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Copyright © 2019 Sayena Majlesein.
All rights reserved.

BEAUTIFUL TEHRAN

A responsive web and a mobile application to provide domestic and international tourists with a reliable and local source of information by establishing an effective communication between the municipality of Tehran and the residents of the city 

My Roles

Product Designer

Design Researcher

Project Manager

Front-End Developer

My Responsibilities

Competitive Analysis and Market Research

User Research

Project Management

Sketching and Wireframing

Prototyping (lo/Hi-fi)

Information Architecture

Usability Testing

Also contributed to UI and interaction design and prototype construction 

Duration

Jan 2015   —  June 2015  

Team

1 UX Designer

3 Back-End Developers

Platforms

Responsive Web

Mobile Application

 

INTRODUCTION

With more than 7 million population, Tehran is the largest city in Iran and is the nation's capital. Due to internal migration, Tehran has been steadily growing over the last few decades. Moreover, Tehran is home to many historical collections and landmarks. However, as one of the most popular tourism destinations in Iran, Tehran has a great lack of strong and clear image in the tourists' mind and requires considering brand awareness, brand image, destination brand quality, loyalty to the destination brand and sustainable tourism engagement. These factors are interconnected and they impact both domestic tourists and international tourists. 

Moreover, the metropolis of Tehran is divided into 22 municipal districts that are under the umbrella of the Municipality of Tehran. Managing these subdivisions and maintaining the standard quality of transit and traffic has been an ongoing struggle for the Municipality of Tehran as the population rapidly grows. This struggle has led to multiple of traffic problems in different subdivisions and lowered the quality of life for the residents. Not being able to report these issues and share their concerns have created a gap in the communication between the Municipality of Tehran and the residents of the city.

Having acknowledged these issues as well as the existing opportunities, in 2015 the Municipality of Tehran partnered with the Shahid Beheshti University to promote domestic and international tourism in Tehran by emphasizing on the beauties of the city while addressing the current gap that exists between the residents and the municipality of Tehran. 

 

PROBLEM STATEMENT

How might we promote domestic and international tourism in Tehran by emphasizing on the beauties of the city while addressing the current gap that exists between the residents of the city and the municipality of Tehran?

 
 

SECONDARY RESEARCH

To initiate this project, I studied more than 60 well-recognized and reliable resources of information and gained a solid understanding of the transit/ traffic issues within subdivisions of Tehran, as well as its tourism demands, policies, and existing struggles.

 

Conducting a deep secondary research allowed me to acknowledge the context of this challenge and enabled me to extract the explicit and inexplicit tourism requirements that needed to be addressed in Tehran.

PRIMARY RESEARCH

Believing in the invaluable impact of the data that is derived from the target user groups, I decided to structure our primary research. 

Participant Profile

5 Domestic Tourists

18 International Toursits

5 Tehran Residents

Experts

1 Iran Tourism Expert

2 Domestic Tourism Experts

2 International Tourism Experts

1 Traffic Expert in the Municipality of Tehran

1 Travel & Tourism Photographer

Recruitment Strategies

Tavel Agencies

Visiting Historical Landmarks

Couchsurfing

RESEARCH METHODS

Ethnographic Research

By visiting historical landmarks in Tehran and interacting with both domestic and international tourists in real-life environments, we were able to understand their travelers' values and behaviors. Having conversations with tourists as they were exploring different parts of the city helped us build the adequate context for them to understand our research and enabled us to thoroughly understand their perspectives, experiences, and needs.

Semi-Structured Interviews

While conducting the ethnographic research, we had the opportunity to recruit participants for the interviews. Additionally, we used Couchsurfing application to reach out to both international and domestic tourists. Our questions focused on their travel experiences and compared them with their experience in Tehran. As a result, we grasped travel demands on different levels and understood the pain points of travelers in Tehran.

“I’ve been telling them [municipality of Tehran] about the sidewalk for two months, but it was when I posted the picture on Instagram that they started to fix it.”

- A resident of Tehran who has always been living there

“ If I want to see a place in a city, I ask the people who live there cause they usually know better than anyone…”

- A tourist from Poland visiting Tehran 

ANALYIS

I used an affinity diagram to organize and analyze the gathered data. Visualizing data using an affinity diagram enabled me to distinguish assumptions from facts and later, helped me define our user stories for the agile process.

 

Not having access to project management tools, I designed our task boards using sticky notes. Although lack of tools in Iran has always been limiting in the tech industry, coming up with alternative solutions has always helped me understand the nature of project and its requirements. 

In conclusion, having the affinity diagram, clustered data, insights, and user stories next to our task board enabled us to form a shared understanding around the project and increased our pace. 

 

MARKET RESEARCH

Conducting a market research on both domestic and international markets was essential for us to understand the opportunities and threats in this field.

Using a survey, we understood that the main social media platforms used for travel inspirations and information in Iran are Instagram and Couchsurfing.

Lack of tourism platforms and official resources has encouraged both domestic and international travelers to use these two applications. The engaging nature of these apps as well as the local information that is provided by them makes them very popular in Iran. 

 

Couchsurfing is a global community of 14 million people in more than 200,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey. Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.

Locals, international travelers, and domestic travelers find this app useful because of the the reliable information that has been provided in it. Having conversations with the residents of Tehran and having access to local information makes Couchsuring a trusted platforms for tourists in Tehran.

Privacy issues and lack of customer support are two of the main issues of this platform for those who use it inside Iran.

The impact of Instagram on tourism marketing has been studied and investigated for a long time by researchers. Social media-savvy travelers are increasingly drawing their destination inspiration from Instagram and the app is changing travel behaviors globally. 

