How to Create a Travel App: a Step-by-Step Guide for Travel Agencies
July 09, 2023
Travel apps have become essential for travelers worldwide, but you probably already know that, since you’ve opened this article to find out how to make one. Whether you have an established booking system or are just starting your travel business, an app will be an important tool for broadening your audience base, getting extra bookings, and increasing customer loyalty.
In this article, we want to walk you through each mobile travel app development stage in detail, to give you a clear picture of what’s involved. Everything written in this article is based on our own experience and our successes with Adventura and Festivalio. So, if you want to know how to build a travel app, then let’s dive right in.
Travel app development process
The first step in travel application development is conducting research. Whether you are building your app from scratch or already have a functioning booking platform in place, there are multiple questions you will need to answer before you initiate app development.
First of all, you need to come up with the goals for your app. It might be about increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, expanding your audience, or something else. The important thing is to always remember what you’re trying to achieve, as this will define your priorities in app functions and design.
There are different metrics you could use to measure your definition of ‘success’ for your app, and it’s important to write them down during this phase. Success could be an increase in repeated bookings or overall number of bookings, or achieving a higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) for your company, which would indicate increased customer satisfaction.
The next major question you will need to answer is ‘who are my competitors?’ Most likely it’ll be similar-sized businesses in the travel & tourism sector. You need to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they differentiate their apps from others — what features do they offer their customers? How successful is their business model? Also,think of your budget, the niche your company currently fills in the market, and what trends are emerging that you should stay ahead of.
If you’re just starting your travel agency, there is one more thing you need to figure out — who is your audience?
You need to know as much about your audience as possible if you want to cater to their needs — what is the demographic? What are their travel behaviors? What are their experiences and expectations when it comes to services? What are the features and benefits that they value most in a travel app? There are plenty of ways to gather this data: online surveys and polls, interviews and focus groups, market reports and statistics, etc.
Your objective is to use that data to create user personas — fictional characters that represent a certain target audience. These will help designers and product teams to understand who they need to cater to and provide the best possible experience for these groups of people.
If you already have a functioning booking platform you can skip audience research, since you should already have the information required for defining user personas. Your main priorities are: deciding on the goals of your future app, finding out how your competitors leverage theirs, and creating a high-level plan of the app you want to develop.
Here’s what you should have in your hands at the end of a thorough and successful research phase:
- A written set of goals and measurable metrics for success
- A set of key learnings about your competitors
- Defined user personas
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After you’ve conducted market research, it is time to begin the discovery phase. Speaking from our experience here at Zoftify, discovery would typically consist of several workshops with representatives from your business and us as the travel app development company, where together we discuss your idea and refine it.
Let’s imagine your company wants to develop an app to increase customer satisfaction — what sort of features would be necessary for that? And what if you want to attract new audiences? Discovery gives you the space to explore all these questions with a team of digital product experts, who will provide you with a general understanding of what sort of challenges you face with your idea, how much time it will take to create a travel and tourism app, and the development costs associated with this.
This also gives travel app developers all the info they need about the way your company currently works and a view of how best your company could launch its travel app. For example, we would look at how your company curates tours, the tech solutions you already use, and how you operate when it comes to hotel and flight bookings, so we can see where your app can fit seamlessly into your workflows
The discovery phase is extremely important — solid planning saves significant time and resources, since you can change your mind and play around with different ideas here at no expense. It’s much trickier (and more expensive) to introduce big changes halfway through development.
Now you’ve started thinking about how to make a travel app that your business needs, designers can start creating the outline of your future app to help you visualize it.
Everything starts with a simple sketch — sometimes a pen-on-paper one — and later turns into a wireframe or a functional prototype.
Wireframes are the blueprints that represent the app layout and the flow between its screens — they outline the user journey through the app and provide better understanding of the final product. A wireframe will go through multiple iterations: the designer presents the initial wireframe, the company provides feedback, the designer introduces changes based on that feedback, and then presents the new version of the layout. When you agree on the final version of the wireframe, it’s time to begin the UI/UX design phase.
But before that, it is worth seeing what key stakeholders think of your app outline. The wireframe might capture all the ideas you had in your head, but might not include everything your users need. It’s a good idea to test the wireframe with a focus group because, once again, it’s much easier to make changes during this stage than later on.
Design phase (UI/UX)
When the wireframing process is finished, the development team will begin designing the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).
This step is especially important, since it defines the way users will interact with your app: the layouts, the buttons, the colors, fonts, and the overall aesthetics. The functionality is the reason why customers need your app in the first place, but this stage is the reason they’ll find it comfortable and choose to keep using it.
Your travel app should be visually appealing, easy to navigate, and intuitive. Your customers should be mesmerized by crisp and clear destination photos, their travel itineraries and maps should load quickly and be readable on a small screen, and they should never feel confused when looking for their preferred payment option. Professional UI/UX design should enable these favorable interactions.
Designers can also create UI kits to lay the foundations for upcoming travel app features, which will simplify their development in the future.
