CoPilot: Reducing friction during a person’s travel experience

CoPilot: Reducing friction during a person’s travel experience

This is the story about building a travel app, winning $25,000, and helping a company consider a new product to pursue all in one summer.

Project Overview

In the summer of 2019, I got hired as an intern at RBC in their Amplify program. The purpose of the program is to bring together innovative students with different skillsets and give them 4 months to work on a solution for a problem RBC faces. It’s essentially a hackathon on steroids. Teams would have bi-weekly presentations to their shareholders and at the end of the 4 months pitch the solution they’ve built to RBC executives for a chance to win Best Overall Solution and also $25,000. 

On our first day, we got assigned our teams and also our business case. My team consisted of a Business Analyst, two Developers, and myself as the UI/UX Designer. As we got shown the list of business cases we could be assigned I joked about the poor team that gets assigned Insurance. Turns out, we got assigned Insurance. 🙂🙃

Initial Challenge
How might we better support our clients during flight delays to save them, and RBC Insurance, time, money, and energy?
Our challenge focused on the travel insurance industry. The purpose of the challenge was to guide us in the creation of our solution. Given that none of us had used travel insurance in the past there had no prior knowledge of the industry we had a lot of learning to do.

Part 1: Ideation & Research

We started by doing research and learning about industry practices through our team sponsors (current full-time RBC employees working on the problem). We went into RBC Insurance offices sat in on calls to hear people calling in making claims, we learned about the process of submitting claims and the overall user journey. After understanding the industry from the business side, we started doing our own research on consumers. We conducted street interviews asking about people’s experience with travel insurance, we did online surveys and in-depth interviews with frequent travelers. 

Using the research we had collected we created 6 user personas for a better in-depth understanding of each type of person’s user journey. 

Using these personas, we also created user journey maps to better understand what a traveler’s journey looks like from deciding they want to go on a trip to returning home and receiving a cheque in the mail for their flight delay. 
Mapping this out allowed us to see where RBC has already inserted their services and where there is a need for support. Compiling this information with our primary and secondary research we were able to develop these insights:
Research insights 
  • Customers are frustrated while traveling
  • Customers are unsure of their policy and the claims process
  • Customers don’t see value in travel insurance
  • Insurance is a changing industry
Based on these findings we reframed our challenge statement to better meet the information we had discovered. 
Reframed Challenge
How might we provide value to clients and non-clients throughout their travel experience, and reduce the stigma surrounding travel insurance?
Our criteria for a “good product”
Now that we had a better idea of what we wanted to focus on we started brainstorming ideas. We came up with 4–5 different solutions but decided that a few things were certain. 
  1. We knew that Insurance, in general, has a bad rep and we need to focus on an overall experience versus just selling insurance
  2. We wanted some way to differentiate ourselves and try to create a personalized travel experience
  3. The product we built had to fit in well with RBC’s current Insurance ecosystem of products
Given these criteria, and other things we had to consider we finally arrived at a product to focus on. We called it… Time Optimizer, A travel tool designed to maintain your peace of mind throughout your airport experience to optimize your time spent at the airport.
The product would essentially be a “travel buddy” and provide the user with whatever they need throughout their travels. 
Main features of our product
  • Predicted flight delays and flight updates
  • Crowdsourced wait times so users can plan their trip accordingly
  • Personalized airport maps with real-time navigation
  • Instant flight delay claims right through the app
Now that we had a vision for a product in mind and stuck with a pretty terrible name, the design began! 

