About the project
Harvest Inn is an Australian platform connecting small local businesses with travelers. The service lets travelers book a free stay for their self-contained RV or motorhome away from crowded tourist areas and explore new places. Hosts benefit from using the platform by broadening their customer base and building their business awareness.
The platform is monetized by charging travelers an annual fee through Stripe integration.
The client is an Australian startup in search of quality full-cycle development services.
MVP, Ruby on rails, UX design, Web design, Website
Ruby on Rails, React JS, Next JS, PostgreSQL, Redis, ElasticSearch, Heroku, Amazon S3, Stripe, Google Analytics, Google maps API, Sendgrid, Mailchimp, Cloudflare, Sentry, PaperTrail
Web Development, Full-Cycle Development, Web Design, Ruby on Rails Development
1 markup Specialist
1 product designer
1 project manager
Harvest Inn is a pioneer in the Australian travel solutions software industry. Although retirement travel across the continent is very popular, there was no single place to plan one’s stays along the way. That means we had no references to base our development on and no information about the market demand for our project.
To minimize the early follower survival risks, we put substantial effort into research and planning. Syndicode analysts identified the tools the project’s target audience used to plan their trips, the way they used those tools, and outlined the potential struggles.
We looked both in the Australian market and globally and analyzed the specifics of the foreign analogs’ target audience and how it is reflected in the apps’ functionality and feature set. Finally, we came up with several variants and approved one of them in a meeting with the client.
Peculiar audience needs
Harvest Inn’s audience consists of two groups: hosts and visitors. The majority of visitors are of the retirement age, while the median age of hosts is about 55. We found that 93% of Australians aged 65 and over have vision disorders during our research.
This fact has challenged Syndicode designers to come up with a unique UX/UI concept that would be simple and appealing to both user groups.
We studied and applied the most successful practices for a senior-friendly interface. Thus, we analyzed digital solutions popular in Australia and referred to them to create a familiar look. At the same time, the Harvest Inn website is authentic and recognizable among others.
The website uses an increased font size for improved readability. There is plenty of white space and large hyperlink text and buttons that are easy to click. We equipped the website with many tooltip texts and paid special attention to the wording to make messages as clear as possible. Our developers also built the website code with the screen reader accessibility in mind.
Time and budget restrictions
Since the client is a startup, we were quite limited in time and budget. Our project manager had to develop a way to implement a broad spectrum of features using a minimum of resources.
We did extensive research to align the client’s vision with the market demand. To fit into the defined budget, we analyzed and prioritized the list of appropriate features for the project. After discussion with the client, it was agreed to release an MVP and upgrade this basic version with the “good-to-have” feature set later.
Moreover, the Syndicode project manager built a balanced development team that included specialists whose skills matched each other perfectly. This way, we kept the team size and associated expenses at a minimum.
According to Australian law, all campervan/RV/motorhome owners should have insurance if they want to travel. There is a necessity to check their insurance somehow.
During registration, Harvest Inn members specify their insurance effective and expiration date. The Harvest Inn website automatically monitors if the insurance is still valid and starts sending reminders for renewal two weeks before the insurance is due. If a visitor’s insurance has expired, the platform blocks their attempts to book a stay.
We helped the client formulate their expectations from the project outcome during the discovery phase. Our analysts collected and documented the client’s vision, goals, and requirements. Then we analyzed the potential audience, singled out the target group, and created personas for two user types: a visitor and a host.
Extensive market analysis revealed no direct competition for Harvest Inn. However, we found that platforms providing limited service to campervan travelers in Australia and beyond were quite popular among our target customers. This fact indicated that there was some market need for an RV stay booking solution.
Next, we formulated the most common pains of our target audience and brainstormed possible solution variants. We looked for the simplest solution to bring the user to their goal with the minimum number of steps. It also should require no complex technology to be implemented.
Apart from the vague market need, the potential project limitations entailed the target group’s tech-savviness and internet connection. Having interviewed stakeholders and a focus group, we found that the customers’ digital skills were average. They used the internet on a daily basis to read news, order groceries, perform bank transactions, etc.
The Residential broadband Internet access research assured us of good 4G coverage across the major part of Australia. Thus, there was no need for offline mode functionality.
After discussion with the client, we identified the project requirements and turned them into user stories. Together with engineers, Syndicode analysts evaluated each user story, sized them to each fit a development sprint, and estimated the time and cost needed to complete the project.
