How might we encourage safe exploration of waterfalls through informational resources?

My role   ——

In collaboration with three other designers, I led the interaction and visual design of Cascade and created the high-fidelity prototype.

Our deliverables   ——

Behavioral archetypes
High fidelity prototype

Tools used   ——

Adobe Illustrator



Cascade, a waterfall wayfinding app, allows people to access hike information, save hike details for offline use, and share real-time updates to their safety contacts.

Opportunity space

Chasing Waterfalls

For this project, the topic was on travel or exploration within California. Despite this constraint, we decided to go beyond the typical exploration of a location (e.g. sight-seeing or foods) and instead focus on the “hidden gems” of a place. Our focus was the outdoors and during our secondary research, we discovered that California has approximately 244 waterfalls. Although, all the teams members grew up in California, this statistic was surprising to us, so we decided to explore this opportunity space further.

Final concept


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.

map and list view screens
hike details screen

On the homepage, you can toggle between a list view and a map view of nearby waterfalls.

Hike Details

On the details page, you can view route information, get hike recommendations, and learn about hike features.

lifeline screen
lifeline contact screen
Lifeline: User Scenario

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.

Lifeline: Safety Contact Scenario

Your safety contact will get a notification when you've started a hike and another notification when you've reached your destination. Safety contacts can also view your hike progress and see personal notes.

Competitive Analysis

Gathering Information

During our competitive analysis, we realized that a majority of hiking apps offered minimal information on waterfalls. Waterfalls tended to be an optional feature of apps' filter preferences.

For detailed information on waterfalls, guidebooks were the better reference material. However, information within guidebooks were often limited to geographical locations such as specific states or cities and the amount of information presented can be overwhelming.

After looking at hiking apps, guidebooks, and travel apps, we created a list of UI elements that we wanted to explore and test with people.

user testing

Information Content

For the first round of user testing, we interviewed six people and tested three paper prototypes. We wanted to understand what information people are looking for and how that information should be presented.

takeaways   ——

Hike Preferences

Everyone liked the ability to state their hike preferences via the filter feature.

Photo Gallery

Most people wanted to see pictures or a photo gallery of the waterfalls.

field research

Understanding Behaviors

In order to learn more about the planning process of a hike, our team ventured to Berkeley’s REI where we interviewed 4 customers and 2 employees.

I hike to get away and disconnect from the world for a bit.  

takeaways   ——

To disconnect and get away

Most people hike to escape their environments or to re-energize themselves.

For photos and emergencies

Phones were brought on hikes for taking pictures or emergency purposes .

Going offline

Minimal functionalities of phones because of limited internet access.

Detailed hike information

Everyone wanted details such as hike difficulty or best season to visit

feedback & refinement

Creating Cascade

Taking what we learned, we created wireframes of Cascade and conducted another round of user testing. Our goal for this round was to gain 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 people's biggest pain points throughout the entire hiking process; from preparing for a hike to winding down after a hike.

Waterfall details page
Account profile
I prefer to hike alone or in small groups. It's just easier that way.    
——    Research participant

Takeaways   ——

"Me" Time

A majority of people preferred to hike alone because it tended to be easier and more convenient.

Offline Access

Because of limited internet access, everyone prepared for hikes by printing out information or saving the information to their phones for offline access.

Maintaining a 'Lifeline'

Most people informed a family member or friend if they were going on a hike, especially if they were hiking solo or the hike was in an unfamiliar location.

user scenarios

Behavioral Archetypes

Based on what we learned from the paper prototypes and semi-structured interviews, we created two behavioral archetypes: the day hiker and the trekker. These behavioral archetypes take emerging themes from our user research and capture a group’s motivations, needs, and pain points.


Going Offline

In the beginning of our project, people were extremely vocal about seeing pictures of waterfalls or sharing information on forums. However, as the project progressed we saw underlying themes that centered on the hiker rather than the scenery or hike community. People were more concerned with obtaining accurate hike information and being safe. So, we decided to pivot and focus on the offline experience and explore a lifeline feature. These two aspects complemented the different experiences of both the Day Hiker and the Trekker.


Your Lifeline

For the lifeline feature, we created a storyboard that explores the hiking experience through the Day Hiker’s perspective.

visual design


After we pivoted our focus, we also moved away from a photo gallery which was a prominent feature in our initial wireframes. However, we still wanted the app to be image heavy because people go on hikes to admire the beauty of nature.

hike overview screen

Future Iterations

Exploration + Personalization

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 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 people 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 peoples' wants, needs, and motivations. Additionally, during our user testings, participant bias can occur if the person feels uncomfortable or pressure to say the “correct” thing. Therefore, it is important to not only be observant of non-verbal cues, but to use those cues to reframe interview questions as needed. We did not learn this until later on, but it became a significant factor when we pivoted and in future user testing sessions.