Improving the routing process
of local residential art walks.
Whimsy Walks is a volunteer group that maintains public art sites scattered around residential neighborhoods in Seattle. This study gauged the convenience and enjoyableness of the WW experience, and how it
could be improved with a mobile interactive map.
We Were Asked To...
Research the experience of planning a Whimsy Walks art walk, and suggest improvements that would encourage users to explore their local area, exercise by walking, and connect with artists displaying sculpture and mural work in their neighborhood.
Reduce the cumbersomeness of route-planning with...
An interactive map of all art sites, which makes routes easier to understand visually.
Pre-curated walking routes of varying difficulties.
Promote engaging with the artwork with...
An easy-to-reach artist bio page.
An option for the app to read out description text "museum audio tour style".
Allowing users to leave "Kudos" on an art site, to show appreciation to the artist, and allow WW to collect data on which sites are popular. The number of Kudos is never publicly displayed, to avoid quantifying the quality of the art.
The Whimsy Walks curator understands how to move forward with the project in the short-term in order to accommodate users, and what certain feature additions might look like in the long-term.
Sept - Dec 2022
Whimsy Walks Head Curator
I led the discussion on how best to organize our usability studies and user research within the limited timeframe. I also performed a portion of the research itself, as our team split the work equally amongst ourselves. The research informed the team's priorities during the design phase.
Our team of four worked together to create a low-fidelity prototype that would help demonstrate potential improvements to our stakeholder, Whimsy Walks' curator Gregory Engels. We focused on features that would improve the experience as a whole, rather than fine-tuning the aesthetics.
When our team began the project, Whimsy Walks was a simple website with only a list of possible destinations that the user was expected to route themselves. Before making any changes, we needed to better understand how this experience could be improved. Our central questions were:
How can Whimsy Walks be made more enjoyable and convenient?
Are there currently barriers to the use of Whimsy Walks?
Is there a possibility of Whimsy Walks having any negative impacts on its community?
The Whimsy Walks home page, and one of the art walk destination listings, as they were before this project.
To answer these questions, our team employed a combination of field studies conducted by the team, usability studies conducted with 5 users, and supplemental interviews with residents of the Seattle neighborhood these studies were conducted in.
Initial Field Study
In order to undertand how best to structure our usability studies, the team conducted a field study. In this study, we collectively planned a 30 minute art walk, then walked it together and separately. We each recorded our observations about the experience, which yielded a rich amount of photo and video documentation for our reference, as well as our individual note-taking, which was done in a format that highlighted interactions, objects, and activities.
One of the art walk destinations we visited, The Ravenna Trollbooth.
Usability Studies - Explorers
Our usability studies consisted of two parts: having the user plan an art walk route using the information provided on the Whimsy Walks website, and then walking that route. The user was accompanied by one of our team members, but we aimed to offer as little assistance with the route as possible to avoid affecting the results. These studies varied in length from 10 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how long the participants decided their route would be. This was followed by a 15 minute interview with questions focusing on enjoyability, walking experience, feelings of safety, and possible improvements.
For our usability studies and interviews, we had four test users. Participant ages ranged from 19-22, with a variety of genders. Due to recruiting availability, many of them were recruited from the team's extended social circles. This was preferred, as we had very few recruiting resources and would not have been able to recruit enough strangers, but was likely to leave us with a participant group with less variety than one recruited using a more random method.
Supplemental Interviews - Residents
In order to avoid limiting our perspective to only users of Whimsy Walks, we aimed to get input from the residents of the community Whimsy Walks is based in. Hypothetically, an increase in usage of the art walk website might bring more traffic to the neighborhood. We needed to understand whether the residents of the neighborhood found this to be negative, and if so, how we could help minimize any negative impact on these secondary stakeholders in our design.
Resident interviews consisted of a short 5-15 minute phone interview with the participant, which were also recorded and transcribed. These phone interviews were conducted either by one team member, or by two splitting the work of talking and recording if both were available at the time. The interview questions were focused on the community response to the artworks features on Whimsy Walks, and their impact on the residents' lives. Participants were recruited via leaving flyers in mailboxes of people living near popular Whimsy Walks destinations.
