freeworld aimed to help travelers make the most of their points and frequent flier miles by offering travel tools, loyalty program and credit card reviews, and discussion amongst rookies and experienced travel hackers.
A majority of individuals that have ever flown commercially has a balance of loyalty points from one program or another, but only 15% of travelers ever actually redeem them. Airlines prefer it this way, as the customer is essentially leaving money on the table. For this reason, they are everything but transparent regarding how, where, and when reward points can be redeemed.
Simple award charts are available from some airlines, but these are often hard to understand and rarely cut-and-dry considering things like peak travel times, blackout dates, and so on.
While we knew there was a need in a very niche market of travel hackers, we also wanted to verify that this is something that would benefit a larger market. We created the video above and a simple landing page to help further gain interest and build a list of supporters. After being live for aapproximately 3 days, the landing page had gathered over 500 potential users.
We then began building search engine that helps users find fights based on loyalty point cost rather than currency. Search results also highlight credit cards with signup bonuses that would earn the traveler enough points to essentially take the flight for free.
The baseline data used to build the search engine was scraped from the reward charts mentioned above, but we knew from the get-go that we would need more accurate data for the tool to be truly useful. To enhance data quality, we developed a process where experienced travel hackers could submit trips they've taken using loyalty points.
We built a gamification element to reward these content creators with badges for various achievements, and also offered them a trip summary that could be embedded into their travel blogs.
The goal of our second iteration was to increase the number of daily active users. For starters, we wanted to make the information submitted by frequent travelers more accessbile, so we created a 'Learn' experience that allowed user to browse details about loyalty programs and reward cards.
We then expanded the review functionality we built for trip submission to allow user to rate and review these services without actually logging a trip. We also added a Reddit-style discussion forum that enabled users to discuss the various facets of travel hacking in a structured way.