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Onward

5 week class design project

Timeline: Aug 2021 - Sept 2021

Role: UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer

Tools: Figma, Google Docs

Make your group activities easier to plan and coordinate. Resolve deadlocks and prevent any one or two persons from running the show. Everyone gets a say and everyone gets to make suggestions. Go onwards with Onward!

Screens from Onward's prototype

Integrated group chat function and activity voting gallery.

Problem

When I hang out with my friends, I tend to just follow along without suggesting any particular activity. Usually the initiator of the plans tends to decide what to do without really considering what everyone else in the group might want to do. With larger groups, ideas and plans differ such that a problem arises: which activity should the group do? How should that be decided and communicated? Is everyone getting what they want?

When we spoke with potential stakeholders, we found that their friend groups often faced deadlocks and disagreement when planning their hangouts. Rather than going out to do an activity, they would waste time debating preferences and different activities. Another problem was that when coordinating hang out plans, users often needed two separate apps: one to do the researching and planning and another to talk with party members. Switching back and forth between apps poses a hindrance to clear and quick communication.

Users

The target users of Onward are activity planners and savvy travelers who like to plan out where to go and what activities to do. These users would benefit greatly from being able to coordinate and communicate with groups from a single place while viewing suggestions are on the table. An important note about these users is that they would prefer the mobile platform since they are on the move quite often. 

Team and Role

Our team of six had a diverse skillset and background with some of us being programmers focused on web development while others were designers working on user interface and user experience.

My role was primarily as a designer. I was mainly in charge of information layout, interaction design, and prototyping. I also contributed to producing final personas based on our user research, competitive analysis and consolidating feedback from user testing sessions.

Design Process and Product Iteration

Our competitive analysis showed us that popular tools like TripAdvisor and Google Maps lack features that make them efficient in planning activities and communicating with others while less popular apps like planmesh and eezy includes encourage a unified planning and communicating experience. 

Competitive analysis chart.png

Summary of our competitive analysis comparing (from top to bottom) TripAdvisor, Google Maps, planmeshapp, and eezy ai mood planner.

Being on a restrictive 5-week timeline, we needed to iterate quickly and set up a prototype for the purpose of testing. On top of this, we needed to figure out the flow of our app based. For this, we created several screens and a rough flow on Figma based on how users would like to organize groups and plan activities.

An initial user flow and early prototype screens we came up with.

Digital wireframe and flow diagrams used to guide our prototyping.

Since users tend to message others when making plans and doing individual searching, we decided that a simple process of creating a group with a title, location, and sending member invites was the minimum amount of work needed for a user to get plans off the ground. I made a push for more technical aspects involving searching for novel activities or hang out spots, suggesting them to a group, and then voting on all suggestions in the group before receiving a final decision. 

Onwardinitialscreens.jpg

Screens from our beta prototype. There was much to be desired with this iteration.

Our first iteration, used for testing, allowed our team to quickly realize that the user flow worked great but our interactions and overall interface design definitely needed some work, something that I personally contributed to in our final prototype. Testers enjoyed the flow and the premise of the app but they thought it lacked proper interface design and got confused with some of our interactions. 

Building quickly off of our beta prototype and using the feedback from our testers, we were able to produce a much more elegant prototype that kept the core features the same while improving the interaction and interface designs. 

To sum up some changes between versions, I implemented a series of overlays for voting on the app with indicators to show the user that their vote has been saved. I also helped create the overlays used for filtering attributes of activities based on user preferences. Finally color was added, bugs with interactions and scrolling were fixed, and a chat feature with a keyboard was added (though it does not properly send messages).

A gallery of some of the screens in the Onward app.

Screens from our polished, final prototype.

Outcome

As part of the process, the app needed to be pitched to a large audience composed of other designers, potential users, and 'investors' (instructors playing the part of sharks). The final product was well received and audience members appreciated that the app helped resolve the problems they face. The 'investors' in particular seemed interested and said that they would like to see the app developed beyond the current prototype. 

From this experience, I learned how to adapt to meet deadlines on an accelerated timeline while reinforcing my skills of doing user research, digital prototyping, and working with a team in a fast-paced environment.

If our team had more time, I definitely would have liked to see our idea become a fully developed app. With our team's diverse skill set, I have no doubt that we would have been able to make it happen and attract a large audience to use and invest in our app.

To view the whole prototype, click here

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