SENDA: Exploring a new way for hikers to connect with nature

Time: april 2019 - August 2019

Case Study Focus: User Research, Usability Testing, User Flows, Wireframing, High Resolution Prototyping.

Tool: Sketch, Invision


Springboard Bootcamp Project. This year, I made a long hike, I got a little bit thoughtful about life and the idea of our relationship with nature. Specially when your life is completely focused on tech.


I absolutely love going on hikes but I have no clue about whatever is surrounding me. I love seeing amazing landscapes but I could not name three types of trees. I absolutely love nature but the only thing I know about it is what I remember from middle school...


The problem


So I guess you already kind of know where I’m going, and before you think that I’m ‘just a tree hugger’, I have and had to ask myself how can I say I love something that I don’t really know? Isn’t that like a red flag? Toxic relationship?


Problem? What?


Before getting absolutely crazy and start building new technologies, as if someone was paying me, I did some homework and asked myself a couple of questions:


  • Is this just my problem or there are other people experiencing the same? 

  • Did someone notice this problem before me?

  • Am I able to set aside my points of view and understand the needs of the hikers?

  • How do I translate my ideas into a product?


For answering these questions and to gain a deeper understanding of the problem I used the following research methods (This is a summary of the topics you will find in this case study):


  1. Secondary research,to get a better understanding of my posible users and the problem space where my problem exists

  2. Competitive research, to find out what other products are out there that aretrying to solve this same problem.

  3. Primary research, including screening and interviews. In order to set my own point of view aside and get to know the real user. 

  4. Synthesize my research,giving sense to all the data I collected while conducting research so I can move on to the

  5. ideation stage of the design process.


My problem exists.


It was challenging to find previous research studies about my specific problem BUT that didn’t mean there was nothing out there that could be useful. I reviewed previous research findings to gain a broad understanding of the hiker, being more specific, I tried by reviewing hiking blogs, social media comments, hiking podcasts…etc., to know Who are the hikers (user),why do they hike (goals) and how do they hike (environment). 

Who are the hikers, their goals and environment

More than anything what I did was reading a bunch of personal feelings (hiker feelings), some not so personal, and create a venn diagram that describes the hiker: their goals and the environment where the action occurs.

This information led me to the following statement: No matter what type of hiker you are, the need of being outside the modern world and connect with nature was a transversal feeling. 


Screenshot from a Buzzfeed article with the most amazing hikes in USA

So, my problem exists, hikers are fast to say they’re ‘nature lovers’ but it was difficult to find something that associate them with knowing or even have interest in knowing about nature.


Is there someone doing something?


Looking for current products in the hiking community enverionment was super helpful in order to understand where should Senda stand. For finding the right products I joined some hiking communities on Facebook, Slack and Meetup and I also did a little research in Apple store to see the recommendations they had. I chose six different apps and organized them but what I thought was their goal and what was the source of the information in the app.

- Trail centered vs. Tracking centered - Official info vs. User info

After this analysis, I did an Heuristic competitors analysis of my top 3 favorite hiking apps, if you want to see more about that you can click here. I will be mentioning some interesting points of this analysis on my ideation/visual design process. 


Setting my point of view aside: defining my user


This was — aside from the visual design part  — one of my favorite parts of the whole project.


My plan:


Step 1. Create a screener survey to find participants for my research

I used snowball strategy for recruiting people so it was mandatory to have this question

My ideal hiker main objective should be associated to nature

The screener also gave me some pretty interesting metrics about the hiker problems and habits when hiking. 


Focus on: How do they feel about using apps while hiking? (Nature - tecnology relationship)

Focus on: What information about hikes they are interested in knowing? (Nature - knowedelge)

Step 2. Interview the hikers


The interviewing process was great, I collected crazy amounts of data from only 5 participants. The interview focused in three main topics:

1. User research and sharing habits  2. User relationship with nature 3. User common problems


The following statement could refined one of the most important things from the users’ mind:

Users don’t realize how much they care about the nature that surrounds them while hiking.

