Description: A travel platform for hosting and experiencing outdoor adventures throughout the United States and Internationally. www.OMBUADVENTURES.com
Contributions: UX, UI, promotional videos, branding, print, and artwork.
Planning a trip to the outdoors has always been an American past time, it also happened to be one of my greatest past times. Not only did I like to go on these trips I loved to plan them and get as many interested individuals as I could on board. While planning another epic trip with a friend of mine we began to get tired of organizing the trips and trying to get commitments, payments, and reliable help. We always had a lot of demand to create the trips, but it always difficult to follow up with each individual person and micro-manage the process. Thus an idea was born, we thought why can't we just streamline the process, get commitments up front and showcase to everyone at the same time what adventure they are about to embark on. The result of that idea is a platform called, OMBU.
Goals and Design Principles
Given the idea we needed to determine our goals for the platform and what principles would guide us.
Ombu should be a product that...
- Improves the experience of booking and planning an outdoor trip.
- Acts as bridge to connect the right guides to the right users
- Makes it easy to plan or book a trip.
Before brainstorming ideas of the actual product, we felt it would be best to break it down into two groups. (i) The adventurer, an individual interested in attending an out door adventure. (ii) The guide, an individual interested in organizing an adventure.
- Adventurer: Looking for trips and booking an experience (e.g. Andrea is looking to go to Havasupai falls for the weekend with some friends)
- Guide: Planning a specific trip (e.g. Mike would like to plan a trip for 10 people to visit Havasupai falls from July 1st - July 4th)
We had a good idea of what type of platform we wanted for ourselves, however we knew we wouldn't be the only ones using it so we set out to do some brainstorming and user testing. We came to the conclusion that the platform could be broken down into this simple structure.
Defining the Brand
The OMBU brand had to be something that was versatile, clean, understood it competitors and understood who we were building it for.
As we began to test and build for each individual aspect of the platform we had to re-iterate and re-test certain ideas. The issue that came about was that we only had a limited amount of time as we were working on this product after work and to complete the product we would have to begin to take some risk in how we developed the platform. I was also limited by the fact that I wasn't skilled enough in code to accomplish some of the ideas I was set on, so I had to figure out how to best leverage existing programs out there such as Muse to help create what I thought would be best for the platform. Lastly, we had to focus on a specific area of the United States as we knew we could only manage a certain amount of trips even with guides running them, we still had to oversee the input.
Chicken and Egg
We went through many iterations of deciding how properly create the user experience with our goals and design principles in place for the adventurer and the guide. Both needed a separate user experience.
When it came to planning for an individual looking to book a trip we ran through multiple user scenarios and came to the conclusion that their should be a limited amount of choices to select from that all depart from the Los Angeles area. By controlling the departure point we were able target specific people and take away a search feature. We also constantly looked at how to reduce the amount of clicks to check out while providing enough information to keep them interested, but not so much that it over whelming.
- Building Trust: It was important to connect the adventurer with the guide. By doing this would help to build trust for the adventurers as this would be their first time traveling with this guide. By having a rating system in place along with internal approvals it allowed us to create a transparent network that users could build off of.
- The Plan: We had to also clearly communicate what the adventurer would expect on their adventure. In our research though we found that most people were happy to book a trip with out know much surprisingly, however for those who did have questions had many more the majority so we felt it would be best to clearly communicate what they could expect along the way. The Itinerary display showed just that, you could move the scale along your travels to see exactly just what you would be doing every step of the way.
When it came to guides we wanted to make something that would act as planning utility tool that would allow our guides to easily and quickly create trips. The result was an itinerary planner that you could drag and drop different activities into the itinerary that would then show what time line and cost to expect with each activity. Once a guide decided what they felt would work best for the trip they could upload this onto the site for OMBU approval and if approved, adventurers would then be able to book the trip.
What We Shipped
Getting the Word Out
We needed to introduce ourselves into the Los Angeles community. We were looking for the weekend warrior type that had some disposable income. In order to find these people we reached out to those interested in outdoor activities. We targeted Meetup, Facebook groups, Instagram, and even did in person marketing at college campuses. We were not only marketing to people that wanted to book trips, but those that also wanted to guide them. We mostly targeted our guides on places such as indeed. Some examples of what we sent out are below.
Growing the Business
Beyond just getting users we needed to grow the business. We did this by pitching at various competitions and accelerator programs. Looking for money to grow what we had started proved to be harder than we thought and in doing so taught the team more than we could have expected. With that said we had some small success, but nothing that ever pushed us over the edge. To view our pitch deck and business plan please view the links below.
We learned that although we created a useful tool we were not able to grow the company fast enough to grow a true community. We had scraped users from meetup and other community places to get our trips booked. We found that it was much easier to create a proof of concept by using Squarspace instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. We did end up getting a quarter of return users, however the platform just wasn’t growing fast enough to where we could convince an investor to put in the money to fully support the build of the platform itself. We did become quite a profitable business and showed that we could undermine the outdoor travel agencies by charging half or even less for what they were charging and supplying the same experience. It was a success in many areas, however it wasn’t enough to grow itself into a company larger than just a “ma & pa” Start up.