Here’s How The Ministry Of Tourism Android App Was Built In Three Months

Mukul Garg shares the inside story of building the official Ministry Of Tourism Android App Tripigator


Have you ever given a thought as to why our Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps harping about growing tourism in India? Apart from  the country’s rich history and its cultural and geographical diversity that make it a favourite tourist destination, India ranks third among countries with the fastest growing tourism industries over the next decade. Not only international tourists, domestic tourist visits are seeing a hefty growth too. The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 ranks India 65th out of 144 countries overall.

Despite this huge market potential, travel as a market is still wide open and one of the major problem is non-fussy trip planning as suited to one’s needs coupled with easy discovery of new destinations. This is where WorthYourHolidays’ product Tripigator - a portal simplifying itinerary planning with its first-of-a-kind personalized travel planning service comes into picture. Armed with the motto, “Be a traveler not a tourist”, the web version was started by three IIT-Kharagpur alumni - Mukul Garg, Karteek Narumanchi and Piyush Grover.

The Bangalore-based four member team found the right exposure when earlier this year their portal was chosen as the official travel planner by the Ministry of Tourism. Its simplicity and real-time trip planning feature stood out at the bidding process that got the ministry interested in Tripigator, shared Mukul Garg who looks after the business development and user experience. “The technology that we have right now is not available anywhere in the world and it is a proprietary technology that we have built at Tripigator,” Mukul informed in a telecon with Lighthouse Insights.

See also: Detailed review of the Tripigator Android app.

However the association meant Ministry of Tourism connecting their website to the Tripigator portal and using it. While this gave the startup the much required reach and visibility, it made no money in this alliance with the Government.

With the launch of the web product, the startup began receiving user feedback for a mobile app. The web app provided a good understanding about user activities which helped them in building the mobile app. But the critical challenge was to deliver the mobile app in just three months.

Initial planning and wireframes of the app

Having decided to go for it, the four man team began working on the app with October end as the delivery date. “We started with jotting down the use cases, then figured out what users are looking for. Based on that we created the whole user persona and then went for the wireframe. We planned out the complete user trajectory in a span of three-four days,” shared Mukul while taking through the entire mobile app development process.

At this juncture, the startup faced another major challenge, one that is frequently faced by all mobile app developers - how to display the entire process in a limited screen size. But then this decision-making of showing what is required and how in mobile, is a major parameter to measure the user experience of an app. “For us the challenge was to showcase the entire itinerary which has multiple levels and at the same time the user should also grasp all the information.”

The first draft of the wireframes or the core design of the app was made and with the use of tools the design was placed in such a fashion that gave the feel of a real app. One Friday the startup decided to invite around 12 users to get the initial feedback. “We let them use the app wireframes well-arranged in inVision (A Prototyping & Workflow Platform) to get the real feel of the app. We closely noticed how they were interacting with the app and where are they getting stuck. We released many minor things which required improvements.”

Tripigator wireframe
Initial wireframe

The exercise was a great workout for the team, everyone instantly loved the way the Itinerary card was designed but users could not understand ‘Discover Places’ section and how to use it. “We did a lot of primary research for more than 10 days on the user feedback, we rectified a lot of issues at this stage itself and freezed the wireframes.”

Visual design of the app

With the wireframes done, the next thing was the visual design which involved a few major activities such as selecting the color of the app, the right font and the icons to provide a great user experience.

Selection of colour was an interesting challenge. Since travelling is a happy and warm feeling, the idea was to provide a similar color. To get the right color, a survey was done which highlighted that the color shouldn’t be vibrant but warm. “We had seen in the web-app users are spending on an average 15-30 mins to plan their holidays, so we had to select a color which is easy on the eyes for a longer session as well. We picked up a colour which is somewhere in between Red and Yellow, very warm and full of life colour,” he informed.

Along with the color, typography selection was a critical decision because a wrong typography can make or break a great experience. As android comes in multiple form factors and screen sizes, it was difficult for the startup to optimise the readability, spacing, alignment etc. After couple of iterations and testing, they decided to go with Roboto family, specially designed for Android experience. The variations of the font family helped the team in enhancing the overall experience of the app.

Tripigator Design Representation
Tripigator Design Representation

Similar amount of attention was given to the icons used in the app. “Iconography is the soul of the app design. Each and every icon was designed from scratch keeping the stroke consistent throughout. Every single pixel in the app has been designed from scratch to meet the requirement.”

In fact the startup is now planning to file patents for the mobile app design, as it feels this is a first-of-its-kind on the planet.

Development and testing of the app

Development of the app wasn’t easy too since the startup wasn’t interested in using the native controls provided by Android; that is a perfect recipe to kill the user experience. Explaining more on the development issues, Mukul informed that the basic navigation buttons of Android were used but the startup went for designing its own search bar.

Citing another incident to explain the challenges of developing the app, he spoke about the blurry images that have been used consistently in the app for a cool look. For instance, if you select Matheran as your destination of travel then you would see a nice image of Matheran with a blurred effect. While it might look cool for a user, at the time of designing it was found that Android had no feature to support such design. “We had to write the whole code on our own and at the same time we had to do regressive testing on maximum number of Android devices to see the execution.”

Everything in the app is powered by hand written code which also means that it needs to go through a regressive testing. Testing involved two major complexities - 1. Handset manufacturer, and 2. Android versions.

Tripigator mobile app.min
Android App final design

The startup tested the app on 50 different devices for 15 days. Issues like effective blurriness, performance issues, memory usage, among others were tested on multiple manufacturers to be comfortable. Besides this Mukul informed that there was a whole bunch of back end issues that forced them to have regressive testing. This raised more than 250 unique bugs that were fixed in 15 days. “We have got more than 980 reviews and we are yet to come across reviews which say that the app is crashing.”

Road ahead

The startup ensured that the app was delivered on time and  so far has fetched 50,000 downloads on the Google Play Store (Download app). According to the latest review number that stands at 1000, more than 600 people have given five stars and another 250 users rated it with four stars. Sharing more on data insights, he added that even though users don’t need to signup to use the app, they are witnessing 80 percent users doing it. On an average 30 percent of users are saving at least one itinerary on the mobile app which is a big motivation for the startup right now.

We want to be the JustDial of travel

With the app more or less stable now, he added that user feedback has been good but they want more from it. “Users are now asking that along with planning, the app should have a mechanism by which the final itinerary could be booked. Right now we are working on building this feature.”

However being a tech company, they wouldn’t want to get into operations, so in future the startup will help in the final decision process without getting in to the booking process. It won’t be an easy effort as it will involve lots of data crunching and the startup is working on smarter ways that will be unveiled in the near future.

Talking about revenue streams, the startup is not ready to chase advertisements. Right now it is working on business models for marginal commissions and going ahead it might work with brands on listing items. “We are trusting on the technology. We have built a product that could be applied anywhere in the world,” added Mukul. The startup that had earlier raised some money is now also on the look out to raise a fresh round of funding so that Tripigator can scale. “We want to be the JustDial of travel.”