A Case Study

View Desktop Prototype | View Mobile Prototype

Role: UX Design, UX Research, Visual Design, Brand Identity

Deliverables: Competitive Analysis, User Survey, User Personas, Wireframes, Usability Testing, High Fidelity Mockups, Clickable Prototype

Tools: Figma, Sketch, Adobe Photoshop, InVision, Adobe Illustrator, UsabilityHub

understand, appreciate and question
the journey that brought us to today

Chapter 1: From a Need to an Idea

The idea for a GPS walking tour project, began on my own trip to Tarragona, Spain. I found myself starry-eyed and surrounded by the archaeological remains of Roman walls, ancient theaters, and medieval cathedrals — with only sporadic outdated information plaques to refer to on the wall. The official tours were at inconvenient dates and times, often in languages that I could not fully understand. I wanted to know and appreciate the significance of where I was.

As a millennial who is accustomed to GPS maps, MP3s and Apps available instantly — I wanted a tour, a map, some entertainment, and all the information — and I wanted it now! So I made it.

The Idea in Layers

As one, of many people, who enjoys traveling for cultural and historical reasons, I considered the pros and cons that a GPS walking tour would have and how it would be different from a regular in-person tour. I directed my focus on three key features, which my user research survey later reinforced.

  1. Experiencing and Learning First-Hand: Too often, learning is associated with a boring classroom. But it’s clear that the best (and most fun!) way to discover something is through first-hand experience. A GPS walking tour would virtually guide you through the rich history of ancient and medieval cities. Through the capabilities of technology, the app would allow users to step back into time, use their own imaginations and listen to history come to life around them.
  2. Explore on Your Own Terms: Since adventures abide by no times or schedule, a GPS walking tour should allow for exploration to happen on your own terms. We are beyond a one-option life that gives us “Tuesdays at 6pm,” when you are only there on Thursday. Learn what you want, when you want - pause, play, skip, repeat. Follow the tour, stop for lunch, get lost and found again using the GPS map to the next point. The app would combine the freedom of exploring without skipping on the insight and knowledge of the rich history around you.
  3. Interact & Share - Or Don’t: One of my biggest considerations in making a GPS walking tour is the social disconnect, so I wanted to make sure that I incorporated some options for interaction. Therefore, if sharing and interacting is your thing, the tour would give you the opportunity to rate and leave reviews of your experiences and recommendations for fellow travelers. To keep the tour group feelings alive, you have the possibility to connect with a virtual travel community to add and share favorite memories and photos from your journey. But, only if you want.

Developing a Design Strategy

Before coming up with a solution, I carefully structured the plan to go about the design process. Even with a solid strategy in place, the current version of the Oho! App went through multiple reiterations. I wanted a clear, fun interface that is intuitive to use, nice to look at and informative. While keeping the brand personality and the functionality of the app in mind, I made the following four design decisions - which were greatly influenced from the feedback from user testing.

  • Design a user interface that is simple and intuitive, focusing on straightforward ways to accomplish the desired task at hand.
  • Create a simple user interface by having minimal UI elements and using ‘whitespace’ to create an organized and enjoyable space to explore in.
  • Establish an organized list of tour sights - with the flexibility to pause, stop, skip, play - and the ability to adjust the view to user preferences.
  • Connect a social interaction component, so user can easily share reviews and recommendations on the various tour sights for other travelers.

Although, this is just the beginning. There are many ways to incorporate marketing, tourism and promotion within this application space. The possibilities include community business development, interactive games, and the sharing of local culture and cuisine. While the MVP focus of the app was to give GPS walking tours, I had its full potential in mind for further reiterations as I went through the design process. This involved keeping in mind both the benefits to the local community and the travelers coming to experience local culture and history.

adventures abide by no time or schedules

Chapter 2: The Research Phase

Understanding the Different Ways that Users Travel

While the idea for Oho! GPS Walking Tours was inspired by my own experiences as a traveler in a new city, I needed more perspectives to see the full picture to be able to develop the best design solution. In order to ask the most useful questions needed to begin creating the app, I had to get into the head of different types of travelers to figure out their needs. It was crucial to distinguish the different types of travelers and what experiences they look for when they are traveling.