Studying the influence of Instagram on tourism in Iran helped us define the engaging components of our product. Users' interactions with pictures and information on Instagram showed that travelers trust visual information and tend to be influenced by the attractive images and videos. 

PERSONAS

My main goal for the personas was to communicate values and pain points of our user groups the developers in a simple and comprehensive manner .

 

Rather than looking at persona as an analysis artifact that may demonstrate a limited perspective or using them for marketing purposes, we used personas as a means of communication between the team members, as well as the stakeholders.

Creating 3 distinct personas allowed the developer team to understand the insights and enabled me to generate user stories as we transitioned to the implementation phase. 

- Anita

A young student living in Tehran who wants to share her daily concerns about the city with everyone and contribute to her society.

- Saman

A domestic tourist from Isfahan who wants to visit Tehran for 2 days. He wants to make the most of this short trip.

- Markus

An international tourist from Netherlands who wants to travel around Iran for 1 month. He wants to see Tehran through the lens of locals.

INSIGHTS

- An organic approach is required to establish trust.

- Tourists seek local information.

- Residents think that the municipality of Tehran doesn’t listen to them.

- Residents are better heard through social media.

- Both locals and tourists love exchanging information through pictures.

- Bridging the modern complexity of the city to the simplicity of Persian traditions is a key value.

 

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

After discussing the insights with the developer team, I defined the technical requirements of the system by designing its architecture. The following sitemap demonstrates the hierarchy of the layers within the system. In addition to designing the information architecture, I designed user flows derived from each use case of the system. 

Designing the user flows and adapting them to the defined user stories enabled us to have a clear understanding of the values and features of our products. Furthermore, the user flows were used in the testing phase.

 

LOW-FI TESTING

Using Adobe Illustrator , I designed the low-fi prototypes. Designing different structures and layouts of the same page enabled me to better evaluate the alternatives rapidly. 

Prototypes that met all of the defined requirements were randomly tested by our target users and were shown to our stakeholders.

As an example, the prototype on the right side demonstrates one of the first designs of the Android version. This prototype was later tested by 3 participants that met our defined participant profile criteria.  

As per the responsive web platform, I used Bootstrap to rapidly prototype and test the website design. 

FINDINGS

 

Learning through failing is one of the most valuable benefits of testing prototypes. 

In each round of testing, I learned something new and made effective changes to the design.

Using cognitive walkthrough and heuristic evaluation, I was able to test the prototypes and make modifications rapidly. 

INSIGHTS

- Limited Number of pictures shown on the index frustrates users.

- Too much text is confusing and impacts the engaging nature of the application in a negative way.

- Small sizes of pictures make them less effective.

- The navigation bar at the bottom does not seem useful.

- Date and time needs to be shown for each post.

- How to refresh the page is confusing for users.

- Users want to share the posts and pictures with their network and public.

- Users want to be able to share their thoughts and feedback.

HIGH-FI TESTING

As I mentioned before, I used Bootstrap to rapidly prototype and test the website design. 

Moreover, we did A/B testing to evaluate strategic components and features of the responsive web application.

The results of these tests were analyzed and changes were applied to different platforms. 

 

FINAL RESPONSE

 

BEAUTIFUL TEHRAN

A responsive web and a mobile application to effectively bridge the municipality of Tehran to the residents of the city and promote domestic and international tourism.

FUNCTIONALITY

Share pictures, videos, and concerns

Sharing the beauties of Tehran, as well as its issues in forms of image, video, or content.

Rank Posts and Give Feedback

Ranking  posts on scale of 1 to 5 and promoting the posts that has been ranked higher.

Organically Promote Tourism

Promoting domestic and international tourism by providing reliable and engaging information from the locals. 

Establish a Trusted Network

Enabling users to find people and locations based on their personal preferences and interests. Building an explicit and inexplicit network of users' preferences by understanding their concerns and interests.

IMPLEMENTATION

In June 2015, Android, iOS, and the responsive web versions of Beautiful Tehran were launched.

First, the Android version was launched in Cafe Bazaar, the most popular app store among Iranians. After that the iOS version hit the international market by becoming available on App Store. Simultaneously, the responsive web was launched in 2015. 

For future, the app needs to be available in more languages. Lack of English integration of some of the user flows has led to confusion among users.

 

RETROSPECTIVE

In less than 4 months, the app received 4.2 /5 stars by its users in Iran's Android Market.

While having  a high rank among Iranian tourism social media platforms, the app did not reach the estimated number of users in the past 5 years.

Due to the emergence of engaging social media platforms and also the impact of western social media platforms as international trends, domestic users started using Instagram for the same purposes. As a result, the existing gap between the residents and the Municipality of Tehran was never fully addressed through these platforms.

As per the international market, the iOS version of Beautiful Tehran was removed from App Store due to US policies and sanctions. Therefore, the app  did not reach the international market according to what has been planned.

PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

Both of our stakeholders at the Municipality of Tehran and the Shahid Beheshti University confirmed the success of this app. However, external factors and the impact of international social media platforms on the domestic users was not well studied in order to better understand the behaviors and demands of this user group. As a design researcher, I had to conduct a thorough research to be able to predict the behavior of domestic users and encourage them to use our app in long-term.

Additionally, I understood that due to the unstable nature of internal and external policies, it is very hard to make predictions about the impact of international market on Iran's technology.

Lastly, due to the fact that Iran was banned from using many of international design products, we had to find innovative ways to design, develop, and test. ​As a result of these constraints, I am very proud of the outcome of this project even though it failed to reach the international market.