Cascade, a waterfall wayfinding app, allows users to access hike information, save hike details for offline use, and share real-time updates to their safety contacts.
Project Roles: I led the interaction and visual design of Cascade creating wireframes and high-fidelity prototypes.
How might we encourage safe exploration of waterfalls through informational resources?
For this project, the topic was on travel or exploration within the state of California. Despite this constraint, we decided to go beyond the typical exploration of a city (i.e. sight-seeing or foods) and instead focus on the “hidden gems” of California. Our focus was on waterfalls because we discovered during our secondary research that California has approximately 244 waterfalls
We created Cascade, a waterfall wayfinding app, that gives you hike information (both online and offline), and the ability to share hike updates to your safety contacts.
On the homepage, you can toggle between a list view and a map view of nearby waterfalls.
On the details page, you can view route information, get hike recommendations, and learn about hike features.
In the profile section, you can access your lifeline where you can share hike details with your family or friends. You can also add safety contacts, edit planned hikes, and access your offline resources.
Your safety contact will get a notification when you started a hike and another notification when you reached your destination. Safety contacts can also view your hike progress and see personal notes.
During our competitive analysis, we saw that a majority of hiking apps offered minimal information on waterfalls and tended to list waterfalls as a filter preference. We also noticed that guidebooks were the better reference material for local information on waterfalls. Guidebooks contained detailed information, but was the information was limited to geographical locations such as state or cities. After looking at hiking apps, guidebooks, and travel apps, we created a list of UI elements we wanted to explore and test with users.
For the first round of user testing, we interviewed six people and tested three versions of paper prototypes. We wanted to understand our users' goals and learn about features they liked.
All of our users liked the ability to state their hike preferences via the filter feature.
Most of our users wanted to see pictures or a photo gallery of the waterfalls.
“I hike to get away and disconnect from the world for a bit.” - C3
As we conducted our first round of user testing, we also moderated semi-structured interviews at a local REI store. We interviewed five customers and employees about their hike preparations and what they do during and after a hike.
Most users hike to escape from their environments or to re-energize themselves
Phones were brought on hikes for taking pictures or emergency purposes
Minimal functionalities of phones because of limited internet access
Users wanted details such as hike difficulty or best season to visit
“I prefer to hike alone or in small groups. It’s just easier that way.” - H2
Taking what we learn from our semi-structured interviews, we did another round of user testing with four people. Our goal for this round was to gain more insights on what features people preferred (i.e. photo gallery or community forum) and learn about their motivations to use Cascade. We also wanted to understand what users felt were the biggest pain points throughout the hiking process; from preparation to post-hike.
Detailed, but Digestible Information
Users preferred detailed information, but presented in a way that was digestible and didn’t feel overwhelming.
Because of limited internet access, all of our users prepared for hikes by printing information or saving the information to their phones for offline access
Most of our users informed a family member or friend if they were going on a hike, especially if the hike was long or in a unfamiliar location.
In the beginning of our project, users were vocal about seeing pictures of waterfalls or sharing information on forums, but as the project progressed we saw underlying themes that centered on the hiker rather than visuals or hike community. Users were more concerned with obtaining detailed hike information and personal safety. Based on our research we decided to pivot and focus on the hike details and lifeline feature.
Although, we moved away from a photo gallery, we still wanted the app to be image heavy. We also wanted the copy of the app to be detailed and digestible for our users.
For future iterations of Cascade, I would love to extend the scope of the project outside of California and add waterfalls from other states as well as internationally.
Additionally, I would like to add the ability to customize the planned hike route. A part of exploration is going off of the beaten path and creating your own adventures. Through hike personalization, this would give the user more agency to do so.
I learned in the beginning stages of our project that it is important to test our assumptions and dig deeper into users’ “wants”. During user testings, participant bias can occur if the user feels uncomfortable or pressure to say the “correct” thing. Therefore, it is important to be observant of non-vocal cues. We did not learn this until later on, but it became an significant factor in our pivot and later iterations of Cascade.