How we design TravelMap

I think it’s fair to say that we are all aware of how the current social media platforms are designed to steal your time away from real life as much as possible. Yes, we are calling out Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. They do that through inventions such as infinite news feed scroll, notifications anytime something happens: someone liked your post, someone commented on your photo – or even anytime nothing happens: you haven’t posted in a while, your followers miss you…

And this is how the attention economy is built. Technological giants like Facebook/Instagram, Google are putting a lot of resources into understanding and maximising our screen time. They are working with psychologists, engineers, scientists to develop more and more design tweaks to capture our attention and prolong our app use. Sure, we can try to change our habits, be more disciplined, set ourselves healthier routines to follow and win back our attention. But that is easier said than done, we still have to fight against a team of highly qualified experts.

This is not to say these companies are all demons and set out to do the absolute worst for society. Recently, Instagram and Facebook started to introduce new tools to manage our screen time, following the footsteps of Google and Apple in the pursuit of helping users be more mindful with their time spent on their digital devices. How effective these tools are, given that this goal contradicts their economic incentives, is still largely questionable.

Because attention is currency. As we economy participants are increasingly more reluctant to pay money for products and services, tech companies are resorting to the advertising models and the like: our data, our information in exchange for their products and services.

But what does all of this have to do with us TravelMap?

Since we created TravelMap, the philosophy behind has always been: created by a traveller for travellers. The website is designed in a way so that those who are travelling can spend as little time as possible managing and updating their maps. And that is how technologies should be used, to facilitate, not hinder us from enjoying our lives.

How do we do that? It is in the design – of the website and of our business model.

Design that simplifies your life

TravelMap new interface
Preview of the new interface we’re working on…

Focus on the Map

Open a TravelMap blog, and you will see the map as the center of focus. For us, as travellers, the most important thing to show followers is location: where you have been, where you are right now and where you are heading.

The spots on the map tell the story succinctly. Photos and posts can be linked to the map but are not the main focus, unlike other popular choices for travellers. Instagram and Facebook focus mostly on the visuals like photos and videos; blogging platforms like WordPress emphasises texts.

If you are like us, you want to quickly update your map and spend your time experiencing travelling. There’s nothing wrong with taking beautiful photos to show your friends and family, but from my experience, if you think too much about capturing an amazing sunset, you will perhaps only experience that amazing sunset through camera lenses, or a screen. And personally, that is not why we go on an adventure. We want to savour the beauty in front of us by being in the present moment.

Minimal notifications

When we first built the app, we only had a contact form on the blogs to allow users to receive messages. And then due to popular demand, we introduced comments. However, we never added the “Like” button even though many users had asked for it.

Liking something is a great way to show that you care.. but you don’t really. 😀 And there are already many other platforms where people can go and express that pseudo-emotion. We just want to facilitate meaningful interaction on TravelMap because we want to let our busy travellers enjoy life.

That’s also why our notification system is minimal. You receive an email when someone sends a contact message but for comments and everything else, you are only notified on the administration page.

Even your grandmother can follow your trip!

There is no need to create an account if you want to follow, or even comment on a TravelMap blog. Naturally if you don’t travel, you don’t need an account and should not be urged to join the platform because someone you know is on it.

Followers get updates whenever they want to. They just go on the website or if the TravelMap is Premium Plus (more on this later), they get an option to subscribe to the blog and get notifications when there are important updates.

Our founder built TravelMap with his mother and grandmother in mind, so following has to be made very easy. 

Fairness and sustainability

As a traveller himself, ClĂ©ment created TravelMap first and foremost to solve his own problems – how to document his trips and update people at home in the easiest and simplest way possible. He set out not to make money but to provide a solution to a problem he shares with like-minded people.

We introduced paying options alongside with free account as it was becoming unsustainable to store so many photos. And then we started working full-time to maintain and develop new features to respond to travellers’ needs. Hence the birth of TravelMap Premium and Premium Plus options.

Yes, TravelMap is not completely free, but we never use your data for the purpose of advertising. We don’t display ads, nor affiliate with hotels, travel agencies, even though we could on the free TravelMaps to make it fair. But that would call for compromising the simplicity and cleanliness of the interface – which we work hard to maintain. 

Travellers pay fairly, and we work to serve and keep TravelMap sustainable. This is a trade-off we have to make knowing that we will miss out on many potential users.

You pay, but in return, you get the most out of your travels. You spend the minimal time recording your trips, updating your followers – not getting bugged by meaningless notifications and unnecessary actions. Because for us, to travel is to experience life first-handed and this notion deserves to be respected. 

If you are using TravelMap and have any ideas how we can improve to make your life on the road better, don’t hesitate to comment below or write us an email.

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