Google Travel Planning Study

Local Search @ Google
Year: Dec 2020 - April 2021
Role: Lead UXR Research Method(s): Literature Review, Mini Competitive Analysis, Concept Evaluations, and Interviews
At Google, I conducted a generative multi-phase research study aimed at comprehending which platforms users tend to use for travel planning, and in what decision-making phases. The primary goal of this study was to assist travelers in discovering relevant places based on their queries and guiding them towards favorable outcomes more efficiently.
Disclaimer: The visuals you see on this page are coming from my final UXR report. It is for showcasing my research reporting ability.
Phase 1: Lit Review + Competitive Analysis
Background and Goals
  • Develop foundational knowledge around local needs as they develop and are addressed on the internet
  • Conduct a mini competitive analysis covering TikTok & Instagram due to its heightened references as competitors
Method
  • Literature Review, as to not reinvent the wheel
  • Competitive analysis, as Instagram and TikTok had been outlined as up-and-coming competitors by multiple internal studies
Crucial Insights
  • Gen Z and millennials gravitate toward different platforms for inspiration-seeking due to familiarity, ease of use, content flexibility, and algorithm convenience
  • In terms of info-seeking, Google fills a much different role compared to other social media platforms; however, Google is being replaced by some social media platforms that offer more robust and vivid search experiences
  • Content creators are a critical link between consumers and the places or businesses they promote
Research Impact
  • Strategic Impact
    • Validated that product strategy was moving in the appropriate direction by research insights
    • This was only the beginning of a strong research program that has a strong legacy for the Search organization within Google
  • Stakeholder collaboration Impact
    • UXR had become a strategic partner of a cross-org product team
    • Initiated a cross-org brainstorm between YouTube, Search, and Maps that informed the next phase of research
Reflections
  • If your org has an internal research archive, USE THAT THANG!
  • Your stakeholders are your partners. Even if you feel annoying in asking them questions, take up space. They're probably way more willing to help you than you think.
Phase 2: Concept Testing + Interviews
Background and Goals
  • Better understand user behavior (to discover & explore) in YouTube Search
  • Evaluate user experiences and interactions with current production via local search query in YouTube (“street food near me”)
  • Understand usefulness and overall user perceptions of YouTube + Local Search concepts
Method
  • Concept testing, to see which design encouraged users to come to more efficient outcomes and why certain prototypes were helpful or not
  • User interviews, to understand what our users think when using current production YouTube and to generate a rich understanding of what is most relevant in the discovery and explore phases of their journeys
Crucial Insights
  • Following discovery on other platforms, users use YouTube to conduct further research on places of interest (POIs)
  • Scam prevalence in India pushes users to seek out authenticity cues as part of their decision-making to consume content
  • Having pre-filtered content relevant to a POI helps keep users focused on the POI
Research Impact
  • Strategic Impact
    • Validated that product strategy was moving in the appropriate direction by research insights
  • Stakeholder collaboration Impact
    • Initiated the next phase of research to investigate the journey from discovery & inspiration-seeking to validating info & decision-making
Reflections
  • It's okay to ask questions and push back against your lead, you have a seat at the table, and what you bring to the table is just as insightful as the people you listen to.
  • Don't feel like you're annoying by pinging your stakeholders! Engage them as much as you can throughout your entire process, and the discussion at the read-out will be so incredibly fruitful because of two reasons: your stakeholders had a direct stake in the entire process, and they had time to sit on the findings before the team-wide readout.
Phase 3: Interviews
Background and Goals
  • Identify the full end-to-end user journey involving place searches on YouTube
  • Identify the transition points between platforms
Method
  • In-depth interviews, to capture our user's perspectives, opinions, and thoughts while using the product
Crucial Insights
  • Analysis of how platforms fulfilled needs for users showed a trend (e.g. “cold” vs “warm”)
  • Discovery shows up in more than just organically searching once and finding someone
  • YouTube as a platform allows users to experience a new place, set expectations, and prepare for travel within the comfort for their home
Research Impact
  • Strategic Impact
    • Creation of a user journey map as the user makes multiple jumps between Google and competitor platforms (repeatedly) to reach an end goal
  • Stakeholder collaboration Impact
    • Development of a new framework through which teams across Google could understand content breakdowns on Google & competitor platforms
  • Product Impact
    • 🤫 Contact me for more details! 🤫
Reflections
  • Keep your learning goals open, the thought process that different people may have as they go through their search journey may not be what you expect. It can be scary that it's not fully aligned with your research questions/objectives, but have fun with it!