Making Mobile Convert

For many of us, buying travel insurance is about buying piece of mind. Yet, it’s often a last minute purchase. In an increasingly mobile world, allowing travellers to buy the “right” policy quickly and easily on the go is paramount.

But let’s face it, insurance companies don’t have the best reputation when it comes to making things simple (or being trustworthy).

So how do you improve mobile conversion rates for a global travel company that isn’t particularly proud of selling travel insurance?

This is the story of working for World Nomads – a travel and lifestyle brand that helps adventurers travel safer and smarter, while supporting worthy causes around the world.

The Client

World Nomads is a global travel brand. Since 2002, they’ve been helping people travel safer and smarter by providing advice, destination guides and inspiring stories. They also give back through travel scholarships and facilitating ways for travellers to make a difference.

Did I mention they sell travel insurance? According to The Client, it’s something that they’re “almost embarrassed” about. But the reality is, to make a difference, you’ve also got to be able to make money to pay the bills.

In partnership with leading insurers, World Nomads provides cover to people in over 130 countries, with medical and evacuation cover, 24-hour emergency assistance and cover for a large range of adventure activities. This makes them the number one choice for many of the world’s leading travel brands such as Lonely Planet and STA Travel.

The Problem

Website traffic to World Nomads’ travel insurance products is increasing at 30% year on year – with mobile traffic increasing at a whopping 98%. As more travellers move to mobile, a significant proportion of policies are sold on the day of travel or away from home. But the conversion rate for mobile devices (14%) is much lower than for desktop (21%).

Improving the mobile experience is a pressing concern for World Nomads. We were approached by their Head of UX, Jon Whitby, to help increase mobile conversion rates at two specific points: (1) from session to quote; and (ii) quote to sale.

The Approach

This waterfall project took place at Academy Xi (Sydney) during March 2019. I worked as part of a team of four UX design students. Our design process was collaborative and involved the following sequence of activities:

  • Discovery and research
  • Affinity mapping and analysis of existing data
  • Onsite surveys
  • Heuristic analyses
  • User interviews and testing of existing site
  • Affinity mapping and analysis of user testing data
  • Forming insights and story cards
  • Ideating, wireframing and prototyping
  • User testing of the prototype
  • Affinity mapping and analysis of user testing results

My Role

While we collaborated on all aspects of the design process, each team member had strengths that made valuable individual contributions. With a background in Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), I advocated for heuristic analysis using the ConversionXL framework.

Similarly, I identified the need for on-site surveys on key pages of the site and led their design. I also made significant contributions to wireframing and ideation. My copywriting skills were leveraged throughout the project – including writing the new value proposition and copy for the homepage of the prototype.

The Discovery

Following the project kickoff, we were given access to previous research, data and resources including:

  • Google Analytics
  • Screen recordings of remote user testing
  • Heat maps
  • Scroll maps
  • A “mindset” based persona

Our first task involved transcribing the user testing sessions onto sticky notes. Next, we uncovered patters and pain points using affinity mapping. It was clear that users were encountering navigation issues and “too much scrolling” on both the quote and options pages. Analyses of the heat and scroll maps confirmed these patterns.

Affinity mapping of user screen recordings highlighting issues with navigation and scrolling.

Heuristic Analyses

We performed heuristic analyses of the World Nomads purchase funnel. This involved evaluating the site around criteria such as clarity, friction and distraction. Our observations were transcribed onto sticky notes. Affinity mapping identified areas of interest and quick wins. Similarly, we performed heuristic analyses on the purchase path of three main competitors.

On-Site Surveys

In conversion research, on-site surveys are critical. While quantitative data from Google Analytics shows which pages are underperforming, on-site surveys can give insights into why users are dropping off.

On-site surveys are powerful because users are giving feedback while they are on still the site. What are the fears, doubts and hesitations that are holding them back? The key, however, is asking the right questions at the right time.

