Making the trip planning process easier and fairer for groups of travellers. (This project placed third in the 2018 Ontario Engineering Competition for Innovative Design.)

Jan - April 2018 | Engineering Capstone

Design Lead

Research, user testing
User journey and mapping
Visuals, educational videos
Frontend development
Prototyping, UI design

Team: S Polo, S Sharma, J Yu


It's hard to have your voice heard during group trip planning.

The success of a trip is dependent on overall group satisfaction and fairness of the trip activities, which are not always met due to issues in the planning process.

How might we create a platform that encourages fair and collaborative planning for groups of travellers?


Make trip planning easy, engaging, and fair for groups of travellers.

Pistachio implements a democratic, 2-step model to create custom itineraries optimized for group satisfaction.


The travel industry is incredibly lucrative, valued at over 7.6 trillion USD globally in 2016. Tourism boosts the economy for poorer countries, while leisure travel is a luxury that many people prepare plans for (as to not waste time or money).

We conducted research and gathered data on travel and planning habits. From one of our questionnaires, 91% of people travelled in groups and 88% of people left planning to a more dominant figure. But despite that, 48% of all participants felt that the company and coordination of preferences can heavily affect the enjoyability of the trip.

We also conducted academic research about how to structure our platform based off of group decision-making psychology. From our analysis, we decided to split decision tasks into two major tasks (learning and application) and encouraged individual thought before forming a consensus.

What are current pain points?

People do not necessarily voice their opinion when planning for a trip, potentially creating imbalances in the itinerary.

It is tiring to jump through multiple platforms when planning for a trip but it is compounded when many people have to do it in parallel.

It is hard to reach a consensus that appeals to everyone’s needs and preferences and this can ruin planning for a trip.


We created multiple personas, but here are two of them: a young family planning for a reunion with old friends, as well as a consultant looking to explore her surroundings on a work trip.

Interaction Model/Approach

As per our research, we decided on a two-stage solution to maximize decision-making impact and efficiency.

This structure was based off our academic research. We learned that optimal (individual) decision making occurs when people are given the opportunity to absorb the information fully before making a decision. We also learned that for group decision-making, it is important for individuals to go through their own independent thought formation first. This allows everyone to be on the same level when discussing and explaining their own thoughts to each other.

Thus, this diagram illustrates individuals forming their own thoughts first, only to come together after. The way Pistachio was stuctured was so that after each individual selected their travel choices, the choices would be mixed together with everyone else's and the team would get to vote on the collective list of activities.

For the second stage, when individuals rank the collective list of group activities, we also explored multiple ways to bid or choose. Of our top 3 (bidding, decision matrix, buckets), we went with buckets because it was the most intuitive and presented the lowest cognitive load for users.

User Testing & Validation

We were continuously asked during our development process if we had sufficiently validated our problem statement and resulting solution. Our solution was supposed to not only be intuitive from a UI/UX standpoint, but also to provide a good solution based on our mathematical model. Thus, we structured a comparative usability test against Pistachio's leading competitor to gauge the happiness of users.

What does Pistachio look like?


Take things as they come, one step at a time. Do not ignore development of the product. Especially in the case of participating in a bunch of competitions, we weren’t necessarily prepared, but we had unrealistically high hopes for future events that took away our time and attention.

Design and development are highly nonlinear. I lost count of how often we cycled through each phase again and again.

User testing and feedback are crucial. We were initially stuck on developing and almost neglected to validate our solution (less the design, but more the mathematical model). Thankfully the question persisted and we were able to gather valuable feedback to create a stronger product and justify specific design decisions.

There is no shame in pivoting, provided there is a good reason for change. We changed our initial idea and we changed our software toolkits, but I’d like to think that our final product was better than if we stuck to those initial ideas.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my team for a great 8 months of researching, iterating, creating, and laughing. Pistachio would not have happened if it weren’t for all of us coming together with our own strengths and limitations, and teaching and learning from one another.