Having completed two sets of user research (read about that here and here) and creating moodboards summarising the three themes, today we held an ideation session in order to consider viable ideas for this project and discuss what could be done.

We used post-it notes to map our ideas and also create some amazingly cliche ‘I’m a UX designer!’ images.

What do we need to produce?

User research over the past few weeks has generally concluded that:

  • Focus group members generally enjoyed the site visits.
  • Many of the focus group members did not generally do walks like the ones we did in their free time.
  • On the whole, the focus group members agreed that audio interaction would be ideal. One even said that audio books were great because ‘you can close your eyes and imagine the story better than you could reading words on a page.’ Another member said that audio books were preferable because they find reading text difficult.
  • All focus groups featured members who were interested in landscape heritage, cultural heritage and ecology – these are the three themes from the Broads Authority.
  • Technology usage was mixed. Some focus group members used their devices regularly, some even replacing their computers and games consoles with them. Others weren’t so interested in using their technology, only using it for basic tasks like the occasional social media usage.
  • Generally, circular walks were preferred. There needs to be a point to reach and the focus group members wanted to know more about where they were walking and what they were seeing en route.
  • Poor signage, access to walks and maps were a pain point for people wanting to do these walks.

We used a lot of post-it notes to map our ideas, look at the video below to see the post-it note board we made!

Thinking of themes

From this, we spent the morning considering what exactly it is about the Broads that attracts people to them. Below are some of the adjectives and verbs that we used to describe the Broads:

  • Exploration
  • Education
  • Mysterious
  • Eye-opening
  • ‘Following paths’
  • Contrast
  • Adventure
  • Slow-paced
  • Tranquility
  • Community
  • Rural
  • Diverse
  • Beautiful
  • Reeds
  • Reality
  • Unspoiled
  • Immersion
  • Spiritual
  • Healing

You can see more in the photo of the post-it notes below.

The post-it notes for the theme ideation we came up on the wall.

Thematic ideation

Using these verbs and adjectives to describe the broads, we were able to place these on post-it notes and create a small ‘moodboard’ of themes, which ranged from health and well-being to beauty and the environment to fitness and exercise.

We were then able to come up with some ‘app ideas’ from these themes, some of which are listed below:

  • ‘Follow the path to get lost’ (‘get lost’ in a good sense – as in absorbed in your surroundings, taking in the natural beauty)
  • ‘Mysteries want to be discovered’
  • ‘Hidden treasures’
  • ‘Improve health and well-being by connecting with the natural environment’
  • ‘An adventure for the senses’
  • ‘Discover what nature is hiding’
  • ‘The walk of the wild world’
  • ‘Join community groups’
  • ‘Escape to explore’

Some of these thematic ideas went down well, others not so much. ‘Join community groups’ for example was originally ‘make new friends by joining community groups’, but the ‘make new friends’ bit was removed just in case that was a claim that the app might not be able to live up to. ‘Escape’ was praised as a word meaning ‘have an adventure’, ‘explore’ and other exciting connotations, but was criticised for potentially ‘running away’ from problems (such as poor mental health and well-being) rather than working to resolve them. Another word might have been a better choice, but we couldn’t decide which word to use.

We wrote some thematic ideas on a sheet of paper placed close to the post-it notes.

Digital solution ideation

The thematic ideas allowed us to then consider different technologies that could be used and the kind of digital solutions that we could make using this. These are ideas for apps and/or responsive web apps. We identified a range of technologies that we could employ for this project and several ideas for each that seemed suitable, cost-effective and achievable with the time, resources and expertise we have for this project.

We grouped app ideas into themes and then we voted (using circular stickers) for the themes that we wanted to consider.

AR and VR:

  • WebVR and Google Cardboard simulations of how sites used to be in times gone by.
  • Seasonal views of certain locations, in AR.
  • Arrows on the ground to act as waypoints, in AR.
  • Treasure hunts, in AR.
  • A 360 degree image which could be tapped to reveal how sites used to look or how they look at different times of the year. Not strictly AR or VR but close!

Health and fitness:

  • Step counter.
  • Calorie counter.
  • Track monthly activity/exercise completed at the Broads.
  • Track time spent walking/exercising at the Broads.

Mapping:

  • A basic map of the walks on the locations (instead of or accompanying traditional signage).
  • Points of interest identified using the device gyroscope.
  • Landmark identifier, not necessarily using a gyroscope.
  • GPS mapping different layers.

Immersive audio:

  • Audio guide/audio walk focusing on the three themes (landscape heritage, cultural heritage and biodiversity) and a description of what happens in each season.
  • Voice recording stories.
  • Factual voice recordings.

