Traterra Vacations

Mark Travel hired GRD to conduct user research and design the user interface for a personalized vacation planning service. We conducted extensive field research to design an offering backed by the knowledge and expertise of Travel Planners who could help as little or as much as the customer needed.


What do people feel when they plan a vacation? Most naturally love the dreaming and planning, but the logistical decisions are another feeling altogether. Our research team made home visits to people who were currently in the vacation planning process, listening to their perspectives as they gazed over dining room tables or living room ottomans crowded with maps, travel books, tablets, printouts, and random colored sticky notes. The choices involved – and the effort to make the right ones – required a bit of magic.

We also interviewed experienced travel agents. Their knowledge of options was a marvel, often revealing secrets only an expert world traveler would know. They could create both open options and definitive agendas, designing an itinerary to exceed expectations. Agents understand where to look, what to rule out, and when to book behind the scenes with far greater ease that those at home.

Somehow these two worlds needed to meet. The client envisioned the next generation of vacation planning aimed at matching a seasoned professional with vacationers in search of their next great memory-making trip. By curating choices suited to the travelers’ needs, the experts could share their knowledge, and travelers could get excited about a new experience.



The field research yielded enough information to create a range of personas for travelers who would benefit most from an online, supportive expert able to find options to meet travelers’ tastes and available for support should unexpected changes arise during the trip. The personas served as a critical compass for where to take this travel service, helping the design team focus how to shape product offerings and branding.

In addition, we created an experience map to tell the story of the current experience and identify the shortcomings so a new experience could provide solutions where travelers felt it mattered most. A top-10 task list prioritized the design direction.

Through multiple design concepts, we explored different tones and content – and how the message of support from a travel expert could communicate their participation in the planning process without feeling like an interference. Limiting the amount of information and making sure the choices offered were specific and personal would help the traveler avoid overwhelm and build trust when finalizing their choices.