Alexandra Greenspan

User Research for The Hikery

Client

Katie Johnson of The Hikery

Dates

Spring 2013

Built With

Amy Fu, Arezu Aghaseyedjavadi, Yang Zhao, Eddie Huang

Mission

Needs and Usability Assessment (Information 214) graduate-level course project for client The Hikery.

Research Methods

  • Usability testing with interviews and interface tour (8 participants)
  • Competitive analysis (6 direct and indirect competitors)
  • Online and in-person survey (87 responses)

Project Goals

  • Investigate factors that motivate or deter people from hiking.
  • Determine what attributes of a hike are most conducive to socializing.
  • Identify the best process to enable a good socialization experience through hiking.

My Role

Working on the competitive analysis through profiling the competitors and creating a feature grid and a landscape analysis. I also conducted a usability test and distributed surveys.

Full report duplicated below from original report website.

Executive Summary

  1. We worked with our client, Katie Johnson, the founder of The Hikery, to perform a usability and needs assessment of the website application www.thehikery.com. The site emphasizes in-person socialization experiences through hiking activities.

  2. For this assessment, we addressed the following goals:
    • Investigate factors that motivate or deter people from hiking.
    • Determine what attributes of a hike are most conducive to socializing.
    • Identify the best process to enable a good socialization experience through hiking.
  3. To address the goals, we incorporated the following methods: competitive analysis, surveys, and usability testing integrated with pre and post-interviews.

  4. Key findings:
    1. Safety is more of a concern for females than for males.
    2. Users already have other preferred ways for planning activities.
    3. People enjoy spending time with individuals with shared interests.
    4. Users prefer to socialize with new people outdoors more than they currently do.
    5. Navigation bar is unclear.
    6. People like to get to know others in group settings.
    7. Hiking is more suited for getting to know people better rather than meeting them for the first time.
    8. The datepicker is not intuitive and confuses most of the users.
    9. Users are not informed once they have signed up.
    10. Users want to preview key features of the application before signing up.
    11. The application does not provide users enough contextual information about hiking destinations.
    12. Active hikers are more open to meeting new people through hiking.

Project Overview

Our client is Katie Johnson, the founder and developer of The Hikery, a web application for bringing people together through hiking. Katie Johnson wants to develop a web application with “the hope [of creating] an outdoor alternative to going to bars — a new public commons where you can go to be around other people.” She wants to be able to change the way people socialize, specifically in a new outdoor setting. With this webs application, Katie Johnson intends “to create an actionable way for people to use public lands as a context for meeting new people and nurturing existing relationships.”

The Hikery web application is in its early stages of development, and is currently in the hi-fi prototype phase. To conduct the usability and assessment needs of the web application, we developed a wireframe prototype using Balsamiq software for potential users to observe and provide insight on the website’s features.

Project Goals

To prepare for the release and use of the web application to the public, we addressed specific goals to allow for further refinement and improvement of the web application. These are the following goals we decided to address:

  1. Investigate factors that motivate or deter people from hiking.
    By finding out the motivations and deterrents, we could analyze and determine how to address these factors in the features of the website.
  2. Determine what attributes of a hike are most conducive to socializing.
    As our client’s goal is to focus on hiking as a catalyst for socializing with new people, it was important to look into what people already believed made hiking with others a positive experience.
  3. Identify the best process to enable a good socialization experience through hiking.
    Since The Hikery is meant to get more people outdoors and on hikes, we saw it necessary to understand The Hikery’s role in the hiking experience, and how the product could enable socialization from the start of signing up for a hike to writing about the experience afterward.

Target Audience and Recruitment

Target Audience

The target audience for The Hikery is young individuals living in urban areas who aspire to have a healthy and fit lifestyle, and are interested in meeting people outside of bar-type settings. Katie wanted to recruit primarily women aged 23-25 years old because making women feel safe while interacting with others through in-person meetup sites is more nuanced than with men. However, we also reached out to men because we believe men may also be potential users of The Hikery.

users being surveyed

Recruitment

We outreached by sending emails to mailing lists containing UC Berkeley undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni. We also contacted individuals who were acquaintances or friends of the research team that lived in urban areas such as Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In addition, we also reached out to Katie’s acquaintances in San Francisco.