Upon the client’s approval, we prioritized the list of features that we made based on user stories and proceeded with the development process.
Our designers created a completely new UI/UX design from scratch. To create a sense of familiarity, we referred to Australia’s top popular online sources in Australia and saw what style Harvest Inn’s target audience was used to.
Since the project’s schedule was rather demanding, we applied the principles of Atomic Design. It allowed us to simplify workflows and speed up the design process by cutting the number of visual elements. At the same time, we still ensured a consistent experience across pages.
To make the website accessible, Syndicode designers used larger-than-average text and were very attentive to the visual hierarchy. Among everything, we emphasized the logical order of on-page elements to make the content easy to access using a keyboard only.
Harvest Inn looks uncomplicated and uses a lot of white space and a contrasting minimalist color scheme. It is clear of any distracting elements, making it easy to notice the important information. In preparing text content, we aimed for clarity by using a lot of alt text, giving links descriptive names, and carefully labeling all the form fields.
We chose the technology stack to ensure short time to market, security, and excellent performance. The Ruby on Rails framework allowed for fast development thanks to gems and was thus perfect for the back end.
On the front end, we chose React due to its extensive ecosystem of libraries and plugins and excellent support. It also has fewer attack points than other frameworks making it very secure. In addition, React supports building accessible websites.
We also used logbooks to track a payment interaction’s success for the payment functionality. This way, we only synchronized our backend data with the server after receiving a confirmation that the operation really came through.
Thorough testing is an integral part of the development process at Syndicode. For Harvest Inn, we applied the Continuous Integration testing practice and managed to achieve rapid delivery and adherence to the high-quality standards immediately.
The client wanted to deploy the platform independently. So, we Dockerized the structure to simplify the process. As soon as the client is ready to deploy, all they have to do is upload the files to the cloud without having to install anything on their local PC.
For enhanced ease of maintenance, we adhered to SOLID principles. Paired with the functional programming paradigm, they allowed us to improve code accessibility and enable quick changing of the code part without affecting the rest.
Our code conforms to the Ruby style guide for code clarity. Also, we used the Command pattern to ensure high code consistency, which is beneficial for both maintenance and performance.
How it works
On the Harvest Inn website, one can browse for stays through the highlighted offers or search in a certain area, by a business name or address. Provided there is a match in the platform’s database, the user gets a card with information about the property. Otherwise, they see a list of stays located next to the searched place. There is also a map where users can check out the searched venue and/or nearby offers.
Applying filters, users can narrow their options down to a certain business type (winery, brewery, farm, etc.), maximum allowed vehicle length, pet-friendly offers, and more. They can also save offers to review them later.
The Harvest Inn website consists of the visitor’s panel and the host’s panel. There also is an admin portal with a separate login page.
Currently, it is only possible for a business to get listed on the website by contacting the administrator. They check if a candidate’s premises correspond to all the legal requirements to host campervan/RV travelers, write down the details, and grant login credentials.
The host’s panel allows users to review current and upcoming stays and approve or reject the requests using a dashboard. They can also manage their property photos and amenities, change the property description, add links to their social media pages, update their contact details and insurance information, and email an issue to the platform’s support center.
Visitors can use the platform without registration. However, they are limited in the number of features they can use in this case. For instance, they cannot review hosts’ contact information and therefore get in touch with them. Unregistered users don’t have access to the precise location of a business on the map either.
Harvest Inn members pay a yearly subscription fee to the platform and can review the hosts’ social media and book stays for selected dates. They can use the website’s map to quickly get to the destination and also have a support menu where they can email about an issue.
Syndicode has been consistently hitting the goals of the client in a timely manner. They’re also able to maintain high performance despite several moving components in the engagement. Above all, the client likes that they’re able to request modifications as needed, leading to an ongoing partnership.
Check the result on Clutch
We know how to empower your business!
The Syndicode team helped the client to formulate their idea, then we validated and implemented it. Despite being an MVP, the Harvest Inn website has all the necessary features to run a business. The platform is secure, easy to maintain, and able to scale.
As soon as the client reaches the planned profit level, they plan to move on to full product development. Whether they keep working with us or switch to another company, the transition will be smooth thanks to the high quality of the MVP made by Syndicode.