Exercise 86 – Design a social travel product.

Post and review answers and feedback to answers in the comments section of this post.

See also:

How to answer a product design question in a product manager job interview

List of product design questions for product manager job interviews

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anon
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I’m going to assume by a social travel product, the interviewer means a travel app that can be used by a group of users to plan their travel itinerary. I’m also going to assume this is a product that’s being considered by Facebook (could take this answer a different route if corrected).

I’m going to assume that the goal of this social, travel product within Facebook is to make it easier for a group of “friends” to handle all aspects of a planned trip. FB’s mission is to create products to connect people and build a community, and helping users with planning a trip to connect with each other seems very much aligned with the overall goal of the platform.

Some target users for this:

1) Friends living in different cities wanting to plan a vacation
2) Extended families wanting to plan a trip together
3) Couples wanting to plan a getaway

For the sake of time, I’m going to focus on #1.

Now let’s move on to some use-cases and pain points that users expect from a travel product:

1) Get help in deciding on where to go
2) Get help in booking the mode of transportation
3) Get help in booking the accommodation
4) Get help in deciding what attractions to see according to preferences
5) Get help managing expenditures
6) Get help in collating and sharing moments captured during the trip

If we were to rank these use-cases in terms of customer benefit, let’s go with 1, 3,6.

Now that we’ve listed out the use-cases we’d like to prioritize, let’s talk through some solutions – as a note, I’ve assumed these capabilities to exist on the Facebook mobile app (majority of FB usage is on mobile, so MVP should start there):

1) Place Recommender (Messenger threads with Groups)
– when there is a group chat going on, place recommender is listed as an app (like Money transfer, GIF..). This can also be invoked with natural language processing (for eg. when users are discussing “where to go next” or “let’s plan a trip!”, this can pop up)
– place recommender can take the location of all the users, correlate that with the most popular tourist spots, travel prices, and safety and recommend a list of places for the group to go
– excludes the places that the friends have already been. If less than 5 options, start repeating the places that have the least repetitions. Also takes into consideration where other friends in their local network have gone and suggest those places (recommendations from friends > recommendations from some AI)
– If a place was discussed earlier in the thread, that can also be incorporated
– friends can get a chance to add their own suggestions
– Poll started to decide what’s the consensus on where to go
Pros: deliver real value by saving time and effort, will keep getting smarter with more data
Cons: Can be tedious task if place is already decided.

2) Get help in booking accommodation
– Walk through a set of preferences (hotel, close to beach….), and produce a list of choices
– tool ranks choices based on number of people, cost, popularity (ratings, reviews on partner websites, if there are hotels that people in their network have been to, mention that)
– Users can also add their own choice
– Poll started to decide what’s the consensus on where to go
– One user gets to click on link to get-redirected on partner website with traveler details pre-filled to let the user complete the reservation
Pros: intuitive, reduces legwork in finding a place to stay
Cons: limited set of criteria

3) Get help in collating and sharing moments captured during the trip
– All the photos, videos taken by users in the group are collated into a central place in the app very easily (only viewable to users in the group)
– App detects duplicates, out of focus photos, blurry photos, dark photos and archives them to reduce noise
– App creates videos and animations to make shareable artifacts for the user’s friends.
Pros: solves a real customer problem of sharing photos from a group trip, intuitive
Cons: some users might still want to keep photos private and not share

If I were to rank each of them for customer benefit, cost, and risk (1-5, 1 lowest), here is my assertion:

#1- B: 4, C: 4 , R: 3
#2- B: 4 , C: 3 , R: 3
#3- B: 4, C:2, R: 2

If I were to pick one, i’d end up building the MVP with #3.

What I’d end up measuring is the number of media items (photos, videos, gifs, audio) shared by the group and the number of invocations of the product in groups. I’d also
want to keep measuring the overall engagement metrics for Facebook (DAU, WAU, MAU, mins spent on platform, total ads shown to users..).

Bijan
Guest

Great answer Anon. Really like how you’ve followed the structure to pick a very specific use case, come up with use cases, list out solutions, and evaluate them based on your criteria. Great solution.

anon
Guest

Would #3 be considered a creative/unique solution? FB already allows private albums to created amongst friends in events. These albums can also be shared publically. The only potential “feature” here is some blurry detection algorithm, which Google Photos already has.

I would think if this was a PM question, the solution should be more focused on the NLP aspect. This is a lot more unique and could have interesting thoughts. If this is an interview question for FB, it would be important to say FB’s mission is to connect people, so having an algorithm assisting with that is a big deal and not some photo-detection feature.