We actively outreached to organizations that we believed would have strong interest in the website application. These organizations include the UC Berkeley Cal Hiking and Outdoors Society (CHAOS) and Cal Climbing Club, and we attended their weekly meeting to recruit for our survey. Emails were also sent to active members and alumni of these organizations.

Methodology

To address the goals, the user research methods we utilized were competitive analysis, surveys, and usability tests with pre- and post-interviews.

We chose these methods in order to research the key elements of The Hikery: how competitive it is against the current market, the target audience and its need for the website based on their current hiking experiences, and the functionality of its features.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis aspect of the project serves as a background to determine how distinguishable The Hikery is from current products in the market that specialize in “in-person socialization” experiences. The competitive analysis also allows us to determine how to differentiate the Hikery in the current market. We focused on six competitive products, organized into Tier One, Tier Two, and Niche Competitor profiles.


TIER ONE Meetup The Stir at Match.com
Product Description world’s largest network of local groups based on interests; provides tools for group homepages program by Match.com for singles to meet other singles in tailored group events and social settings
Audience Profile audience varies widely due to thousands of interest groups; some groups for specific ages or for dating specifically Match.com members; singles with diverse backgrounds looking for relationships
Target Users broad broad
Activities wide wide
Platform web, mobile web, mobile
Screenshot: Display demonstrating events on website available for users to attend

Table 1. Tier one profile.


TIER TWO Wednesdays Grubwithus
Product Description social dining community where people have face-to-face interactions through scheduled meals themed by interests themed meals are at host restaurants and typically have 6-10 people who pay in advance for a set menu served family style
Audience Profile mainly young and old professionals who want a social activity during lunch that fits into their busy lives people who want to meet others with shared interests and have guided conversations during meal settings
Target Users broad broad
Activities specific to lunch/dinner specific to lunch/dinner
Platform web web
Screenshot: Display demonstrating events on website available for users to attend

Table 2. Tier two profile.


NICHE Grouper Martini
Niche Type social club specific to mobile
Product Description social club with a web and mobile app to match two groups of 3 friends together at a chosen bar for drinks and meeting new people mobile social app that matches two new groups of four friends together every 24 hours based on selected matching interests
Audience Profile individuals who want to meet new people, but in a group setting (therefore inviting their friends along to create familiarity) anyone with a group of willing friends who wants to meet new people; may be targeting urbanites more, as the public beta version tested in NYC
Target Users selective broad
Activities specific to drinks at a bar wide
Platform web, mobile mobile
Screenshot: Display demonstrating events on website available for users to attend

Table 3. Niche profile.


Feature Grid

To investigate how The Hikery differs from competing products, a Feature Grid Analysis was completed. These features were chosen because they were the unique features of The Hikery website. We wanted to investigate if these features were found on the competing products in order to determine if The Hikery is extremely differentiable in the market. We found that many of the features found on The Hikery were found on the competing products as well.

These are the key features we identified:

  1. Focused on one activity: The Hikery emphasizes one activity, hiking, for users to participate in.
  2. Monitors user’s activities: The Hikery provides the user with a history of their past and upcoming activities they are going to take part in.
  3. Monitor’s friend’s activities: The Hikery allows for the user’s to also view the activity history of individuals that are categorized in their friend’s list.
  4. Planning tool: The Hikery assists users in organizing activities by providing a tool to plan hiking activities.
  5. User Profile: The Hikery allows for user to share their personal information with members of the community.
  6. Schedule over whole site: The Hikery presents a schedule of all activities taking place whether or not the user is taking part in them.
  7. Separates public and private activities: The Hikery provides a view of all the activities possibile to join, and separates these from the activities a user is signed up to take part in.
  8. No fees necessary: The Hikery does not require users to pay a fee to use the website or participate in the hiking activities.

feature grid

Figure 1. Feature grid of The Hikery with competing products.

Feature Grid Discoveries

From the feature grid we see that many of the notable features of The Hikery are also features of the competing products. While “activities” are specific to hiking for The Hikery, “activities” in terms of the competitors has many different meanings, from any broad variety of events to events specific to dining. The Hikery however, does not require fees to allow for involvement. The fees charged by the competitors are relatively low and the products do so to ensure quality as well as participation of members at the events/activities.

