A placemaking outdoor recreation application with embodied interaction.

Project Overview

Completed during the Spring 2021 quarter for HCI 594, the graduate Human-Computer Interaction program capstone course, Illahee was a group project with a focus on applying the skills learned during the graduate program in a comprehensive capstone project. I was solely responsible for the UX and UI design and assisted with the UX research.

Project Type
Invision & Figma
Jan 2022
Feb 2022
UX Designer


When participating in outdoor activities, we sometimes don’t know much about a place’s history, its people, or environment and it can be difficult finding information while outdoors. How can a digital outdoor recreation tool support embodied user learning while supporting cultural and ecological awareness and promoting engagement and activism?


Design a product to create a more thoughtful outdoor experience through connection with history and environment. The app would allow users to look up information about specific trails and access access audio and video tours that includes relevant geological, ecological, and historical information with storytelling recorded by the area’s Indigenous population.

Design Process

We used user centered design thinking to guide our design process from beginning to end. The process and methodologies used in this project are shown below:


Competitive Analysis

We started with a competitive analysis of five products specialized in outdoor recreation, audio tour, and Indigenous placemaking. The five products chosen are AllTrails, Strava, AnyTour, VoiceMap, and Whose Land. With the exception of AnyTour, all products have both mobile (Android and iOS) and web platforms.

Literature Review

Selections for our literature review focused on existing research that engaged with our primary research question: how can a digital outdoor recreation tool become a catalyst for sovereignty through community engagement and user learning? Scholarly works were selected through keyword searches and reviewed for relevance and appropriate precedents.

Digital Narrative

Next we built a small Wix website for use as a contextual inquiry to help users understand and visualize the idea of our application. The website shared information about some of the features of the application such as placemaking, environmentalism, and the goal of fostering sovereignty. Sharing the website with participants during user interviews allowed us to collect first hand impressions and expectations about the application concept.

User Interviews

We conducted user interviews with 5 participants and incorporated a contextual inquiry of our digital narrative in order to gather initial design impressions and better understand what future users might expect in our application. The interviews were conducted remotely using screen sharing and screen recording through Zoom.


Affinity Mapping

To organize our findings we created an affinity diagram. We used Miro to create our affinity diagram. We created three groups while organizing our findings: the participants’ concepts of place, their outdoor recreation experiences, and their definitions of sovereignty. We also organized our observations regarding the digital narrative along with any pain points discovered.


Wireframe Sketches

Using our findings from the competitive analysis and the feedback from user interviews, I sketched out wireframes in InVision to help us quickly visualize task flows and design concepts.


Low Fidelity

After making some changes to the sketches during our group discussion, I moved forward with creating the low fidelity prototype in Figma based off of the sketches. I created two different versions of the low fidelity prototype to conduct A/B testing with participants.

Lo-Fi Login, Explore, & Trail View Wireframes
Lo-Fi Narrator View, Navigation View, & Split View


Usability Testing

We recruited six participants to test the low fidelity prototype. We conducted the sessions remotely using Zoom with participants sharing their screen during task completion. The sessions were recorded with participant consent. Our study was a ‘between-subjects’ study, with participants being sorted into two distinct groups, with one group evaluating prototype V1 and the other group evaluating prototype V2.

The prototypes focused on five tasks:

  • Can users successfully find a specific trail?
  • Can users successfully enable the narration feature?
  • Do users find the narration feature useful and engaging?
  • Can users successfully change the layout of the narration screen?
  • Can users successfully add a trail to their ‘favorites’ list?

Key Findings & Pain Points

Overall, our task completion rate was very high and the ‘ease of use’ of the application was, on average, rated above ‘easy’. However, there is room for improvement as related to our tasks in both information architecture and content.

Short term recommendations:

  • Global
  • Low power mode - setting + notification
  • ‘Near me’ map feature
  • ‘Favorites’ List
  • Move favorites to somewhere you can easily access it like user profile
  • Make the heading on filter list more obviously a filter and not a link to favorites list
  • Narration feature
  • More obvious ‘Start’ CTA
  • Better indication for switching views
  • Interpretive content
  • Create onboarding experience
  • Make the narrator screen something other than narrator face
  • One user was confused by the media player and length of the trail i.e. he wasn’t sure if the ‘time elapsed’ was for the trail or for the narration/media - maybe this feature should be in a pop up or make it obvious that it's a part of the narration

Solutions to Pain Points

With our short term recommendations and feedback gathered from testing, we made the following improvements and changes in the high fidelity prototype.

Recommendation #1: Low Power Mode

We added a low powered mode option to the navigation confirmation screen after a recommendation during testing as an expected feature. This would provide an option for users who are not interested in using GPS tracking or video streaming and allow users to conserve battery while using Illahee with audio narration only.

Recommendation #2: Near Me Map Feature

To make it easier for users to find trails near them, a near me map feature was added to the bottom nav bar.

Recommendation #3: Favorite’s List

Favorites were moved to the bottom nav bar to allow users to be able to access favorites from other screens other than the home screen. The profile icon was relocated to the top right section of the home screen to make room for the favorite’s icon.

Recommendation #4: ‘Start’ CTA

The start button on the navigation confirmation screen was enlarged to make the ‘Start’ CTA more obvious to users.

Recommendation #5: Onboarding

Two help users understand how to switch views in navigation mode, we added pretraining in the form of onboarding screens.

Recommendation #6: Navigation & Media Player

To clarify confusion with the length of a trail and the time elapsed of the narration or media, the media play time and player controls were placed in a pop up modal that can be accessed and toggled as needed.


Our research from interviews and usability testing demonstrated an overwhelmingly positive interest for engaging with Indigenous culture and history. Many users commented on the uniqueness and timeliness of the idea. In the future we are interested in completing further design iterations and research to refine features and understand what content is most engaging and relevant.

We would like to continue refining the concept of incorporating Augmented Reality within a hiking trail by building out ‘touchpoints’ where specific multimedia content is activated. Future research could include participatory design methods with Indigenous communities to create multimedia content, which could then be included and evaluated in future design iterations.