of information they saw. They found the filters very useful to speed up the search process. Once completed they felt confident their event would be handled.
The last concept took a different approach to the search and venue booking process. This only allowed for checking the availability of a venue, not actually booking it.
Filters were the first feature users talked about when navigating this concept. Users liked the ranges the filters gave as it was easier for them to find the one that they wanted. They also didn’t mind that you couldn’t book right away, as long as the venue responded in short order. Users also appreciated the addition of floor plan images to the venue page.
All three concepts included user reviews, large images of venues and location information via a map function. One major area of divergence was whether you could book right away or check availability. From my perspective, the site needed to allow for booking right away as response time from venues was a big pain point for our users. AnySpace was against being a burden to venues by requiring them to manage another calendar. Booking right away was a big assumption we took into testing to see if it was necessary.
Convergence and final design
We took features users liked from each concept and created our final design for AnySpace.
Search Result Details: Speed is Key was the guideline that informed this decision. Users liked how quickly they could see what a venue offered and if they could afford it.
Maps: The venues location was an important feature to have. People could make their decisions based on the location of a venue. With this in mind we put the location right at the top, overlayed on the images of the venues.
Floor Plans: Users liked knowing the layout of a venue before picking a venue. This allows users to see if a venue can fit or handle whatever event they are trying to book.
Search Filters: Users wanted to find and book venues quickly, so filtering out venues that didn’t match their needs was valuable. The guideline Flexible and Adaptable was the driving force behind this feature. Filtering venues tailors the experience to each user’s needs for their event, which in turn makes the process simpler and faster.
How AnySpace Works: Users appreciated a quick introduction to AnySpace’s purpose. They liked knowing what the site can do for them right away. It made them feel more informed and comfortable before they started the searching process.
Visual Content: All our concepts incorporated large images of venues. Users wanted as much visual information as they could when looking at different venues. Knowing what a venue looks like helps reduce the stress of booking a venue online.
If there had not been a time constraint, there are a few other areas that we would have liked to have added or improved. We ended up not designing a way for users to book online, but we still feel that is a major addition needed for AnySpace. Another area we wanted to add was a chat function so users could interface with people at venues. Our users liked this idea, but we would need to do more testing with venues to determine if they would use it.
We achieved our goal by simplifying and reducing the hassle of booking venues. Our users found our design to be an improvement over sites they had used in the past. Our team focused on the event planners side, another UX team is currently working on the venue side of AnySpace.
Through this project, I learned a lot about working within the constraints of a business. The issue of availability was a big one and the thought of not giving users a feature that would solve a problem was hard to reconcile. In the end, testing told us that it wasn’t as necessary as I thought, so we didn’t include it in the final design. This was a valuable experience, I will carry what I learned to my next project with Dealerfox.