Landscape Analysis

Following the Feature Grid Analysis, we organized the competitors on how they group participants and the activities they have them take part in for the “in-person socialization” experiences.

landscapeanalysis

Figure 2. Landscape analysis of The Hikery and competing products.

Landscape Analysis Discoveries

We found that the applications which aimed at people meeting new people to form friendships, not specifically focusing on dating, grouped individuals based on their interests and shared commonalities.

For example, competitors such as Meetup, Grubwithus, Wednesdays, Martini and Grouper allow for people to meet new people with common interests at selected, public locations. Communities are then formed based on shared interests.

An example of the formation of a community is through Grubwithus. Here we examine Grubwithus members interested in entrepreneurship in San Francisco. The meals below are specifically target toward members of the group Y Combinator (YC) of San Francisco. Members of the group are directed to a new page presenting upcoming dinner events to meet other members interested in this field through a tailored dining experience. The following figure demonstrates all the meals for members of YC of San Francisco.

past meals

Figure 3. Grubwithus meals available for members of YC San Francisco.

Websites such as The Stir at Match.com which specialize mainly in online dating have in-person events for a wide variety of activities. Some recent activities Match.com has hosted include cooking events, wine tasting, and salsa dancing. As shown in the landscape analysis, The Stir does not organize people based on their interests at these activities, but on the interest people have in the activities. As a result, a wide range people attend the events that can lead to uncomfortable moments because of the extreme differences in personal traits, qualities, attributes, and interests.

One user of The Stir at Match.com shared frustration with the discrepancy toward interests and similarities, exclaiming:

“Is The Stir going to make events where it’s by Age group? I don’t see it on the stir events. It just says the events but doesn’t seem to have an age group listed??? We need to have these events age group specific so OLD people don’t come to YOUNG events (20’s and 30’s) groups and vice versa!!!” -Ernest Shively 10 months ago (http://blog.match.com/stir-and-match-games/)

By investigating how people take part in the activities, we found that people socialize best with those who share common interests.

Surveys

The purpose of conducting surveys was to gauge the target audience’s sentiments regarding socialization habits, meeting new people, and hiking. The survey was created and conducted using Qualtrics online surveying software. It took users no more than 10 minutes to complete. In addition, paper surveys were distributed to Cal Hiking Adventures and Outdoors Society (CHAOS) and the Cal Climbing Club. Our initial goal was to obtain 50 responses.

The survey was broken up into three sections: socialization, hiking, and demographics. The socialization section asked questions regarding how, when, with whom, and where people usually socialize. The hiking section asked questions to find out how, when, and why people hike or not hike, and also assessed how people felt about meeting people through hiking. The optional demographics section asked about gender, age, whether people live in urban or rural environments, and whether they were willing to participate in a more in-depth interview. The complete survey questions and results can be viewed here.

We recruited survey participants through UC Berkeley student and alumni mailing lists, San Francisco mailing lists, friends, CHAOS, and the Cal Climbing Club. We received a total of 87 responses.

Demographics

The demographic breakdown of our 87 survey participants is as follows. Because almost all participants live in urban or suburban environments and a vast majority are between the ages of 18 and 25, these survey results are representative of our target audience.

About 40% of those surveyed stated that they hike once every few weeks or more. Note that this number is not representative of the general public because we targeted some of our recruiting towards hiking specific communities. The most common reasons for hiking are enjoying the outdoors, followed by exercising and socializing.

Usability Test and Interviews

Overview

users being usability tested

We conducted usability testing to find out if The Hikery in its current form meets the users’ expectations and needs. We accomplished this by having participants go through three steps: pre-interview, usability testing, and post-interview. The preliminary interview was implemented in order to gather insight on the participant’s background, their habits, how they socialize and their attitudes towards hiking. The usability test was used in order to test the current website’s workflow intuitiveness and ability to achieve user goals. The post-interview was utilized in order to gather insight on how they felt towards the application and if the application changed any initial attitudes and issues they have had towards hiking.

