Why we built Peanut, a free Chrome app to make travel safer
A new and free Google Chrome extension aimed at simplifying travel decisions. How 3 ambitious friends made lemonade from over a year of crazy lemons.
Because we all love traveling without worry.
How it started, how it’s going
Full disclosure, I’m writing this as the lead designer for Peanut.
COVID-19 was still rampant, and in a volatile state – as were most of the people suffering from it. Escaping the mundane repetition of life was seemingly out of reach, and yet all most of us could think about was getting to the Amalfi Coast for an undisclosed amount of time. But how?
Fast forward to some random Saturday. It was a sunny afternoon in various parts of the west coast. Brady and I were talking on the phone about why traveling was so convoluted, especially increasingly over the months to come. We both wanted to get out of dodge but had so many questions.
Is the destination even open to US citizens? Do I need a PCR test? What about flight operations? Either way, this info was either hard to find or hard to trust across sources and time-consuming at best.
2021 was full of fear & uncertainty, especially for travel
‘Why can’t we make this better?’ It can’t be that hard. I know the info is out there, it’s just a pain to find and then utlimately trust — Why not a Chrome app?
Couldn’t we just aggregate from various APIs and collate the data into a single source? How? It would have to reach across OTA’s in some seamless way, probably during a typical booking experience.
Useful data was inaccurate & hard to find
The realization struck: we could make this happen. However, questions arose about the cost and the visual and functional aspects of the project. The idea was to seamlessly overlay this solution onto the most popular booking sites, including Expedia, Booking, and Google Flights.
We then enlisted Roy, our engineering lead, and started working on this project during our spare time. A group of former Facebook and Google alumni came together to create something unique. Our guiding principles were to make it free, trustworthy, and timely.
A Chrome app has entered the chat
Our approach was to strategically layer on top of different sites to extract data in a contextual and hyper-relevant manner. This focus was honed in on addressing top user problems, including flight delays, COVID-19 information, travel restrictions, visas, and more.
Leveraging a small but mighty team
To clarify, a dedicated group of individuals from various parts of the world, played a crucial role in bringing this project to life. While acknowledging the valuable contributions of everyone involved, special attention is given to the core founders who laid the foundation for this initiative:
Brady: x-Facebook, initial founder, and seasoned entrepreneur.
Alex: x-Google, founding brand, and product designer.
Roy: x-Facebook, founding tech lead, and enthusiastic traveler.
Chris: x-Facebook, founding data lead.
Drawing inspiration from familiar frameworks and successful browser extensions like Honey, our focus was on providing travelers with essential information before booking trips. We aimed to instill confidence by offering relevant data on factors like weather, COVID-19 restrictions, and flight delays upfront.
Exploring a brand that resonated with the travel theme, we settled on the name “Peanut” for its cute, sticky, and memorable qualities. Engaging in distributed collaboration, our team spanned the West Coast, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. To boost awareness and engagement, we strategically used Instagram and Facebook, curating promotional content and a compelling brand story sourced from Unsplash to align with the inspirational travel theme.
Brand & Product
Foundation. With Honey in mind, we then took to the drawing boards. We took further UX inspiration from our top OTA — Google Flights. Using a vetted Material design framework, we were able to design and develop more efficiently.
Identity: The name, inspired by peanuts, influenced the color system, focusing on yellows, oranges, and blacks for high contrast. Implemented through a Figma library, it ensures ADA compliance and cross-browser support for interaction models, states, and typography.
Accessibility: Leveraging compliance standards and Twitter’s Twemoji system, we adopted a diverse set of flat icons in SVG format. This choice enhances lightweight and delightful usage, promoting a wide range of expressive visuals.
Performance: Designing for a Chrome extension presented challenges within desktop constraints and OTA performance. Despite complexities, it allowed us to maintain a consistent and efficient experience across various cases.
Strategy & Marketing
Leveraging multiple platforms, including Webflow, Product Hunt, Instagram, and Facebook, we enhanced our online presence through ads, engaging stories, and high-quality posts shared across pertinent communities and followers. Our product site served as a central hub, complemented by active engagement on Product Hunt, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Sourcing the web for meaningful insights
Our research revealed a common need among travelers, regardless of their profile (domestic vs. international, frequent vs. infrequent). Travelers sought essential information to support their decision-making process. This included:
- Risk & Vaccination rates
- Travel restrictions & Insurance
- Flight predictions
- Visa status
- Hotel History
- Weather Trends
We identified and utilized sources like Covid Actnow, Amadeus, Trips Guard, and Visa List, each offering varying degrees of accuracy and accessibility.
How does it work?
1. Download the free Chrome extension from the Chrome store
2. Search your favorite booking sites
3. See insights for thousands of destinations
Wanna learn more? Take a look at the video below & show us some love on Product Hunt! 👇
Our journey continues after several months of development, with recent Forbes recognition boosting our visibility. Grateful for early adopters and contributors, we recognize there’s more to achieve. As summer approaches, travel safely with Peanut. Visit our website or Chrome store for the extension to enhance your travel experience.