Brief: Design a simple mobile app addressing a pain point in a specific individual's life. Create an interactive prototype of your solution.
Timeline: 3 Days
Team: Individual Project
Organization: General Assembly User Experience Design Immersive
Process: User Interviews, Mind Mapping, Storyboarding, User Flows, Rapid Prototyping, Usability Testing
I kicked off the project by conducting a user interview with my partner, JP. Midway through the interview, it became apparent that the major pain points in JP’s life centered around one issue: way-finding. Having just moved to Austin from NYC, JP is having issues adjusting to a city with a less-robust transportation system.
He is living with his Aunt and Uncle for the summer in a suburban area with few bus stops. He only knows one bus route, and feels limited to the areas along this route. He receives frequent rides from his Aunt and Uncle, but prefers to walk whenever possible to maintain his sense of independence. He prefers to walk as a primary method of transportation because it supports spontaneity and the discovery of new places. However, as a pedestrian, JP frequently encounters obstacles his GPS cannot anticipate, such as steep hills, lack of sidewalks, and broken crosswalk buttons.
Defining the Problem
After my interview with JP, I synthesized his feedback and identified the three biggest pain points of his way finding experience:
- Lack of knowledge of routes
- Loss of independence
- Inability to anticipate obstacles
J.P. needed a navigation tool that would allow him to be spontaneous, explore his surroundings, and avoid obstacles in his path.
Once I had identified the problem, I began mind mapping to explore potential considerations and solutions. My first represents a swiss army knife solution that would incorporate a myriad of transportation options and criteria to improve JP’s way-finding experience.
This was a good exercise to way to generate ideas and explore potential features, but required some refinement to address JP's core problem: way-finding as a pedestrian.
Mind mapping allowed me to identify a core set of features for the app that would address JP’s main pain points, while providing an innovative solution in the mobile navigation space. Though current GPS solutions such as Google maps include walking directions, they don’t often report on conditions that are pertinent to pedestrians, such as closed sidewalks, steep hills, or shortcuts through areas inaccessible by vehicles. With these considerations in mind, I defined the project's scope:
- Navigation for pedestrians
- Suggested routes based on common motivations for walking vs. other methods of transport
- Getting somewhere fast(er than public transit), relaxation, exercise, and exploration.
- Crowdsourced information to improve routes
- Roadblocks, shortcuts (through areas ignored by current GPS solutions, like parking lots and air conditioned buildings), scenery, shade, and sidewalks
- Alerts re: shortcuts and obstructions
- Reports crowdsourced information to the user to help them avoid obstacles
I created a storyboard to help myself focus on JP’s environment and motivations, ensuring the solution would meet his specific needs. Communicating my solution through storytelling helped me empathize with him, and kept me on track when I caught myself making assumptions or introducing extraneous features.
I also created a user flow representing a potential use case JP would have. This helped me validate the feature set I outlined when defining scope, and take an initial pass at sketching out the interface.
I created sketches for key screens of the interface, corresponding with the tasks outlined in the user flow.
My initial sketches outlined a simple flow in which the user would type in the address of their destination, and select a route. Routes would be presented to the user based on three criteria: time, sun exposure, and scenery. When navigating their route, user’s could report an issue or obstacle along their route, improving the experience for fellow app users. When walking along their chosen route, users would be alerted to items other walkers have reported, such as a shortcut or a closed sidewalk.
Prototyping and Usability Testing
I created a clickable prototype of my sketches using Pop App, and ran a usability study with JP. Though our session was brief, it revealed some key issues with the design.
- Further exemplifying his desire for exploration, JP didn’t want to start his trip by typing in an address
- He attempted to browse the map and select a location, but I had not considered that functionality
- JP wanted more route result categories that the three that were presented to him during testing, including high impact for exercise.
- He didn’t immediately notice the button for reporting issues, and felt that issues reported by others should be overlaid on the map.
I took JP’s feedback to heart, and made a second set of sketches addressing the issues he revealed during our usability testing session. I then cut my sketches into paper prototypes. This sped up the prototyping process by allowing me to reuse interface elements.
After finalizing my second set of sketches, I created another prototype and performed a final round of usability testing with JP. View Prototype →
Feedback and Next Steps
JP was delighted by the design. He was especially appreciative of how easily it supported exploration, and how the routes were tailored to his various motivations for walking as a primary method of transportation. Many of our classmates expressed interest in using a real-world version of the app.
If I had additional time to iterate on this solution, I would explore the crowdsourcing aspects of the application a bit further. There are interesting socio-political implications to reporting safety alerts, as what is safe or dangerous to individuals can be subjective. I would also continue to improve and refine the route-creation functionality, exploring other themed routes users may be interested in taking.