The development process itself is about coding the app and incorporating all of the necessary features and functionalities defined in the concept.
Development is typically broken down into manageable stages or ‘sprints’ — building function by function, so development runs smoothly and there is a constant feedback loop that allows for necessary adjustments.
App development is probably the most intensive and difficult part of the process — programmers need to ensure high-quality code for a robust and efficient app, implement each and every feature, and connect every part of the app to create a complete experience. It also requires integrating external elements like relevant APIs — in other words, the connections to hotel booking and flight data software, payment gateways (like Apple Pay) for easy transactions, and maps for location services.
When the coding part is finished, the QA (quality assurance) team will ensure that the app works exactly the way it’s supposed to. That’s what the next stage is all about.
User acceptance testing
While testing is carried out at every single stage of app development, there is also a separate stage called ‘user acceptance testing, or UAT, that takes place after the coding part is finished. Testing is an integral part of the development process, and while it can take some time, it always pays off.
QA specialists will perform rigorous testing on every single aspect of the app: its functionality, usability, compatibility, security, and performance. There are several different ways of testing, but here at Zoftify we like to use all of them to ensure that your app works properly. This includes integration testing and overall beta testing.
The testing stage finishes when every single issue that is identified is fixed — then it's time to prepare for launch.
App launch is the moment that your app becomes available to the public. It’s a big deal, so requires lots of preparation from the development team.
The biggest issue that can crop up here is to do with the guidelines of app stores. Each app store has its own specific requirements about what apps should qualify to be accepted. App stores look at things like app safety, design and performance, the business itself, and whether the app meets the legal standards for Android and iOS devices. The checks are especially rigorous and take longer for apps that use Apple/Google Pay payment gateways.
When you offer your users the option to pay with Apple Pay for example, you must provide Apple’s review team with specific access to your app so they can verify the integration. This is just one of the many convoluted processes that you may have to deal with to successfully launch your app.
Thankfully our team has vast expertise in this area and knows the specifics for each app store, so we can guide you through and avoid extra hassle.
While app launch is a big deal in itself, it is really just the beginning stage of a long process of promotion. The success of your app heavily depends on how well it’s promoted. Unfortunately, a lot of times companies underestimate the significance of promotion, and their app gets much less traction than it could've had.
App launch is something your audience should both know about and be excited for in order for them to consider downloading it.
PR is a whole realm of work on its own, but to summarize, you’ll need to make sure you have all the tools and channels at your disposal to promote your app as widely as possible — not just for launch but beyond. Remember, the more users you can attract to begin with, the more initial feedback you will generate, and the more users you will be likely to attract from those positive experiences. Quickly responding to any issues users have with your app will also increase customer satisfaction and keep customers likely to continue using it.
There are lots of ways you can promote your app: paid advertisements, social media posts, email marketing and so on. Choose your most popular channels and run a campaign over a few weeks or months to remind people that your app is now available. For example, you could send a direct app download link to your newsletter subscribers, or offer your social media followers an incentive for downloading your app, like money off their first app booking. Get creative to generate a significant boost in app installs.
As you’ve probably guessed from the previous stage, launch is never the final stage of travel mobile app development. All apps require regular updates to keep them functioning properly. Apps also require bug fixes and new features added over time to keep up with market demand and user feedback. That is what post-launch support is all about.
Generally speaking, you won’t have to worry about updating your app — that’s part of what a travel mobile app development company like Zoftify does.
When it comes to feedback monitoring and bug reporting, here at Zoftify we have a set of established practices for post-launch process tracking. Our specialists use crash analytics tools to check whether users are experiencing your app seamlessly on all devices, as well as bug reporting features that collect user reports and allow us to quickly fix issues.
Constant app support is a necessity — users won’t stick with an app that performs poorly, and technical issues are among the most popular reasons to abandon an app.
Mobile travel app development is a difficult, multi-step process, but it is always worth it. If you decide to create an app, you need to follow all of these steps in order to succeed — from conducting proper research to post-launch support. There is a lot you need to know about each step, but Zoftify’s friendly team is here to help you through the entire process.
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What should be included in a travel app?
When it comes to travel and hospitality app development, the functionality you need may vary depending on travel app type. At a minimum, any app in this niche should offer an advanced search, personalized experience, travel itineraries, offline access, a user-friendly interface and real-time updates. You can learn more about these features here.
How many people does it take to build a travel app?
Travel and tourism app development requires a team of professional developers, designers, product experts, and QA engineers. Each specialist is extremely valuable: QA engineers ensure the app runs smoothly and works the way it’s supposed to, designers ensure the best possible user experience, and developers build all of the travel app features.
How do I build a travel app from scratch?
Whether you are investing in travel and tourism app development, travel booking app development, or travel deals app development, the process you need to take is the same. Start by conducting audience and market research, then follow this up with a discovery phase to refine your idea before moving on to wireframing. Then it’s UI/UX design, followed by development, testing, app promotion, launch, and ongoing post-launch support.