Participants

users being usability tested

Participants were recruited from the pool of survey takers who expressed further interest in being involved with the project by taking part in the interview and usability test. We chose participants with various attitudes towards hiking, and although our focus was mainly on women, we invited men to participate as well.

Testing took place at the Berkeley Institute of Design located at the Hearst Mining Building at UC Berkeley. Each usability test took about 30 to 60 minutes, and each participant was offered a $5 gift card to a local eatery of their choice as an incentive.

Preliminary Interview

In the preliminary interview, participants were asked a series of questions regarding their backgrounds, their attitude towards hiking, their motivation for hiking, how and where they typically socialize, how they prepare for hikes, and if they were open to meet new people through hiking.

representative participant profiles

Figure 8. Representative participant profiles (on a scale of 1 to 5)

Usability Testing

We worked with our client to generate four tasks that addressed the main functionalities present in the website. The four tasks are listed below.

  1. Create an account
  2. Find someone and send them a friend request
  3. Find and join a public hike
  4. Create a hike that is open to existing friends

Before having our participants perform the four tasks, we asked them to go through an interface tour. We had them focus on the “creating a hike” page, which is the most important and complicated page of the application. Next, for each of the elements on the screen, we asked participants what they would expect to see if they were to be clicked, and asked for a description of each element.

Since the current mockup on www.thehikery.com is not fully functional for users to perform the key tasks (e.g. the sign up button is not functional), we addressed the issue with our client and decided to develop a prototype in Balsamiq that would allow users to fully achieve the four tasks. Therefore, we informed our users that the only behavior on the prototype was to mimic inputs by clicking, all specific information was pre-coded.

Post-Interview

After experiencing the interface, users were asked several questions regarding the interface. Specifically, we wanted insight in respects to the participant’s overall experience with the application, features they liked or disliked, investigate if the application enhanced or discouraged the participant’s willingness to go on a hike, as well as their general thoughts. The post-interview was conducted in order to gather participants’ experiences towards the application and to see if the application changed any notions they have had towards hiking.

Key Findings

List of Findings

  1. Safety is more of a concern for females than for males.
  2. Users already have other preferred ways for planning activities.
  3. People enjoy spending time with individuals with shared interests.
  4. Users prefer to socialize with new people outdoors more than they currently do.
  5. Navigation bar is unclear.
  6. People like to get to know others in group settings.
  7. Hiking is more suited for getting to know people better rather than meeting them for the first time.
  8. The datepicker is not intuitive and confuses most of the users.
  9. Users are not informed once they have signed up.
  10. Users want to preview key features of the application before signing up.
  11. The application does not provide users enough contextual information about hiking destinations.
  12. Active hikers are more open to meeting new people through hiking.

1. Safety is more of a concern for females than for males.

From Competitive Analysis

Promoting safety is a key component of the competitors’ products. All competitors of The Hikery hold events and activities with groups in public settings such as restaurants, bars, or buildings for public meeting areas. Products such as Meetup and Grubwithus have delegated leaders in charge of groups where people have shared interests and are responsible for the planning of the events as well as attendance of members in the group. Match.com, the provider of The Stir, also includes a page of online and offline safety tips for members, including “always meet in public” and “stay in a public place.”

From Survey

There was not a significant difference in the percentage of females and males who think hiking is a good activity for meeting someone for the first time. However, most males who did not think hiking was a good activity for meeting someone tended to cite concerns for awkwardness in not getting along; only one male cited a trust concern. Three users cited safety concerns, and all three were female. For example, one female wrote “I’m kind of afraid that people are secretly axe murderers”.

From Usability Testing

Some participants were concerned with their safety regarding the application when asked if they were willing to meet new people through the application.

“If it’s somebody I didn’t know, no. I wouldn’t hike with somebody I don’t know. Its really stupid. You could get killed. I’m just saying, you don’t know what kind of crazy mother f***** is like, ‘hey lets go hiking and then take a girl out into the fucking trees and then bash her over the head.’”

Recommendation

Allow users to review other users through an anonymous commenting system after going on a hike. Specify to members that they should meet at a public location before leaving for a hike, i.e. have a public place as a check-in meeting spot. For larger group hikes, organize leaders for each group before the hiking activity takes place. If The Hikery is already formatted based on individual’s interests, choose leaders for the groups based on each of those interests, giving them similar leadership roles as in Grubwithus and Meetup.