On the World Nomads site, we asked three questions on three key pages:

  1. Options page (displayed after 7 seconds): Are there any questions that you are not finding the answers to? (identifies sources of friction and missing information on the site).
  2. Details page (displayed after 45 seconds based on our testing of the site): What is stopping you from completing your purchase today? (again, identifies sources of friction).
  3. Receipt page (displayed immediately): Quick question? What nearly stopped you from buying with us today (the customer has “crossed the threshold” from browsing to buying and sources of friction are fresh in their mind).

A mockup of our online surveys at key drop off points in the purchase path.

Inexplicably, The Client stopped the on-site surveys after only one day – producing around 10 responses for each question. This was the biggest missed opportunity of the project. The World Nomads site attracts large amounts of traffic (2.4 million page views per month!). Allowing the survey to run for several days had the potential to uncover richer insights than through user testing alone.

Our on-site survey – live!

User Testing

We conducted user interviews and testing of the World Nomads mobile website with five participants. While they were not existing customers, the participants had been screened as travellers who had recently purchased travel insurance.

Each participant was asked a series of questions about their previous experiences around travelling. Next, they were given two tasks:

  1. Task 1: book insurance for one person travelling to Japan and include cover for an iphone and camera.
  2. Task 2: book insurance for two people travelling to Switzerland and include cover for an iphone, camera, skiing and ice climbing.

Our rationale was that by giving users two tasks of varying complexity, we would be able to uncover deeper insights into the fears, doubts and hesitations along each step along the purchase path. We also included ice climbing as it’s an activity that’s not covered by any World Nomads policy.


Our research and discovery led us to the overarching problem statement:

As a World Nomad user, I want to be able to buy travel insurance quickly and easily on the go from my mobile and know exactly what I am covered for.

From affinity mapping of our user testing data, we formed the following insights, story cards and design objectives:

Insight 1: Lack of clarity around website’s purpose.

User testing revealed that most users were not aware that World Nomads sold travel insurance. While they knew the site was related to travel, it was not until they scrolled further down the page and saw the option to get a quote.

The lack of information about travel insurance “above the scroll” reflects The Client’s comment about being “embarrassed” to sell travel insurance. Unfortunately for users, this makes the site confusing as the current value proposition is vague.

As a travel insurance seeker, I need to know I am in the right place so that I can buy travel insurance.

Story Card

Objective 1: Improve clarity of the value proposition and homepage copy.

Users did not initially realise that World Nomads sold travel insurance.

Insight 2. Adding an extra traveller is counterintuitive – doesn’t conform to standard prototypicality.

Most users couldn’t work out how to add a second traveller – they expected a second field (not a single field where the ages of multiple travellers are separated by a comma). Heuristic analysis of competitors revealed that it’s commonplace to have a separate field for each traveller.

As a travel insurance seeker, I need to add extra travellers simply and intuitively so that I can proceed quickly to the next steps.

Story Card

Objective 2: Redesign the “extra traveller” feature.

Adding extra travellers was confusing for users.

Insight 3. The quote process is confusing to users; content and policy information need clarity. Navigation and layout need improvement.

Users had difficulty determining the differences between plans and making sense of the policy inclusions without excessive scrolling. Plus, the “find out more” option gave users information on how to make a donation – not find out more details about each plan.

As a travel insurance seeker, I need to understand the differences between policies so that I know what I’m covered for.

Story Card

Objective 3: Improve clarity and simplicity of the quote/plan pages.

Understanding the differences between plans was confusing for users.

Insight 4. Customising policy (adding extras and activities): the layout, Information Architecture and lack of clarity leads to confusion.

Users were confused and overwhelmed with the process of adding extras and activities; and unsure about whether they were actually covered. For example, most added ice climbing and proceeded to the next step without even realising that this activity was not covered by any policy. To quote one user: “I’d be pissed if I found out later that I was not covered“.

As a travel insurance seeker, I need to customise my policy quickly and easily so that I know what extras I’m covered (and not covered) for.

Story Card

Objective 4: Improve the speed, clarity and simplicity of the page.

