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Awarded First Place

Yervana x Iterate UX
Research Challenge, 2022

How it Started

Based in Vancouver, BC, Yervana aims to create an online adventure booking experience that appeals to everyone with an adventurous soul. Their options include everything from whale watching to bike and brewery tours to zip-lining through the forest.

Yervana partnered with the Discord server Iterate UX to research and recommend improvements to their search function.

Yervana wanted to research why user conversion was low after users conducted a search, and how they could improve their search results.

Initial affinity diagraming

How it Went

We had 4 weeks to research and present our project, which was done both in-person to stakeholders, and as a video.

Challenges: TIME, coordination, user interview drop-off, lack of site data metrics.

Research Process

  1. Competitive analysis

  2. Moderated usability study

  3. Affinity mapping

  4. User personas

  5. Journey mapping

  6. Mockup of recommendations

My Roles

I stepped up as project lead. My responsibilities included:

  • creating the research plan

  • writing the interview survey

  • conducting interviews

  • leading the affinity diagram session

  • creating the Figma mockups

  • guide the structure of presentation

Shout out to team 13:

Ming Zheng, Jennifer Chen, and Jenny Woo


Recommendation: create icon bar

front page yervana.png

How it Ended


We made over 25 recommendations, notably:

1. mapped results

2. category icon bar (& more icons in general)

3. social proof expansion

4. broaden search terms

Yervana chose our team as the winners of the research challenge, citing our recommendations and mockups as the main reasons why.

See our video presentation

Presentation will play in a new window

Team member Jen Chen, who led the presentation design, narrates our methodology and findings.

Projct beginning

The Full Project

project map_edited.jpg

Problem Brief

Yervana wanted to improve their search function. In the initial briefing, we learned:

  • Users were dropping off after conducting a search.

  • Development tried a number of small tweaks, with limited success.

  • Users ranged from bachelor parties to solo student travellers to empty nesters, and had a wide range of needs.

Hueristics and "tearing the site apart"

Our project mentor Mandy Cabellon suggested we start this way: make a long list of all the issues-- even if everything looks great, there are always elements to improve. "Be brutal. Tear the site apart." she said. (This was a huge takeaway!)

spreadsheet of hueristics
travelocity map.png
search bar.png

Competitive Analysis

We took a look at how other sites are addressing their search functionality. Our biggest informers were AirBNB, Travelocity, and Adventure Guides.

We learned a lot, and borrowed some patterns and UI from some to use in our recommendations.


User Research

Our next step was to conduct interviews and usability testing with users. We reached out to the adventure-loving community to find out what they wanted and why when it came to booking an adventure.

Since time was limited, we had our users conduct a usability test on the site to find areas to improve in the search function.

Our Participants

Our ideal users are people who have booked adventure trips in the past 12 months, such as biking, mountain climbing, whale watching, etc.


We did a moderated zoom call, with 2 men and 4 women.

* I hoped to speak more "empty nesters," as Yervana said that was part of their customer base but we were unable to recruit any.


Some questions we asked:

  • How do users find adventures?

  • What are they looking for when they book an adventure?

  • Who do they trust?

  • What experiences did they have booking the adventures that were positive, negative, or interesting?

Usability Test

We had our users conduct searches:

Search 1:

Look for a biking adventure for four people in Vancouver in April.

Search 2:

Look for an adventure of your choice.


We had a few surprises, and a few predicted outcomes.

Taking a look at the data as a group really helped us get a way to identify patterns.

Visuals Rule

Several of our users found adventures based solely on location-- they walked by a sign near their rental property and booked it right there.

Users often booked based on images from social media, like a POV from a GoPro camera, and during the usability test, often chose adventures with an engaging cover photo.


Users also responded to the parts of Yervana's interface that had lots of icons, such as the category drop down menu, or the adventures with star ratings, badges, etc.

Results were confusing or irrelevant

Several of our users tried a search term and got no results for it, even though it seemed clear there were better options.

For example, one user typed in "orcas" (a type of whale from the Pacific), and got no results, even though there were several whale watching tours available.