Back to List of Findings

2. Users already have other preferred ways for planning activities.

From Competitive Analysis

All competitors allow users to log in to their products through the users’ Facebook accounts. This allows the user to maintain connections within their previously joined social network rather than having to go through the process of inviting friends and starting a new network for each site that they join.

facebook login

Figure 9. Screenshot of login displays for competitor products.

From Survey

Of our survey participants, 23% currently use online tools to connect them with new people. The primary tools used are Facebook, Meetup, and OkCupid. Females use online tools to connect with others more than males do. 14.6% of males claim to use online tools, while 34.4% of females do.

Though 40% of our surveyed audience hike once every few weeks or more, 47% of the audience would not use an online tool to help connect with other people through hiking, and 25% are unsure of using such a tool. Primary reasons cited for not wanting to use the tool are discomfort with hiking with strangers and unwillingness to hike. Those who are unsure about using the tool cited uncertainty about the necessity of such a tool, presence of other tools that achieve the same purpose, and inability to make a judgment call without first seeing the online tool in question as primary reasons.

From Usability Testing

Users prefer to accomplish their task using other applications or through other means. Specifically, users mentioned several applications that could accomplish the same tasks. They also said that they would go through alternatives such as texting and emailing in regards to planning and coordinating their hikes.

“You can text your friends instead to meet up for a hike or whatever or like Facebook. It’s easier since everyone else already has that.”

“I will just go through texting in order to coordinate. Sorry…”

“There’s other websites that do this, like those, like meetups. Is that the other website that’s a good competitor? I think that website feels a lot, feels very similar to this one.”

Recommendation

Incorporate existing website frameworks into The Hikery. For example, implement a Facebook login feature. In addition, differentiate The Hikery from existing sites through distinctive features or clever marketing.

Back to List of Findings

3. People enjoy spending time with individuals with shared interests.

From Competitive Analysis

The products intended to be used to meet new people, and not for dating purposes, grouped people into activities based on their interests. This led to users already having things in common with the other people they were meeting, leading to more engagement in the activities and meetups overall. For example, for individuals interested in entrepreneurship in San Francisco, Grubwithus holds dining events specifically for people who share this interest.

From Survey

The data from our socialization questions reveal that about one third of those surveyed are actively trying to meet new people: 29% go places or attend events for the purpose of meeting new people a few times a month or more, 30% usually socialize with new people when at a social setting, and 33% listed “making new friends” as a primary reason for socializing. The most dominant reason for meeting new people is to meet people with common interests: 76% cited this as a main reason.

Recommendation

Organize hiking events/activities based on shared interests and commonalities of individuals. Allow for groups to form based on these interests as well as levels of hiking experience.

Back to List of Findings

4. Users prefer to socialize with new people outdoors more than they currently do.

From Competitive Analysis

While the largest Meetup group within five miles of Berkeley, CA is “The Oakland/East Bay Happy Hour” with 2,917 members, both the third and fourth largest Meetup groups in the area are specific to outdoor activities; the “San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club” has 1,959 members, and the “Berkeley Running Club” has 1,403 members. This represents our survey finding that while people are socializing indoors, there is a large amount of people who are starting to become more interested in socializing outdoors. (Data accurate as of May 9, 2013)

From Survey

In our survey, we asked about where people usually socialize, where people usually connect with new people, and where people would prefer to connect with new people. The survey audience was given a series of options corresponding to both indoor and outdoor locations. Indoor locations included house parties, bars, and restaurants; outdoor locations included amusement parks and sightseeing as well as hiking. Though indoor socialization locations were prevalent for all three questions, there was an overall shift in preference towards the outdoors versus where people were currently socializing in terms of meeting new people.

Recommendation

Since there is a need for a tool to get people to socialize outdoors more often (as seen through the survey results, where people want to socialize outdoors more than they currently are doing), emphasize the benefits and ease of socializing outdoors on The Hikery. In addition, for future iterations of the website, include multiple kinds of outdoor activities to engage more people than just through hiking. These activities may include but are not limited to kayaking, climbing, sailing, etc.

