The Outbound Collective

www.theoutbound.com

MY ROLE

Product Lead

We're building the best way to find local adventures, tours, lodging, and travel inspiration. I wear many hats, including product strategy, design (web, iOS and Android), creative direction, photography/content production, and web development (pushing production front-end and Rails code).

DESIGN

Doing the research

Web, iOS, Android

For a recent series of design updates, I gave our users the opportunity to chat with me directly in 30 minute time slots (I used a Calendly link that got sent to ~300k people). I conducted about 60 hours of phone/skype interviews + additional qualitative surveys and analytics evaluations to try and identify pressing issues and trends amongst our community members.

The transcriptions of these interviews were amalgamated into a single document which broke down the feedback into overarching themes. After discussion with the full team, each theme was then given a series of possible actionable design, development, or business decisions to help us address the issues at hand. We evaluated these options with respect to 4 pillars:  revenue growth, user growth, user engagement, and hypothesized overall impact on the product.

A few key takeaways:

Our most frequent users see us as a *travel* tool. How do we continue to support these high-engagement users and and encourage this use-case to users that don't use The Outbound as much?

Our audience is global. How can we promote international destinations and improve the visibility and use-case of international travel?

We're not quite a "one-stop-shop". What features can we develop to become a more complete travel tool and avoid losing users towards the end of their travel planning process?

Design/UX

One of the key changes we made was updating the homepage with an increased focus on search and discovery. We found that while most of our community was happy and familiar with the features of the site, a significant portion of first-time users had a very narrow view into what The Outbound was capable of. As we continued to grow internationally, it was important for us to position The Outbound as an adventure travel tool, rather than a media publication or "hiking in your backyard" focus.

We re-worked our search experience to place highlights on different types of content in a given destination, and added common searches and featured destinations in order to better frame search possibilities to a new user.

WORKING WITH ENGINEERS

Designers gotta code (sometimes)

Being able to jump into our Rails codebase, or at least having a competent understanding of more in-depth engineering issues that are beyond my skillset has been an asset -- especially working on a small team.

I'm able to have frank conversations with our lead Rails engineer about manageable steps that won't break our entire system and still allow us to move forward with improvements.
Additionally, I'm often able to explain problems/solutions to non-tech members of the team without needing to involve an engineer.

As of the writing of this case study, I've authored about 15% of the total Outbound codebase. A lot of front-end code -- but also a significant amount of Rails.

CONTENT

Growing a community

Early in 2019 I helped oversee a transition of our email marketing from Mailgun to Sendgrid. This allowed us to be more data-driven, deliver additional insights to partners, and be more flexible with our designs, content and more.

I'm responsible for building and sending approximately 2 million marketing emails each month. We A/B test and evaluate the subject lines and content to make improvements to our email strategy as we go.