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