Back to List of Findings

From Usability Testing

During the post-interview after usability testing, we got to know that some participants were not comfortable with the navigation bar, especially when they needed to create a hiking event only open to their friends.

“Why do I need to go to different sections to create a hike that is open to different groups? That is redundant and not intuitive at all.”

“I feel like it’s not organized that well. There’s not enough context and categories. Some of the pages, everything’s kind of grouped together.”

screenshot

Figure 11. Screenshot display demonstrating where participant had misunderstanding of a feature.

Recommendation

Make the “create a new hiking event” function only available in “My Hikes” section of the navigation bar. When people create an event, they have the option to choose whether the event is open to public or to friends.

Back to List of Findings

6. People like to get to know others in group settings.

From Competitive Analysis

As mentioned earlier, the competitor products not only group individuals to participate in activities based on their interests but also emphasize group settings dynamic in their activities. Grouper, for example, requires one individual to bring two friends to meet the other group of three that they are matched with based on their Facebook profiles.

grouper advertisement

Figure 12. Advertisement from Grouper explicitly indicates how it organizes its social experiences by having 2 groups of friends (3 guys and 3 girls) meet at a bar.

From Usability Testing

Participants mentioned they were motivated to go on hikes if more of their friends went with them. Their limitation to hiking was that none of their friends were interested or had time to go with them on hikes. In particular most participants did not like the idea of going alone, and they much preferred to do it in groups.

“Because like usually I don’t have that many friends who like to hike, so I’d be lucky if I could find one.”

“No one I know does it. It’s hard for me to find people who do it. If more people did it, then the peer pressure thing falls in.”

“My schedule is always busy during the semester, but during holidays when my friends and I are available, I then would love to go hiking with them.”

Recommendation

Emphasize the fact that the hiking activities organized on The Hikery are meant to be group activities. This can also be done by allowing users who create public hikes to choose a minimum number of people for the hike, or even allowing users to invite their friends to participate in specifically created hikes as well (therefore facilitating the group experience).

Back to List of Findings

7. Hiking is more suited for getting to know people better rather than meeting them for the first time.

From Survey

Almost all survey participants agreed that hiking is a good activity for getting to know someone better. However, only a slight majority thought that hiking is a good activity for getting to know someone for the first time. Primary reasons stated for why hiking is a good socialization activity include the amount of time they have to talk with somebody, and the comfortable, relaxed, outdoor, active atmosphere conducive to socializing. On the other hand, reasons stated for why hiking is not a good activity for meeting new people include safety concerns and awkwardness resulting if the people hiking do not initially get along.

Recommendation

Implement a way for users to find out more about their potential hiking partners prior to their first hike together. For example, implement user profiles and ways for users to communicate with each other through the website. Additionally, adding features for people to find hikes by interest will give hikers a common starting ground for conversation and lessen awkwardness in first-time meetings.

Back to List of Findings

8. The datepicker is not intuitive and confuses most of the users.

From Usability Testing

When one of our participants was performing the task to set up a hiking event, she was looking at the popup datepicker, but could not figure out how to set the event for 3:00 P.M. . She tried to slide the “hour” slider but she still could not find the 3:00 P.M. option. When another two participants were performing the same task, they were also stuck at the datepicker as well for more than 20 seconds.

datepicker screenshot

Figure 15. Screenshot of The Hikery demonstrating participant’s dislike for the time slider.

Video 1. Video of participant expressing dislike for the time slider.

During the post-interview, we had 5 of 9 participants reporting on the unintuitive datepicker:

“I thought it was just a hassle to slide it, rather than a drop down menu of it and entering it.”

“I usually put in like a normal time, not miliary time.”

Recommendation

Use a drop down menu for selecting the time (hour and minutes), and have 15 minutes interval instead of 1 minute; another possible solution is to let users directly input the hour and minutes. Also, use 12-hour format with AM and PM, instead of the original 24-hour format.

Back to List of Findings

9. Users are not informed once they have signed up.

From Usability Testing

After two users successfully performed the task of signing up, they continued to stare at the screen for more than 10 seconds. They seemed to be waiting for something to come up to confirm that they had officially signed up for the web application.