Since my initial app idea is a replacement for a traditional tour guide, it was important to understand the experiences of travelers who have participated in group tours and figure out why other participants resisted a group tour. Were they satisfied with their tour experiences? What aspects did they enjoy? And for those who have never done a group tour, what is the reason. Was it because of inconvenient scheduling? Or high prices? Was the content not interesting? I reached out to my family and friends who enjoy traveling and many travel groups on social media, to get a more complete idea of what people want in a virtual tour. These were the main things that I was looking to learn:

  • How much time does the average user spend traveling;
  • What types of experiences do users typically seek when traveling to new destinations;
  • What size groups do users prefer to travel with;
  • Have users previously had experiences using a travel guide;
  • What are the general impressions of any previous guided tour experiences;
  • How would users have improved their tour guide experience;
  • What were the favorite parts of their tour guide;
  • In what context do users use a tourism app while traveling;
  • What devices to users typically travel with;

The survey was taken by over 35 people in the target market. The results helped me to target the market and brand personality for the app and narrow down MVP features to continue forward.

View User Survey

Research as the Basis for Design

Below are some highlights gathered from the user survey:

According to the survey results, over 90% of user participants had the experience of a traveling with a tour guide. They want an engaging guide to enhance their appreciation for learning, they want schedule flexibility and they want a reasonable cost. The key takeaway from these survey results confirmed my own ideas. Users want to be able to include explore the city, immerse themselves in culture, and to learn as much as possible while they are traveling!

Looking Closer at the Competitors

In order to figure out how to continue forward designing the GPS walking tour APP, I needed to figure out where to position it in the market and how to differentiate it from competitors. I did a competitive analysis in order to identify the weaknesses, strengths, threats, and opportunities. Based on my user survey results: Shaka Guide, GPS My City, and Sevilla Walking tour - are solid GPS tour APPs, with success in their markets.

Since my main vision of Oho! was to create an interactive, engaging and quality tour of the city - I focused on identifying the main strengths that are specific to each of the most popular GPS walking tour companies. It helped to understand the strengths of these companies and their different approaches, in order to understand what works best and how to successfully incorporate features to make the best possible experience for my travel users.

Some of the most useful and stand-out qualities of my competitors included: solidly established brand personality, extensive assortment of tours in multiple languages, directional GPS directional tour guide combo, pre-downloadable maps for off-line access, potential for community promotions.

Through the research learned during my competitive analysis, I created user stories to organize the necessary tasks required for new users and returning users to use the APP. It became the basis for my subsequent user personas and MVP app prototypes.

View User Stories

Bringing Oho! Users to Life

Now that I figured out who my target market will be and identified the type of experience that they wanted - I needed to create user personas to represent my ideal user. Based on the information gathered from the user surveys, interviews from survey participants, and the tasks at hand on the user stories - I was able to construct a series of user personas to represent unique personalities, motivations and stories at the heart of the travelers who would one day use the app. Keeping their needs and desires in mind, I could refer back to them, to validate decisions as I continued through the design process.

I present to you: Julia, Marcus and Silvia. They represent a diverse set of motivations, whose travel needs and curiosities can be met through the Oho! GPS walking tour app.

View User Personas:

View Julia

Julia, 20 The Curious Study Abroad Student

Age: 20

Occupation: Erasmus Student

Hometown: Helsinki, Finland

Languages: English, Spanish, Finnish, Swedish

Archetype: The Innocent - daydreaming of time long ago

Travel Style: The Backpacker

Tech Level: 4/5

An undergraduate literature student on an Erasmus year – her personal interests include reading non-fiction books, salsa dancing and learning new languages. She is a passionate traveler, curious about new cultures and an optimistic-tryer-of-new things.

Motivations

  • To experience as much as possible during her time abroad
  • To find local places in the town that she is studying in
  • To see new things to share with her friends on her social media
  • To discover things within her budget that she is interested in

Frustrations

  • Would like to find a tour that fits in her schedule
  • Would like to see the sights that interest her at her own pace
  • Would like to find a quality experience within her budget
View Marcus

Marcus, 34 The Day Tripper from Barcelona

Age: 34

Occupation: Software Developer

Hometown: Irvine, California, USA - Shanghai, China

Languages: English, Chinese

Archetype: The Hero - to prove and challenge himself

Travel Style: The Digital Nomad

Tech Level: 5/5

A computer programmer and an international business man – he enjoys politics, start-up businesses and learning history to make sense of the world around him. He is a master of time management, the adventures of efficiency, learning for the purpose of personal growth – and needs things to fit into his schedule.

