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Connecting climbers together.

A mobile social platform to connect local climbers and belayers around the world together, to be released post-COVID. View the marketing site here.

Role:

UX Designer / Developer

Date:

Aug 2019 - Present

PART I - BACKGROUND

How can I easily find climbers to belay me?

There’s one thing that is especially exhausting about the sport of climbing: finding a belaying partner. Climbing requires not just anyone, but someone that you can rely on and trust with your life. Unfortunately, between school and work and other responsibilities, our schedules are constantly changing—and consequently, so is our spare time for the gym. Each semester, it becomes more frustrating to find a climber with the same open blocks for the gym as me. If you don’t have the belayer altogether, then that means you’re left with the bouldering gym or the auto belay, which isn’t the most exciting thing if you’re stoked on practicing lead climbing and taking falls or climbing outside with your friends. Rocks is a social platform designed to connect this growing community of climbers together by easing the process of organizing partner or group climbs.

PART II - RESEARCH

Secondary & Primary Research

I first conducted literature review to get as much information as possible in what types of resources already exist in the climbing community, mapped out the information I gathered from secondary research, and then redefined the scope of my goals in what I want to accomplish with this product. In this initial phase, I spent most of my time researching what technology and applications are already available for climbers to understand what sources already exist and what missed market demand opportunities are currently being overlooked.

Key finding: Many resources that exist are dedicated to tracking and logging your climbs and finding crags, but very few platforms are available to find belayers or connect the climbing community together.

Dive into the current market to find opportunities

Main methods of organizing climbs

I conducted a survey and asked a group of 20 acquaintances from my local climbing community in Bloomington, Indiana about their preferred method to communicate and find climbers in Bloomington, their frequency of climbing, and desire for new climbing partners. The most common responses regarding methods to find climbing partners were:

  • Facebook

  • Events

  • Group messages

  • Local clubs

  • Mountain Project

  • Tinder

  • Instagram

  • Word of mouth

Auto-ethnography: I find all of my climbing partners through tight-knit established organizations. If I ever travel outside of my university to another state or country, then I find all of my partners through messaging people in Facebook groups.

Insights analysis

Pain point: "I wish it [climbing] was more open and less intimidating when I first started to climb, so that I could have learn to lead climb earlier." 

Opportunity: Connect newcomer climbers together to ease comfortability when starting out with a data filter. Find mentors.

 

Pain point: "I never know when people have class, and I feel annoying asking them if they're free to climb."

Opportunity: Input their availability for climbing time and allow the public to see it and request climb time. Receive requests/invitations to climb based on seeing your availability as listed on your profile.

Pain point: "It's hard to climb when you're traveling solo, especially if you don't bring your gear."

Opportunity: Allow easy location switch to discover new climbers in whatever local community you are in with a geo-filter.

Pain point: "When it comes to climbing and leading outside, it needs to be with someone who knows how to [lead] belay safely."

Opportunity: Filter through different skill and competency levels (from beginner to advanced) and experiences.

PART III - IDEATION

User Experience

User Persona

In order to clearly understand the user, I created a profile for a target user to help uncover her main needs and goals.

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Journey Mapping

The journey map is meant to understand the user more clearly by mapping out a customer’s journey in the world and identifying key issues that arise in order to build a solution accordingly.

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Tools used: Adobe XD, Invision

User flow

PART IV - TESTING

Prototyping & User Testing

Round 1: High-Fidelity Testing

I asked 10 climbers between 18-29 of different backgrounds and skill levels around Bloomington to use the app. View the interactive prototype here.

Learning goals: Observe how the user interacts with the overall product, note their behavior, likes, dislikes, patterns, and preferences, and find areas to improve based on these observations.

1. Users thought agenda scheduling was invasion of privacy.

2. The messages and notifications being mixed together was confusing for users.

3. Users enjoy the categorizing of the Discover feature, but they would like to easily see the filter for setting climbs too.

Goals for iteration 2:

1. Redesign a more comfortable way to share availability.

2. Create a separate Messages button; redesign the notification as an overlay.

3. Create a very clear and visible filter to set up a climb & find other climbers.

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Round 2: High-Fidelity Testing

I asked the 10 climbers from the previous study to reuse the app with the key goal of efficiently setting up a climb post.

Learning goals: Observe how the user interacts with climb set-up flow, then see if any additional changes need to be made to the feature.

  • Unable to adjust between Indoor and Outdoor climbs.

  • Would like to easily change their location if they were to travel somewhere.

  • Users feel awkward to deny a notification request. Although there is an exit button, they would like to see a more prominent "Ignore Request" type of button.

  • Users find scrolling all the way down to access main buttons to be exhausting.

Goals for iteration 2:

1. Make the buttons static.

2. Allow quick edit between locations. Add filter for indoor/outdoor.

3. Create onboarding screens.

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PART V - DESIGN

Design Reveal

PART VI - DEVELOPMENT

Flutter Studio

Ongoing application development

We are currently collaborating with Periodic company team to integrate our database into their software. My technical co-founder and I have been leveraging agile software development methodologies to develop front-end screens using Flutter (Dart). We expect the app to launch during peak climbing season and post-COVID, September, App Store and Google Play. If you would like to see the current MVP, please contact me privately.

Rocks was accepted as one of 7 start-ups in B-Start, an accelerator program.

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Developer flow chart. We mapped out key points of interaction to guide data collection, necessary screens to develop first, what would link to external software, and where we would use Periodic's API calls (which was especially useful when communicating what backend we could derive from them). This chart helped us guide each distinct feature to incorporate, allowing us to separately work on the primary connection flows for initial MVPs using agile software development.

PART VII - REFLECTION

Key Takeaways

Simply the process and break it down

When in doubt, you should break things into smaller steps. I think it would have been more beneficial to test out each aspect of the product before wireframing the whole thing in the initial stage, since there were a few major changes in each category. When I got the feedback for each major part at once, it was overwhelming. It's important to start at the core of the product, then ease out to other features from there in order not to detract from the minimalism by offering too many features, which can become overwhelming for the user. I learned this the hard way when working on the Discover page instead of focusing on the availability idea.

My key takeaway from this project was that you can never have enough research and sketches, especially early on in the process. A few changes are fine, but changing the core of the product is immensely difficult to work with because you can't move forward without that seed. Baseline research and useful insights aren't enough; you should be testing out ideas and even testing your sketches early on to see how the user reacts to your idea. In fact, sketching is probably the most important part of the design process; when you're stuck and don't know what to do, sketching is the key to unlock useful insights and ideas.

Take one step forward, and two steps back