So, the hikers do love being around nature but they don’t know nature, and most important they seemed uninterested on it



After putting all the information obtained together I created two unique user personas to summarize user goals, needs and frustrations regarding hiking vs. nature. 



Step 3. Articulate my problem


A key problem emerged from user research the lack of desire to learn. Hikers don’t research for information related tonature knowledge (fauna, flora) because is not necessary for hiking. But a common trend among the interviewees when they were asked about ‘a hike they remember among the others’ was always a hike where there was some animal or flowers/trees that they saw while hiking, so that dichotomy between the ‘I don’t need to know that’ and ‘I remember that’ opens a probability that this disinterest in knowing is not that the hiker doesn’t want to know but he/she DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO LEARN.


The identification of this key problem brought me to ask this question:

How can I create a space where users feel motivated to learn about nature?


My hypothesis


I begun with the assumption of having a space where we can make different natural associations, like when we were kids and we learn by observation, and connecting that observational space to an informational space, like we learn as adults by research

User would feel motivated to learn about nature if there is a platform that let them observe (whatever they are interested on) and research (accurate information about whatever they were interested on)


How might I create this platform?


In order to articulate my problem statement I used the “How might we…” questions. This technique makes easier to brainstorm solutions over the problem without losing focus.

HMW questions with possible solutions

I created a couple of user stories in order to define some pages and features. Also give the priority to focus on the main areas first. 


The user stories would allow me to create a more visual representation of possible routes that my user might take through the platform in order to achieve his/her goals.


This was an early start and it changed during the process, specially the screen names. You can see the rest of the user flows here

Then, I started sketching some really Low — Fi red routes for a mobile app.

Low - Fi (Get info+Share info) more sketches here

In order to get some feedback on my iteration proccess I used guerilla usability testing. I tested with 5 people, 3 of them was remote testing and 2 of them personal test. 


The test consisted on three easy tasks: 1. You’re planning to go on a hike and you want to learn more about it before you go.  2. You’re ready for your hike and you want to record it.  3. You finish your hike and you want to share information about it with other hikers. 


Pain point #1


People need all the time a something that communicate the success on their actions. 

Design solution: Adding a set of success screens for the tasks.

Pain point #2


The user understood the app is made for hikers, but they didn’t seem to understand or care about the fauna and flora area.

Design solution: Having different custom flora — fauna icons being part of the main app navigation.

Pain point #3


Can I skip this part?’ Most of the users were really lazy while trying to add their sighting or information about a hike. 

Design solution: Giving the user expertise rewards each time they share valid information.


For having a better visual understanding of the user possibilities I made a wireflow.



Visual Design



At this point, everything started coming together and it was really exciting to design and see the app becoming more and more real. In order to establish a nature feeling I created a really simple mood-board with some minimal ui design and high contrast color schemes. 


Style Guide


I wanted to keep a simple Color scheme with some base solid colors highlighted by green and blue. I used some gradients for the buttons to gain more depth trying to have natural feeling, almost like a lake or sky or even the grass. For the typography I chose a Serif Roboto Slab combined with a classic avenir. The icons style was mainly created with the idea of keeping consistency with other hiking — sharing apps, so the user would be more familiar from the beginning with the app. The icons that were different from the usual are accompanied with description title. 


Usability test: pain points and solutions


A little poem: If you think you nailed it, wait until testing it.


Pain point #1:

The user does not understand the objective of the app
  • Users were kind of confused with some of the features (add flora, add fauna…etc.) and vocally said they ‘didn’t expect that to happen’.

  • Users were really surprised about some of the features (add flora, add fauna…etc.) and hoped the knew the features from the beginning.

  • Some of the users said that knowing the app features (add flora, add fauna…etc.) they would download the app for sure.


Solution

Having On — boarding screens before getting to the home page.