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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anon

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
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Bijan

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
anon

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.

Sid
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Sid

I would like to understand the below:

1. By social travel do we mean planning travel with my social network? – Assuming yes
2. Does this product only create plans like iternaries or it allows the guests to book travel as well? – Assuming only creating plan, no bookings
3. If booking is included, does it include only the basics i.e. air + hotels? Or additional things like tours, activities, etc in the cities?
I will assume that revenue is not the focus right now, and creating plans will be provided for free

Who is the user?
1. Demographics – 18-35 year old,
2. Behaviours – like to travel with friends, have enough money to spend on travel but not very high income
3. Goals – plan travel with friends I already know, plan trips with other people with similar travel preferences, plan travel with clearly defined iterinarary, collaborate with friends to discuss, finalize and choose the best option

Use cases
1. As a young traveller, I would love to plan a trip with my friends
2. As a young traveller, I would love to plan a trip with acquaintances having similar preferences
3. As a young traveller, I would love to know all details about the travel well in advance
4. As a young traveller, I would like to ensure all my friends agree with the planned trip

I will be focusing on use case 1,3,4 as they seem trivial to any social travel experience

Problems:
1. Identify friends that want to travel together
2. Capture travel preferences like: international vs. domestic, length of stay, budget, type of travel (treks, relax, scenic, etc.)
3. Ability to share, approve, reject, suggest changes to the plan created
4. The platform to have enough travel data to be able to create travel plans based on certain variables
I will assume capability to satisfy 4 above already exists in the platform

Solutions

1. Users can login via Facebook
2. Each traveller can invite a FB friend to be a part of his travel plan. All travellers can accept or reject such requests
3. All users need to enter their preferences
4. Users can choose if finalizing a plan needs approval from majority of the group or entire group
5. Once the plan is created, users are notified and accept or reject

Evaluation:
I will evaluate all ideas based on customer impact (C) and complexity to build (B)
1. C: high; B:low
2. C: high; B low
3. C:high; B: medium to high
4. C:medium;B: medium. Initially this is not very important as this can be done outside of the app as well. Once the plan is shared, the users can discuss and agree via offline channels as well
5. C:low;B:low

Based on the above, I would focus on solution 1,2 and 3 for my MVP.

Hence, I will build a social travel app that allows users to login via FB, invite their FB friends, all friends share their preferences. Based on the preferences, the platform creates an itinerary

Sid
Guest
Sid

Exercise 86 – Design a social travel product.

I would like to understand the below:

1. By social travel do we mean planning travel with my social network? – Assuming yes
2. Does this product only create plans like iternaries or it allows the guests to book travel as well? – Assuming only creating plan, no bookings
3. If booking is included, does it include only the basics i.e. air + hotels? Or additional things like tours, activities, etc in the cities?
I will assume that revenue is not the focus right now, and creating plans will be provided for free

Who is the user?
1. Demographics – 18-35 year old,
2. Behaviours – like to travel with friends, have enough money to spend on travel but not very high income
3. Goals – plan travel with friends I already know, plan trips with other people with similar travel preferences, plan travel with clearly defined iterinarary, collaborate with friends to discuss, finalize and choose the best option

Use cases
1. As a young traveller, I would love to plan a trip with my friends
2. As a young traveller, I would love to plan a trip with acquaintances having similar preferences
3. As a young traveller, I would love to know all details about the travel well in advance
4. As a young traveller, I would like to ensure all my friends agree with the planned trip

I will be focusing on use case 1,3,4 as they seem trivial to any social travel experience

Problems:
1. Identify friends that want to travel together
2. Capture travel preferences like: international vs. domestic, length of stay, budget, type of travel (treks, relax, scenic, etc.)
3. Ability to share, approve, reject, suggest changes to the plan created
4. The platform to have enough travel data to be able to create travel plans based on certain variables
I will assume capability to satisfy 4 above already exists in the platform

Solutions

1. Users can login via Facebook
2. Each traveller can invite a FB friend to be a part of his travel plan. All travellers can accept or reject such requests
3. All users need to enter their preferences
4. Users can choose if finalizing a plan needs approval from majority of the group or entire group
5. Once the plan is created, users are notified and accept or reject

Evaluation:
I will evaluate all ideas based on customer impact (C) and complexity to build (B)
1. C: high; B:low
2. C: high; B low
3. C:high; B: medium to high
4. C:medium;B: medium. Initially this is not very important as this can be done outside of the app as well. Once the plan is shared, the users can discuss and agree via offline channels as well
5. C:low;B:low

Based on the above, I would focus on solution 1,2 and 3 for my MVP.

Hence, I will build a social travel app that allows users to login via FB, invite their FB friends, all friends share their preferences. Based on the preferences, the platform creates an itinerary