Motivations

  • To find hidden gems surrounding Barcelona during his free time
  • To appreciate ancient history and the importance of sights
  • To learn new knowledge to inspire his projects
  • To discover good local food and to meet interesting people

Frustrations

  • Would like to sightsee at his own pace, since his time is limited
  • Would like a quality tour that gives him an adequate overview
  • Would like to know where to go to meet people
View Silvia

Silvia, 66 The Leisurely Cultural Traveler

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired Teacher

Hometown: Girona, Cataluña, España

Languages: Catalan, Spanish, English

Archetype: The Sage - in the pursuit of knowledge

Travel Style: Comfort

Tech Level: 2.5/5

An undergraduate literature student on an Erasmus year – her personal interests include reading non-fiction books, salsa dancing and learning new languages. She is a passionate traveler, curious about new cultures and an optimistic-tryer-of-new things.

Motivations

  • To experience as much as possible during her time abroad
  • To find local places in the town that she is studying in
  • To see new things to share with her friends on her social media
  • To discover things within her budget that she is interested in

Frustrations

  • Would like to find a tour that fits in her schedule
  • Would like to see the sights that interest her at her own pace
  • Would like to find a quality experience within her budget

Chapter 3: Let’s Go, with Oho!

After the research gathered from the competitive analysis, I recognized that developing an engaging brand was top priority in order to create a cohesive, interactive and quality walking tour experience. My user survey participants wanted a virtual guide who was informative, but also had the ability to keep users interested and engaged in the tour. The brand needed to reflect this and the user experience defined the aesthetic decisions in the design process.

The Inspiration Behind Oho!

With this app, I intended to bring to life the history of the surroundings and to create an experience that allows the user to learn through immersion. I envisioned the guide to be well-informed, entertaining and inspiring - with a brand personality that was confident and lively.

Designing a logo that reflects the personality of Oho!

The walking tour is an experience that is meant to evoke feelings of amazement and appreciation, so the name Oho! - the Latin word for wow! - embodies the spirit of exploration, whose personality stays in touch with its ancient origins. In a logo, I wanted an image that was full of color and life. I wanted it to reference history telling its own story - while staying true to its modern purpose of being a digital guided tour. The process of designing a logo went through many reiterations, experimenting with various ancient and modern symbols - until it evolved into a logo that encapsulated the imagery and personality that felt perfect for the project.

Oho! - the Latin word for wow! - embodies the spirit of exploration
...in touch with its ancient origins

After deciding on the direction of the brand name, I began to develop the logo. The Oho! letters turned into subtle GPS points that allow for color plays, that fit nicely into a word bubble that is being proclaimed excitedly by an ancient Roman local. The composition nicely tied together everything necessary into a visual representation of the tour brand.

The Colors of Oho!

The colors of the Oho! logo and website were inspired by the colors around the town of Tarragona. The streets are aligned with lively hues of yellows, peaches, purples and reds, making the city feel vibrant and welcoming.

I chose Optima as the typeface for the Oho! logo, and Quicksand for the primary typeface. I chose both of these fonts because of their smoothness and simplicity. They fit the personality that I wanted Oho! to embody.

Iconography

Once the style of the logo was developed, I liked the possibilities of using animations to illustrate the content on the website. It allowed for a colorful and engaging personality to emerge, incorporating ancient-inspired iconography with modern photography.

View the Oho! Style Guide Here

Chapter 4: Oho! Information Architecture & User Testing

Identifying and Mapping the Primary Goals of Oho! Users

Now that the personality and branding of Oho! was in motion, it was time to use the user stories that I developed earlier - to create user flows. With my previously designed user personas, I revisited the high, medium and low priority tasks to reach the minimum viable product. Once the priority tasks were clear for testing, I then converted the user stories into user flows to show the series of steps that the user can take to accomplish these tasks.