During the post-interview, one participant complained as well:

“After I signed up, I really don’t know what’s happening. I expected it could tell me something like I have successfully signed up.”

Recommendation

Provide a greeting message after a user signs up, indicating that the status of the website is “signed up”. This allows for confirmation that the user is signed up and that they have membership to the website.

Back to List of Findings

10. Users want to preview key features of the application before signing up.

From Usability Testing

During the post-interview, some participants said they were totally unaware of the application before sign up:

“When I first get into the site, there is only one rectangle with one sentence and one clickable button… what the hell is that?”

“I totally don’t know what features this site has before signing up; at least I should know what it does. Otherwise, I’m not comfortable and willing to sign up at all.”

Recommendation

We recommend to either develop an introductory video to the web application addressing the key features, or have a paragraph introducing the key features along with helpful screenshots to let users understand what this application can be used for.

Back to List of Findings

11. The application does not provide users enough contextual information about hiking destinations.

From Usability Testing

During the post-interview, several participants complained about the lack of information for their destinations.

“If you just put in location, difficulty, location, hours you want to spend hiking, it would shoot you suggestions, that would be really nice.”

“Would definitely want to see how long, like duration. Duration in terms of miles and time would be a good thing. And then definitely weather, elevation.”

“I think the best way to do this would probably have like a list of trails, list of mileage, maybe elevation, maybe a picture of the sites, like, one thing that gets people motivated is like, oh cool, if I reach this point, I’ll see this view.”

Recommendation

Include information about the hiking trail’s level of difficulty, elevation, duration of the trail, weather, user-generated reviews and pictures. We also recommend that The Hikery provide a directory of hiking locations if users want more information than is presented on the web application. This type of contextual information will assist the user to decide which locations to take a hike at.

Back to List of Findings

12. Active hikers are more open to meeting new people through hiking.

From Survey

Both hikers’ and non-hikers’ responsed to the question “Do you consider hiking to be a good activity for getting to know someone for the first time?” Hikers are those who hike once every few weeks or more. 75% of hikers consider hiking a good activity for meeting new people, while only 37.8% of non-hikers share this opinion.

Recommendation

Implement incentives for non-hikers to try hiking in a way that is comfortable for them. Through this, they may have positive hiking experiences and become interested in hiking more as a good activity for getting to know new people.

Back to List of Findings

Lessons Learned

Prior to this project, the group had a different perspective on user experience research and the great amount of preparation and analysis it entails. The class not only provided us with the fundamentals of user experience research, but also allowed us to practice the principles of user research on a real project. This project taught us how to deal with different user experience methods, how to recruit, and the importance of communication between with the client, participants, and group members.

During the competitive analysis, we learned that this method provided background as to the type of product our client had with respect to its competitors. The competitive analysis then provided great insight into the features that worked well for the competitors in retaining users and keeping the product engaging. This method also showed us what products already in the social meetup market could do, and from this we found the need for The Hikery to distinguish itself even more from its competitors, not just in its ability to connect users, but in its features for creating hikes (as some competitors’ products initiated hiking activities for meeting people as well). The competitive analysis was helpful when combined with the survey results, because from all of this data we were able to tailor the pre-usability test interview questions to get more information from people individually to hopefully support the previous methods’ findings. Thus, we found found that although the competitive analysis method was conducted separately, it also had an impact on the planning and processing of other methods such as the development of the usability test and interviews.

From the survey, we learned that it is often difficult to determine which questions to ask, because more questions always surface as more information is gathered. Therefore, a lot of thought needs to be put into the survey questions to try to cover all bases. In addition, some questions that appear innocent at first could actually be a bit leading. For example, we asked “Do you consider hiking to be a good activity for getting to know someone for the first time? Would you feel comfortable?” We included the last question to set a framework for the type of answers the participant could write. Perhaps the last question is what sparked the awkwardness and safety concerns we obtained from the question. If we hadn’t included this statement, perhaps we would have gotten different results. We also learned of the power and value of Qualtrics software because not only did it provide data in a uniform manner, it let us examine trends and new findings.