Part 2: Design & Build 

While my team focused on the business case and starting on the back-end aspects of the project I got working on the brand. Our team decided with the name CoPilot and decided that our brand should revolve around ease of mind. With this in mind, I decided to try using the colors of calm sunrise on a beach.
Branding is one of my favorite things to do so I wanted to make sure I do it right. For the logo, I decided to use the Golden Ratio to devise a logo that is naturally soothing to the eyes. 
After tons of iterations, and user testing we ended up with this. 
With the logo, we were all satisfied with I started working on designing the user interface while also making sure the UX lines up with the developers but also users. 
Our plan was to build a progressive web app (PWA). A PWA is essentially a downloadable website that operates identically to an actual native app. We wanted to build a PWA over a regular app because there are too many apps out there and users are now very careful before they download a new app. Also, being a PWA we could easily share the app through existing RBC websites and allow users to download it straight from their browser. 
Designing the interfaces started with very rough paper prototypes. We went down this route because we wanted to be able to iterate fast, and also give the entire team the ability to contribute to this. It also helped to start with this because initially, the entire team had different visions for what the UX flow would look like so using this allowed us to get on the same page.
Once we had developed these paper prototypes we started conducting user interviews. We went around and interviewed other students also interning with us and we learned a ton. 
Something important we had to keep in mind when building this product was that, everything we come up with had be either built or proven possible through some sort of MVP. Feasibility of the product was a major criteria for being considered a winner.
What we learned through our user interviewing 
  • Arrangement of information - When we were initially making the wireframes we were building the interfaces revolving around a solution but instead we should have been focusing more on the user journey. We would sketch things out feature by feature, page by page which would end up confusing the user as there was no flow leading up to the solution. Realizing this we made changes to the flow so now it focused more on when and why a user would need access to a certain feature.
  • Copy & choice overload - Very close to the start of the interviews it was clear that there was way too much information to take in. The person we were testing would either just skip the information usually or skim through it. This made us very mindful of the copy as people have lower attention spans these days and don’t want too much to read.
  • Making each feature count - When brainstorming how to make this product unique we came up with many great ideas to include in this product. What we did not realize is that too many features would make the product lose it’s value and that each feature should serve a specific purpose. For example, we wanted to notify users of a flight delay occurring before it occurs using our predictive flight delay machine learning model. When we user-tested this feature, people told us that regardless of the app relaying this information they would leave to the airport regardless to be safe. This experience taught us we should not be solving problems that don’t exist.
Compiling all our learnings from user testing and research I was ready to start designing. I used Sketch to design the wireframes as it was the tool I was most familiar with. We used InVision for prototyping and also for developers to inspect the designs for the necessary information. The tool I used most throughout the internship was PowerPoint. By the end of the internship, I was actually deemed a “Ppt Engineer” after spending countless hours on it. Lastly, I used Adobe Illustrator for my illustration, and branding needs.
Onboarding Flow
As mentioned before since this would be a PWA, it would be downloaded off a website. I started by designing a simple mobile landing page where the user would be able to learn more about the product. Once they have the information they need they would be able to get started. After they create a simple account they would be shown how to download the PWA onto their home screen where they would then be able to access the app. I wanted to keep this process simple so that users don’t get any confusion downloading the product. 
Trip Dashboard (Home Page)
Upon arriving on the homepage users would be presented with two cards prompting them to enter information. Upon clicking the first card the user would enter important information about their flight. After entering it once they would always have access to it on the dashboard throughout their travels. Ideally, we wanted to let them scan their ticket for ease but unfortunately, we were not able to figure out how to generate data from a bar code. The 3rd screen below shows what the page would look like with all the information generated. Each card when clicked, would expand or lead the user onto another page with more detailed information. The icon on the top left would store any important notifications regarding flight updates. 
The “CoPilot First Class” was a premium feature for users that purchased some sort of travel insurance. Free users will be able to access the basic features such as a flight information dashboard but to get access to the CoPilot first class they would have to purchase some sort of travel insurance. This prompt and other prompts throughout the app would illustrate to users the value of purchasing travel insurance. Our goal was always to provide a better travel experience first and then provide users with travel insurance options. 
Airport Information/Maps
For this page, we had to consider both the live state but also the offline state. Normally when the user is at the airport, we would automatically show them the relevant information for that airport but what if they are not at an airport? We still wanted users to have the autonomy to get the information they needed so we added a search feature that allowed users to get information on any airport. Once they click on the airport they would be able to see popular times so if it’s during a crowded time they know they will have to wait longer. They also got information about the airport services which would be information that we would crowdsource over time. Lastly, working with a 3rd party vendor the user would be able to navigate airports. 
One of our major features was personalized airport maps. RBC has a technology called “Nomi Insights” which collects the shopping habits of people who use RBC credit cards. If users connect their RBC accounts, we would be able to give personalized information on maps highlighting places we know the user enjoys going to. We also planned to work with RBC rewards to give users points/ even free products if they experience a flight delay or travel issue. 
Another major feature with maps was crowdsourced wait times. Using information that the maps company already had using their sensors, we would also crowdsource information from users currently at the airport to give a better estimate of wait times. This would allow users to be mentally prepared for the wait that comes ahead and maybe even plan ahead before they approach a certain checkpoint. 

Part 3: AmpExpo

After 4 months of hard work, late nights, and great memories it was the day of AmpExpo. We had spent lots of time preparing a pitch and practicing it enough to be able to talk about it in our sleep. Through the internship, all 4 of us had become really close friends and wanted our personalities to come through in our presentations. That’s exactly what we ended up doing. This allowed us to really stand out from the rest and become more personable. 
After our first presentation, we had found out that we had qualified for the finals. This was our first time presenting in front of such a large crowd filled with very important people. Our next presentation, the final one, would be to some of RBC’s C-level executives. After a few more hours of nerve-wracking presenting and waiting the results had come in. Our team had managed to win the biggest award of the night: the Best Overall Solution award and $25,000. This was one of the happiest experiences ever. Working so hard on something and being rewarded to this extent made all the late nights worth it. 
About a few months later, I started working full-time at RBC, working on a new project called Raincheque. Still being in touch with my team sponsors, I found out that CoPilot is one of the few products that RBC is actually looking to take into production. In fact, a startup team within the company was assigned to work on it. It’s really exciting to think that someday thousands of people could potentially be using an app my team and I built over a summer. 
This summer was one of the best summers of my life. Not only did I get a chance to make some great friendships, win an amazing award, but I also got a chance to truly become a better designer. Spending 4 months working on a single project as a sole designer with the stakes so high was such an enjoyable experience for me. It made me realize how bad I want to pursue entrepreneurship in the future, and continue innovating through the work I produce. I am excited to see what kind of fun adventure the next summer has in store. 
If you have any questions or want to chat about anything entrepreneurship, Product, or UX design-related reach out to me anytime! Here’s how you can get in touch! ✌🏻
LinkedIn: Here

Made with by Mahad Aamir

Made with by Mahad Aamir

Made with by Mahad Aamir