redesigning visit harford website 

Harford County is a county in the U.S. state of Maryland. The Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning wanted to better meet the needs of county visitors by enhancing its current website to more fully engage business and vacationing visitors and expand its user base beyond the core user group. The goal of the project is to understand the experience of trip planning and enhance it.


Team: Sravya Amancherla, Ghazaleh Keshavarz, Simone Pimento, Aashrey Sharma

Role: UX Researcher

Client: Harford County Tourism

Time: 10 Weeks

Tools: Sketch

Methods: Contextual Inquiry, Affinity Mapping




The project focus was on

  • understanding the experience of trip planning,
  • the information required for it, and
  • various factors that impact the decision-making process.

to increase the user engagement on the website and enhance the trip-planning experience.

my role.

I created the user research plan and worked on the interview guide. I conducted 2 interviews and created experience models. I also came up with the preliminary design for the homepage and the itinerary. I collaborated with my team in making the affinity diagram, visioning, and ideation. My teammates and I took turns moderating the sessions and worked together to flesh out the final concepts. 


For our background research, we focused on the county's history, demographics, tourism, economy, and attractions. We also analysed the website and how the number of visitors to the website changed over the years. We compared the website with various other tourism websites and analysed different trip planning websites. 

We found that key components of a good tourism website are:

Reviews and Testimonials

Reviews help people make decisions and the website lacked the same


Supplemental Information

Tourism website need supplemental information like weather, etc to help the people make decisions. Harford website lacked that


Good Images

Images help give more information about the location. Harford County website had generic stock images and they did not seem inviting.

contextual inquiry.

We conducted 8 contextual interviews to

  • understand the process of trip planning.
  • understand what information they need and how they acquire it.
  • understand the role of technology and others in it.

 The interviews had 2 parts:


The participants were asked to plan a trip and their exact steps and thought process were noted.



The participants were asked about their experiences planning a trip what factors influences them. They were asked about any recent trips they had taken and their planning process.


& synthesis.

We synthesised all the interviews and our research into experience models that gave us a deeper understanding of the trip planning experience, the travellers' needs, pain points, and their exact expectations from technology.  

Affinity Diagram

We analysed the interviews and built an affinity map which helped us understand the broader themes in our data. 

The Affinity helped us identify numerous user likes, dislikes, behaviors, and needs which we captured in these high-level insights


Identity Model  

To understand the participants better, we created an identity model that captured the sources of pride, self-expression, and core values that enhance a person’s sense of self.

We identified 8 identity elements - Self Planner, Meticulous Planner, Weekend Traveller, Foodie, Super Saver, Explorer, Group Traveller and, Nature Lover. They served as a focal point of our design ideas and a standard against which we measured our design decisions. These elements are not mutually exclusive and every participant may be a mix of these elements.



Day-in-the-Life Model 

Trip planning is done at different times during the day- with technology and locations constantly changing. The Day In The Life model presented an overview of the different phases of a trip - planning, travelling and at the destination - by capturing activities and technology used during each phase. A breakdown of user behavior and technology used during each phase of trip planning highlighted design opportunities.


Sequence Model  

The Sequence model captured the actions our participants took to complete their trip planning tasks. It identified the exact sequence of trip planning, the intent behind each action and unexpected breakdowns along the way. 

Mapping user actions and the sequence of steps highlighted the experiential expectations they had when navigating trip planning websites/apps and helped us avoid design pitfalls


key insights.

Major themes emerged that told us about the different kinds of planners, their preferred technology, their motivations, budgetary constraints, preferences etc. We understood how different people approach the planning and what they look for in a website while traveling. These were analyzed together with the models and we came up with insights regarding the different types of users we need to cater to. We then came up with design ideas based on these insights.


Meticulous Planners

Some people preferred to plan the whole trip beforehand and meticulously chalk out the itinerary. They need different kinds of information on the website and base the whole planning on their schedules.

Design Idea: Design for easy information discovery and allow users to create a custom trip plan on the websites. Support trip planning with displaying accurate and up to date information about future events

Visual Planners

They make decisions based on the pictures they see and good images attract them. They get a better idea about the place from the images online.

Design Idea: Design for visual delight - use pictures to highlight events, activities and more. Relevant and important information should be easy to find


Reviews Readers

These people make their decisions based on reviews and ratings. They read user reviews to know the place better and believe high ratings represent a good experience.
Design Idea: Design for social experience - show pictures, reviews, ratings and comments from other users. 
Show what people are talking about from social media - Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.



They love exploring new places and want to make every moment of their time count. They may change their plans based on what they like. 

Design Idea: Design for exploration - highlight nearby activities, and experiences unique to Harford County. Advertise interesting and novel experiences/attractions unique to Harford County


& ideation.

After finishing our research, we envisioned different scenarios of use of the website and created three storyboards showing different user journeys. There was a solo traveller, a family planning a trip and a couple looking for a weekend getaway. 


product concepts.

We made some initial sketches for product ideas. We then reiterated on the ideas and finalised our design. These designs were then presented to the client for their approval.

We redesigned the home page and events page and created a new events detail page, smart itinerary, and user profile.


redesigned homepage.

Homepages should be inviting; giving people information about the place while creating interest at the same time. People want to see the latest images and are influenced by user testimonials. We decided to highlight the USP of the county through images, testimonials, and posts on unique experiences.


event discovery.

Many of the trip planners use the tourism websites to plan their itineraries making event discovery one of the most important parts of the website. Some choose to plan everything and some prefer curated itineraries. Through our redesign, we decided to add all the elements that a person would need to plan a trip- images, descriptions, recommendations, etc.- in an easily discoverable way.


smart itinerary.

Smart itinerary seeks to make the trip planning experience easier by providing the complete details of the trip with the approximate cost at the same place. It also recommends alternatives depending on the event type, date, and cost. It directly syncs with users' calendar to integrate better with their plans.


next steps

& lessons learnt.

This project was an excellent opportunity to learn how to conduct industry user-experience research. While it was more focused on research than design, creating the product concepts provided exposure to designing solutions as well. We presented our work to the client in Dec 2018.

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