Additionally, the search terms seemed to have varying relevance as a user continued to search, and users were confused at the returns.

Social Proof

Many of our users booked their adventures based on recommendations from friends. 

It's pretty reasonable: if you're going to trust someone to take you on a dangerous adventure, you want to be absolutely sure they're trustworthy!

Users gravitated to adventures that had star ratings, lots of information about the guide/company, and good, clear maps of the adventure.


We had an epic brainstorm session creating our affinity diagram and finding patterns in our user's searches for the right adventure.

After creating user personas and journey maps to guide us, we were ready to make our recommendations.

Affinity Diagram: My Favorite Part

Why? Because working together worked wonders.

Up until this point in the process, our team was communicating on text messages and through shared files. We hadn't had much chance to work together!

So we spent a Friday night working on our Figjam board together, and came to some great understandings.

affinity diagram

Affinity diagram, created in FigJam

nathan user journey
ashley user persona

User personas & user journeys

nathan's user journey
ashley's user journey


We fought hard, climbed to the top of the mountain, forded streams, and came up with our recommendations, presented to Yervana's team on November 28th, 2022.

Core Insights

1.  Visual Interface

Users need more visual engagement and graphic features to stay engaged and make decision-making easier

2.  Search Results

Results were inconsistent and confusing, causing users to abandon the site.

3.  Descriptions

Users trust other users and recommendations when it comes to booking adventures.

“ A map where it pinpointed a bunch of different things that are popular? That'd be pretty cool. That would make it easier for me to decide”      -Yumi

1a. Visual Interface

Create an interactive map of results

Based on the insight that most users choose their adventure based on their location, we suggested adding a map of results.


1b. Visual Interface

Incorporate iconography for categories

Every. User. Gasped. when they saw the array of adventure categories. It's a great way to advertise what's available internally, and it sparks delight, engagement and hopefully, conversion!

2a. Search results

Expanded search vocabulary

Users wouldn't get appropriate results with their searches, so expanding the search terms that would return relevant results would be helpful







2b. Search results

Present results relevant to search clearly: 

In order to reassure users they're getting what they're searching for, show the accurate "breadcrumb" trail.

“I don’t see any pictures of bikes on here” (user searched searched trail riding)

3. Descriptions

More informative descriptions of search results: social proof.

detailed maps, info about trails, ratings, badges, reviews, video clips-- the more the better.

Our recommendations in action

Home page

  • card variety

  • price slider detail

  • hover slideshow

  • ratings

  • information on skill levels

  • chatbot moved

Results page

  • map of results

  • clear visual of search terms

  • area map and recommendations

  • relevant results

Detail page

  • icon-heavy tour information

  • reviews

  • guide info: badges

  • detailed maps and routes


With our suggestions, we created a prioritization matrix. Some recommendations would be easier to implement than others!

Closing remarks, next steps, and feedback

The team at Yervana was very encouraging and open to our suggestions. They appreciated our user research methodology, and agreed with our solutions in the UX patterns we chose to highlight.



Yervana especially cited these items in their feedback:


  • Category icon bar- a modern UI patterns that's proven to be effective.

  • Breadcrumb trail- already in the process of implementation.

  • Card size variety- a good way of creating hierarchy on the page.

  • Local area guide- a good alternative to mapping.

Needs Work:

  • Mapped results would not be feasible based on their current site structure.

  • The detailed price slider wasn't a big improvement, and seemed unnecessary.

Next Steps

We suggested a few steps further down the line to better leverage Yervana's product.

  • Improve mobile experience: most users are on mobile, and their interface wasn't fully responsive to mobile screens.

  • Work on expanding adventure guide information gathering from the onboarding process. Best to start with great data!

  • move chat button so it doesn't cover important filter input fields.

Closing Remarks

Overall, I feel Team 13 worked really well together.

Our challenge was to work in a short time frame to recruit users and conduct user testing.

But our insights were solid and evidence-based, which I feel gave us a great set of recommendations.

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