ROLE: member of three-person UX research & design team
PARTNERS: Nikita Piyush & Meryl Danciger
DURATION: 2 weeks
GOAL: enabling Rand McNally to enter the geocaching space by determining the appropriate platform, approach, and methods of employing the company’s existing print and digital assets
TOOLS: Sketch3, InVision, Google Forms
METHODS: competitive & comparative analysis; user surveys & interviews; contextual inquiry; persona & scenario development; information architecture; rapid prototyping & iterating; usability testing
DELIVERABLES: low-fidelity wireframes and clickable prototype
Creating a Superior Geocaching Experience
In this collaborative student project, we were tasked with determining how Rand McNally might enter the geocaching space. Ultimately, the question we faced was not just how to design a high-quality GPS-enabled scavenger hunt, but how best to use Rand McNally’s existing assets to excel above all competing geocaching products.
Amplify Educational Value Through Use of Archival Maps
Our team observed that existing geocaching systems offer the user extremely limited map options — often just a street view and a topographic view for people to use while searching for their targets. This is where Rand McNally could offer geocachers something unique, as the WorldCache app would dramatically broaden the types of maps available to the user. We sought to take full advantage of Rand McNally’s wealth of archival maps, print atlases, street maps, as well as its existing digital assets, to offer the user options unavailable from any competitor. Using WorldCache, geocachers could create new types of activities, built around history, culture, or nature, using the company’s thematic and archival maps while navigating toward their goals.
Research & Conceptualization
Our team conducted a pair of online surveys, targeting both current geocachers and those inclined to try the activity for the first time. We found that even among those who had never tried geocaching, interest was high. It became clear that sharing one’s geocaching activity on social media might entice the uninitiated to accompany their geocaching friends or family members on their next outing.
Another common refrain among survey respondents was the desire for better maps to use while geocaching. Here, we recognized that by emphasizing Rand McNally’s existing brand identity, we could satisfy the user’s demand and entice current geocachers to move from the competitors’ apps to the superior product offered by Rand McNally.
We then conducted several interviews with both current and potential geocachers. The interview responses made clear that the final, designed app would need to feature a range of activity types in a number of environments. Yet the biggest insight gained was that although the user should have a delightful experience using the app, the value of the app really depends on how rewarding the user’s experience is in the real world.
We found that although one often seeks a physical object when geocaching, the reward of the activity is rarely in that object one finds. Rather, the value for most geocachers is in the experience of exploring, problem-solving, and discovering something new about the world.
As we were all unfamiliar with geocaching before beginning this project, it was essential to observe geocachers in action. The contextual inquiry we conducted revealed a crucial and unmistakeable insight: that geocaching offers an immediate appeal even for those who are unfamiliar with the practice. A first-time participant took immediately to the activity with exuberance, reinforcing our assumption that a countless number of potential new geocachers need only to be invited or made aware of the activity to get started geocaching.
As a result, the WorldCache app minimizes barriers to entry for those who might be inclined to try geocaching, allowing one to try geocaching before setting up an account, much less purchasing the premium version on the app.
After determining the app’s necessary features and establishing the information architecture, we could begin designing individual screens. Yet before advancing from paper sketches to digitally rendered low-fidelity wireframes, we conducted around of design criticism with several fellow UX designers.
We again received positive feedback on the proposal to incorporate archival and thematic maps in the app. But this round of criticism also prompted a reassessment of how a user might create a new geocaching activity using Rand McNally’s archival maps. Providing unlimited access to the client’s archives would not only place an unreasonable burden on Rand McNally, it wouldn’t be feasible within the app. We refined our proposal so that RandMcNally might offer access to several hundred or a few thousand of their archival maps instead, with the possibility of expanding this access dependent upon the success of the app.
Selected Interface Designs
Moving forward, we plan to conduct additional rounds of usability testing and refining our existing wireframes based on this feedback. Higher-fidelity wireframes and prototypes will be essential to determining whether the interface design is as clear and intuitive as intended. Those screens and sections of the app that had been conceptualized but not prototyped will need to designed and included in later rounds of usability testing.
The app as currently designed clearly addresses the client demands and makes use of their unique status in the market, but several questions need to be resolved before the app can be fully developed and launched.