Audio identifiers:

  • Audio previews of the different sounds of wildlife (e.g. birds) to help users identify different wildlife.
  • Geolocation information, e.g. images, videos and audio.
  • Photo album organisation.

Social:

  • Community finder.
  • Group activities.
  • Social media sharing.
  • Internal/external reviews.

Rewards:

  • Token/fact/storyline collection along a walk – different parts of the story would be unveiled at different points along the walk.
  • Points could be rewarded to unlock collectibles or customisables.

Instruction:

  • ‘Look for these flowers at…’ and then get the user to complete a task when they find these flowers.
  • ‘Touch the reeds at…’ and then get the user to complete a task when they have touched these reeds.
  • ‘Can you see the..?’ and then get the user to complete a task relating to that.
The post-it notes on the wall with digital solution ideas.

With these ideas created, we began to consider the pros and cons of each.

Generally, we found that AR and VR apps were cool but sometimes difficult to implement and often relied on having specific hardware or hardware accessories (such as a VR headset or VR phone holder) to use them. The same was true for the health and fitness apps, but at least they encourage exercise and being active.

Mapping apps had a very specific and broad use case, which was good, and would be easy enough to create using the help of one of the many mapping services available – but we wondered if it had been done before or not inspiring enough on its own.

An immersive audio experience, such as an audio guide, would compliment the walk or the activity and could easily be used cross-site, but would require the use of headphones, otherwise it may become a disturbance to others. Identifiers on the other hand would be easy to understand and not so much of a disturbance, but we felt that it could be difficult to catch the discreet sound of every animal and that it only satisfies one of the three themes, really.

Social apps are a hard market to branch into, we feel, and it cannot be moderated – a topic that is particularly relevant at the moment. Choosing a platform for social interaction to happen on could be tough since different people like different ones and creating a new platform would be costly, time consuming and likely not cost-effective in the long run if few people use it. However, there is never anything bad about encouraging people to get together and meet.

The reward system is a very simple idea, but perhaps one more suited to children and a younger target audience. Adults may not be so interested in collecting points to unveil a story or as a motivation to walk.

An instructional app would be easy to make and easy for a user to understand as well as very ‘cross-site compatible’, but potentially a little uninspiring and it may be hard to get the user to complete the instruction provided and difficult to check that they’ve even done it – for example you’d need a complex algorithm to determine what it was exactly that the user had taken a photo of.

‘You’re not a UX designer until you’ve done the ‘write on post-it notes’ thing.’ -Far too many people to mention!

The result

Deciding which path to go down was difficult. We did three rounds of selection, firstly by placing a sticker on five of the eight ‘technologies’, then by placing another on three of the eight and then finally on two of the eight. We could place multiple stickers on the same ‘technology’ if we wanted, but this was an effective way to eliminate ideas.

All things considered, the instructional app would be the easiest to build and implement and suits the most sites and the most Broads Authority project themes. This combined with the possibility of some kind of map or 360 degree ‘then and now’ (whether that’s historical or seasonal) photograph and some audio to inform the user about the scene could work well.

This app would:

  • Be innovative by allowing the user to find out about the environment (historically, geographically and also from a biodiversity and ecology point of view) by selecting what it is they want to learn about on a 360 degree image, rather than arriving at a checkpoint or listening to part of an audio guide. This means that the user has more choice about what it is they want to learn about it.
  • Be interesting enough to encourage people to use it whilst walking and maybe even encourage people who wouldn’t ordinarily do these kind of walks to do them, just to play with the app.
  • Be simple enough to use so that people with different technology skills and interests could benefit from it.
  • Not require you to complete a walk ‘glued’ to your phone. The app would only work at certain points (where the 360 degree images had been taken) and this means that the user would not need to be ‘attached’ to their phone throughout the walk.
  • The app would be easy to make for several sites at key locations, such as Burgh Castle and Carlton Marshes.
  • This would be relatively simple (but still an exciting challenge!)
  • Easy to combine with the ‘instructional app’ idea, for example you could get the user to tap on some flowers in the 360 degree image, tell them some information about those flowers, then instruct them to go and find those flowers.
The 360 degree image that interacts with the user through the use of the phone’s gyroscope that reveals another (older) image underneath sounds like a exciting and unique project!

What’s next?

I suspect that on Thursday 31st, our next sessions at university, we will begin to consider an area to focus on and get more specific with what our instructional/360 degree image app could do. We may even begin to think of a pitch for the Broads Authority.

The idea we have the moment is just a candidate. It may not be what we end up deciding to send to market.

We are likely attending another site visit on Friday February 1st – this time probably to Beccles in Suffolk to explore the quay and the Waveney river there.