While reviewing our usability test interviews, we learned that during the pre-interview, there were several opportunities to ask the subjects to further elaborate on their answers that would have help us further develop answers. Some sessions of the pre-interview followed too closely to the script. As a result, this strictly caused to us to lose further insight that could be gained from asking deeper questions. In preparing the pre-interview questions, we should have included potential follow-up questions to ask as well.

Another lesson we learned through running the usability test itself: when giving users context and scenarios, in many instances, participants did not fully understood the scenario or the context. As a result, participants constantly asked questions such as “What time do you want selected?” in relation to creating a hike. There were other instances where users complained about the prototype’s functionality after we stated that it was strictly a prototype with limitations. We made sure we emphasized the application they were testing was a prototype for our later usability tests to resolve this.

From the post-interview session, we learned that some users might not have voiced their feedback during the usability tests since they were preoccupied by application itself. As a result, some users might not have time to reflect on how they felt towards the application while trying to complete the task. The post-interview supplemented and gathered many insights we that we were not able to obtain during the usability testing. By incorporating the interface tour in the usability test, users provided us with significant amount of information about whether or not the features were intuitive to understand prior to clicking the options. This let us discover that there was a need to improve the clarity of the workflow.

We discovered the importance of having a fully functional deliverable prior to the usability testing. We believed that the prototype the client provided would address the key features of The Hikery. When we encountered the web prototype, we found that there were inconsistencies in the functionalities of the features. We discovered this when we conducted a test run of the usability test and found that the workflow of The Hikery was mostly incomplete we were not able to develop tasks that could be completed in the current web application. Therefore, we implemented a prototype in Balsamiq to the design specifications of the actual website, which then accomplished several key features of The Hikery. By having a wire frame prototype using the Balsamiq software, we encountered several shortcomings. For example, the prototype was only clickable and did not allow users to type anything on the keyboard. This limited user control because participants were not able to choose whatever they prefered; instead, they already knew the information was pre-selected and therefore did not need to think as much as if they were testing the real web application. Therefore, the user experience of The Hikery was definitely affected by the prototype, causing us to miss opportunities on several important key findings for the project.

In addition to learning about user research through methodologies, our group learned the difficulty behind recruiting participants to complete the surveys and usability tests. Although we exceeded our goal of attaining 50 responses, we realized we had to outreach to as many people as possible through various outlets outside of our personal networks. For example, to further gain the input of avid hikers, we not only sent emails to members of Cal Hiking and Outdoors Society (CHAOS), but also attended their weekly meeting to attract their attention. By taking a proactive approach and attending the meeting, we were able to obtain responses immediately after we presented our project and immediately gained more input from the potential users of the web application.

As for recruiting participants for the usability testing, we found that participants were more willing to volunteer their time by offering them incentives. We sent one round of emails without offering incentives, and did not receive any responses in return. After two days of no responses, we sent out another email offering five dollar gift cards as incentives and finally received responses. Following the responses, we needed to accommodate with the availability of the participants to come meet and complete the usability test. We had to plan arrangements where sessions would not coincide with other usability tests. We found that the recruitment process entailed more than we expected in order to efficiently test the participants for our user research.

Throughout the entire process we had to keep in mind the client’s needs and goals for this project. As a result we made sure to keep constant contact with the client to assure her of our progress and possible implementations for the prototype in relation to the project. By fostering a steady communication system with our client, we also received help from the client in recruiting individuals to complete our survey and usability tests. We also addressed issues we had in regards to the web application with our client. One issue, mentioned earlier, was the deliverable which we felt needed improvement. By discussing the situation with our client, our client agreed to changing prototype from its website format to wire frame protoype using the Balsamiq software. Hence, the client was an imperative asset to the completion of this project.

By having the opportunity of working on a real project, we applied what we learned from the classroom setting and continued to learn by working with our client and ensuring their needs were met. We discovered that communication is essential throughout the entire process of completing the methods for the user research, determining findings, and ensuring progress amongst group members. This user research experience let us see that the entire project requires collaboration and a synthesis of information. As a result, we noted that the methods used connected with each other and together impact the results. Although the methods used can be conducted independently of each other, the methods came together when determining the key findings and addressing the project goals.

Appendix

Email correspondence with CHAOS: email to CHAOS

Email for usability tests and interviews: email for usability tests and interview