Lenda is a service experience that connects hotel guests to unique local recommendations from hotel staff members. It's a both a service and a product with two user groups.


TEAM | Mike Henderson, Miki Nombumori, Sara Stalla, Trisha Suri

ROLE | Research Lead, Project Lead

TOOLS | Sketch, InDesign, AfterEffects, Photoshop

METHODS | Iterative design, design probes, usability testing, participatory design, visioning, experience prototyping


The staff side of the system




Commissioned by a Portuguese hospitality group, Lenda is a service that allows hotel employees to create local recommendations, and then makes those recommendations available for hotel guests. Staff members create individual profiles that feature their interests and favorite activities, positioning them as experts on the things the love most. Staff members can then add recommendations for their favorite places and activities through a builder, complete with photos, logistical information, and tags to make items discoverable. 

On the guest side, Lenda provides guests with multiple ways of finding activities including:

  • through the staff member profile section, where they can find locals who have interests similar to their own
  • on the map view, where they can see recommendations that are locatd ner one another
  • through curated categories like "2 hours or less", "good for kids", or "active and outdoor"
  • through each staff member's "perfect day", a curated itinerary of activities that pair well together

In the end, Lenda is a way to connect a hotel's guests with its employees, providing an enriched experience for the guest while helping hotel employees share their passions and engage with guests in an authentic and fulfilling way.

In creating Lenda, we were particularly concerned with the homogenizing effects of tourism; we didn't want to steer travelers to the same small set of attractions, nor did we want to promote the stereotypical aspects of a place. By connecting guests to the kinds of experiences that locals truly love, Lenda  helps promote culturally sustainable travel, celebrating what is unique and contemporary about a place. And by providing a wealth of off-the-beaten-path options that are unique to each hotel, Lenda avoids the usual effect of travel recommendations, which is to send large number of people to the same micro-destination. Unique and scalable, Lenda supports the needs of hotel staff, hotel guests, and the local community. 


Lenda product video


How the system works


Lenda begins with hotel employees who act as local experts. When they create a profile, they add a basic set of recommendations--their favorite places in the city, their favorite places in the countryside, food and restaurants they love, and their perfect day. 

These profiles and recommendations live in the Lenda system, which guests can access either when they book or during their stay. Guests can then talk to the hotel employees who created the recommendations to learn more or follow up on a common interest.

Finally, guests go out and explore the place they're visiting. With Lenda's recommendations, they have access to the kinds of logistical hints and support that would otherwise require hours of research.


Visualization by Mike Henderson


A system with two users

Lenda is a service with two users: hotel guests and hotel staff. For Lenda to succeed, it will need to serve both of those users, meeting their needs with simple, intuitive, and pleasurable interactions.

Value proposition
• Unique local recommendations
• Opportunity for follow-up and personal connection
• Logistical support from staff

Experience needs
• Quick orientation in the interface
• Ability to support multiple travel styles
• Easy high-level browsing with the ability to go deep into
details and logistics

hotel guests pic.png

Value proposition
• Helps staff connect with guests over shared interests
• Reduces time needed to go over options with guests
• Elevates staff as local experts

Experience needs
• Fit easily into existing workflows
• Make it easy and fun to contribute
• Provide a sense of control and ownership


designing the guest side of lenda



We began by performing a dozen think-alouds with rough prototypes that we used as design probes. Rather than getting at the final look or feel o the product, these prototypes were meant to provoke feedback and reflection on the part of our participants, who were American and European travelers with contemporary travel sensibilities. We were particularly interested in the relationship between recommendations and perceived authenticity, and how traveler assesdse if a recommendation was right for them.

What we found:

Recommendations from local staff members are highly appealing. “Oh, I bet she would know some really good places to eat. I never trust TripAdvisor for food recommendations.”

Travelers assess recommendations by looking at contextual information.  “When I look online, I make sure to read blog posts and look at pictures of the people doing it. That way I can figure out out if we’re likeminded.”

Giving users greater control over their experience may build trust. “I think I would rather set my own preferences so that I see the stuff I really want to see, not what the system wants me to see.”





We then created our first attempt at what the final product my look like. This clickable prototype had limited functionality, but we knew we wanted to get it in front of real hotel guests and get feedback before our next iteration. Using content gathered from our staff experience prototype (below), we conducted recommendation "office hours" in the hotel restaurant over the course of one week. 

What we learned from hotel guests:

All three forms of content—profiles, maps, and categories—were useful. Different modes of interaction were useful at different points in the guest’s planning process.

Users derived a lot of value from the prototype. “You just inspired my day! Thanks a lot!”

Some users were skeptical of hotel recommendations, but were won over by the voices of the staff members. “You can see that it’s honest and that it’s a personal opinion, not the hotel’s opinion.”



designing the staff side of lenda




After landing on an initial concept our first concern was whether Lenda could be a system that staff members genuinely wanted to participate in. We began exploring this question by talking directly to staff members. In these interviews, we asked them about their current practices in sharing recommendations with guests, their workload, as well as more speculative questions on what they thought of our proposed system. We were particularly concerned about staff workload and privacy; we didn't want the system to be an additional burden or feel invasive for its users. 

We found that for many staff members, sharing recommendations with guests was something they found particularly rewarding about their jobs. Based on these initial interviews, we felt Lenda was a promising concept and decided to involved staff members in further design via a co-design session.   

Notes from fly-on-the-wall observations at competitor hotels. 




While we were encouraged by our interview findings, we still had concerns about staff privacy. How could we make adding content to Lenda a fun perk of the job, and not something invasive or draining? We invited three staff members from three different departments--reception, dining, and housekeeping--to work with us around the themes of what they enjoy sharing with guests and what guests enjoy learning from them. 

One of our key findings was that guest-facing staff members enjoyed collaborating, both with guests and other staff members. To support this desire, we built collaboration features into Lenda's staff-facing design, including the ability to comment and add to other staff member's recommendations. 

codesign pic.png



Our final design research activity was to create an experience prototype of the staff experience in joining the Lenda system. Because the initial onboarding for Lenda would take place over a new staff member's first week on the job, we designed a paper prototype that followed the same steps, prompting staff members to create a profile and their starting set of recommendation. Over a period of five days, each day staff members were given an envelope with a 15-minute activity, which we then used to create the guest-facing prototype. At the end of the experience prototype, we conducted debrief interviews with staff members to learn how to improve the digital prototype for the staff side of the experience. 

experience prototype pic.png

FInal design

Staff interactions

1. Staff members begin by creating a profile

2. And then add recommendations


Guest interactions

1. Guests’ introduction to Lenda

3. Or can explore what each host recommends

5. And guest can create customized itineraries to use later

2. Guest can browse by category

4. Everything is viewable on a map