Data analysis was done through compiling transcripts from all of the above interviews, and color coding them based on positive and negative impressions, as well as any other standout observations. Repeating themes and particularly interesting findings relevant to our research questions were then compiled into a list for easy perusal.
An example of our coding process.
Explorer Usability Studies
Through our interviews and contextual inquiry with people who went on Whimsy Walks, the following themes and insights arose.
Through our interviews with residents of a Whimsy Walks neighborhood, following insights arose.
Based on our research, it seemed clear that Whimsy Walks would benefit from an app that users could take along with them on their walks, and reference whenever needed for navigation, routing, and art context purposes. Keeping in line with our initial research focus, we chose to design a mobile version of the website around the following design goals:
In order to generate design ideas, our team went through several group brainstorming exercises, such as card sorting, six hats, and rapid sketching to explore early ideas. We strove to create an environment where everyone on our team could contribute ideas for features, and where any idea could be thrown out and considered before we narrowed down our focus to something within our scope.
L: Feature ideas sorted by theme. R: Early sketches of what WW routing could look like.
Major Features & Improvements
Based on our ideation, we came up with a list of major features ideas to explore through wireframing and prototyping. We would then roughly mock these features up, and test them on users to confirm that they would address the concerns we discovered in our usability research.
Through our ideation, we came up with a list of features we wanted to include, but before prototyping we needed to understand how the user would go through the experience. We created a flow chart of the experience which showed which features could be accessed from which part of the app, and a few different paths for how the user might want to go from one page to another. This also allowed us to narrow the scope of our prototype to only the features relevant to finding sites and creating a route, which were the improvements we were looking to test for effectiveness.
Part of the app flow, concerning the destination search and routing process.
We referenced the app experience flow to create a wireframe of the features we were focusing on. This allowed us to plan out every detail and solicit feedback from other designers and potential users before putting considerable effort into a digital interactive prototype. We started with some rough sketches to get each other on the same page about certain features being discussed, and then moved on to a more detailed diagram format that showed every interaction we would be including.
A couple early wireframe sketches. L: viewing destination details, R: two possibilities
for how the user might switch between the map view and destination list view.
The entirety of the mobile website's interaction flow.
After soliciting a perfunctory round of feedback from other designers, we transferred the interaction flow into an interactive Figma prototype.
The prototype was mid-fidelity, and replicated the flow as closely as possible under the limitations of Figma. It focused on the basic layout of navigation rather than aesthetics, as we wanted to avoid our test users getting caught up on the visuals instead of offering critical feedback on the functionality.
Mid-fidelity interactive prototype of the Whimsy Walks mobile website.
Prototype Testing & Heuristic Review
Due to this being a class project, we did not have time to exactly replicate the usability research we did during the research phase, so we instead conducted a heuristic review with other designers, which uncovered some minor bugs and elements that could use more clarity. Then, we had a few test users attempt to navigate through the prototype to determine whether it was as intuitive as we intended, an whether our features were addressing the issues we were aiming to solve. Using this feedback, we were able to make a more confident recommendation of some of our major features in a presentation to our primary stakeholder.
Using a combination of our research and the insights yielded by our prototype, we recommended the following features to be implemented by Whimsy Walks' head curator.
Short Term Fixes - Third Party Services
Since our primary stakeholder, the founder and head curator of Whimsy Walks, was looking to potentially implement some part of our recommended solutions, we did some extra research into existing technology that could be leveraged to implement some of the features we would be suggesting. In the shorter term, we suggested the usage of map APIs and services such as MyMaps or Google Earth as a practical and relatively low-effort way to improve the existing Whimsy Walks website in the time between now and when the founder would be able to completely overhaul the experience.
Overall, our team achieved what we were aiming for: a set of design solutions we could confidently recommend to Whimsy Walks' head curator. Our solution presentation was received very positively, and some of our strongest features may be included in the website overhaul/expansion project that is to come in the future. Beyond that, this project allowed many opportunities for me and my team to practice our skills in usability research and UX design, and I gained quite a bit of knowledge about the tricks and limitations of prototyping complex interactions in Figma. It was a valuable experience, the knowledge of which I can now apply in my future projects!