  • Download Tour
  • Leave Impression of a sight
  • See sight info
  • Begin a Tour
  • Find contact details of a particular sight

View User Flow Sketches

Oho! begins to take shape through Wireframing

The skeletal structure of the Oho! site begins to take shape with wire framing. This started with simple sketches that evolved into low-fidelity wireframes.

I reconsidered the main objectives of the problem to be solved, in order to build the most effective skeletal structure of the site. I kept it mind the following things:

  • The purpose of the app is to learn and experience history
  • The main feature is the freedom to explore your own terms
  • An important feature to offer is the ability to share and interact

Chapter 5: Creating the Visual Design of Oho!

Putting it All Together

Keeping in mind the branding, user flows and the main problem to solve - I turned my wireframes into high fidelity mockups by incorporating the branding into the high-fidelity prototype.

Based on feedback that I received from senior designers, I realized that the design looked outdated and needed a fresh, current update. The colors on the buttons did not feel confident, the photographs were lost in the faded grey overlays and the text was still not standing out. I needed to incorporate the design and style better using bolder colors and a better solution to help the text stand out on the photographs.

Before the design reiteration:

After the design reiteration:

Putting the High-Fidelity Prototype to the Test

Now that the Oho! design felt more modern and refined, I conducted 5 virtual usability tests to understand how potential tour users would maneuver through the app. These usability tests helped me to get more feedback, as I had participants perform a variety of specific tasks. These included:

  • Find a desired tour option
  • Download a tour
  • Log-into user account
  • Begin a tour
  • Switch from map to list view
  • Get more info on a specific site
  • Post feedback

View High-Fidelity Test Script

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM USER TESTING PROTOTYPES

  • Create activated buttons once the information is filled in. This helps users understand that the information is complete and they can intuitively move forward seamlessly in the process. Improved reiteration:
  • Use a bolder color on map to indicate changes between map and list views. Minimize the interface clutter by taking out the GPS tracker photo, and create a small map path instead. This will create a cleaner interface that helps users stay on the tour and easily navigate through the app. Improved reiteration:
  • Use the Apple interface guidelines to ask users if they want the app to access their information. This will help users trust the app, since it is a standardize and familiar pop-up screen. Improved reiteration:

Chapter 6: The Oho! Moment

View Desktop Prototype | View Mobile Prototype

Final Thoughts:
What Oho! Taught Me About the Design Process

Revisiting the Power of Simplicity

While developing this project, I was so full of ideas and possibilities for what it could be, that I often got carried away into the realm of too much. I was trying to incorporate too many features and Tourist Top 10 Lists, that the design almost put the GPS tour secondary. In an attempt to organize all these ideas, I had to revisit the power of simplicity. I reverted back to my MVP and patiently accepted that anything more would have to come at a later time. I minimized the webpages, cleaned up the designs, and incorporated more white space into the app. At this point the GPS walking tour is just that, an app is focused on tour guiding visitors through the city.

Sometimes Design Inspiration Needs Patience

After the first high-fidelity prototype, I was disappointed at the outcome of the design and the application of my style guide. I had spent a lot of time on the details and design strategy, but the images, text and colors were not syncing in a way that evoked the feeling that I intended. It felt outdated and bland. I set the project off to the side for a couple of days, until I received a marketing e-mail from a brand, whose ad composition had the perfect solution to text on photograph - a text background color! It was an immediate inspiration for the design reiteration and the results were exactly the boldness and vibrancy that I had in mind. Sometimes inspiration needs time and patience.

Final Thoughts on the Experience of Designing Oho!

Designing the Oho! GPS Walking Tour, taught me a lot about the tourism industry, especially the interaction of travelers and their effect on the visited community. I wanted to create an app to enhance the learning experience and appreciation for a place, but I also had to consider the effects of increased tourism in the area. It became important that the app inspires people to imagine history, not by giving a list of information, but by questioning and inspiring curiosity for the world around us. It also became important to develop features in the app that not only allows for virtual sharing, but also encourages interaction within the city and the people that live in it. After all, they know the stories best.

I started to pay more attention to bigger picture effects of technological influences and how each app, when considered carefully, can be a benefit to the non-virtual world. I know that Oho! is not perfect and can still be improved. But in solving the problems that the app intends to solve, also creates new problems of its own. By identifying the problems and considering solutions for them too, it can help to create holistically better solutions for the future.