Users were confused when it came to customising their policy.

Ideating and Wireframing

With our insights, story cards and design objectives on hand, we began ideating and wireframing solutions. This included mapping out the Information Architecture and a new purchase path.

Prototyping and User Testing

Since users from our first round of testing were pleased with the design aesthetics of the current site, we created a prototype of the entire purchase path in high fidelity using Adobe XD.

Each of the key design changes are illustrated below with reference to the objective of each particular insight.

The prototype was then tested with five new participants who were asked to complete similar tasks to those users who tested the current mobile site.

Insight 1

Objective: Improve clarity of the value proposition and homepage copy.

What we did: Wrote a new value proposition with the hypothesis that it could be understood in less than 5 seconds.

What worked?: All participants immediately understood what the site was about and who it was for.

What need iteration?: A/B test against current homepage.

Before and after comparison of the World Nomads homepage.

Insight 2

Objective: Redesign the extra traveller option on the quote form.

What we did: We made the tone of the copy more friendly, simplified the design of the quote form and added a field for a second traveller.

What worked?: All users easily added a second traveller.

What needs iteration?: Some users expected to see a field for pre-exisiting medical conditions.

Redesigning the quote form: before, ideation and the new prototype.

Insight 3

Objective: Improve clarity and simplicity of the quote/plan pages.

What we did: We added a new page that enabled users to see the two plans, with a “more info” drop down that provided a full view of the plan. The current version stacks the full view of each plan from top to bottom – forcing users to do lots of scrolling back and forth in order to compare plans.

We also added a page with a side by side comparison of the two plans; and a sticky header to enable selection of the plan at any point while scrolling. Plus, we replaced the numbers on the progress bar with text labels.

What worked?: The comparison table and sticky header was pleasing to users.

What needs iteration?: Users indicated that having seperate pages for each plan was unnecessary. They only wanted the comparison page. Users also indicated that they wanted the table to focus on the differences between plans first, rather than the similarities. Users still had some difficulty understanding where were in the process with the progress bar (had they completed the step or were they still on it?).

Designing the plan comparison: from ideation to prototype.

Insight 4

Objective: Improve the speed, clarity and simplicity of the page (i.e customising a policy).

What we did: We split the process of adding high value items and activities into two separate steps. Plus, we added icons to the activities step to ensure consistency with the previous step. Importantly, we added red shading to activities that were not covered by the policy.

What worked?: Splitting the page into two steps reduced the amount of scrolling. Red shading was obvious to users in relation to which items were not covered.

What needs iteration?: Colour of the icons need to be blue in both steps. Users desired clarity around what constitutes a high value item. Some users suggested that it should not be possible to add activities that are not covered – an instant error message was preferred.

Designing the customisation pages: from ideation to prototype.

Future Opportunities

This was a two-week waterfall project that would benefit from further iteration and testing of our validated design solutions. We also identified additional insights and opportunities for the product including:

  • Clarifying what constitutes a high value item with prompts to add cover.
  • Prompting users to upgrade their plan if they’re not covered for an activity (without having to go back to a previous step).
  • Including information on coverage of pre-existing conditions.
  • Adding payment options like PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
  • Adding emergency contact details.
  • Including options to email the quote to multiple email addresses AND SMS/WhatsApp integration.
  • Tailoring content on the receipt page to destination information e.g. language guide and other relevant information.


Since handing off the project, World Nomads has made changes to the desktop version of the site based on our design recommendations. The plan comparison page now includes a side-by-side, coloured-coded table. Plus, the progress bar has been changed to include text with numbers. We can only assume that changes to the mobile version will be rolled out following appropriate A/B or multivariate testing.

The new plan comparison feature on the live site with colour-coded columns.


Thank you to Jon Whitby from World Nomads and Robert Williams from Academy Xi for giving us the opportunity to work on this project. I was also fortunate to work with an amazing team of people. Thanks to Leah Bayndrian, Yolande Boulac and Akshati Shah for making this an extremely harmonious and rewarding experience.

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