Research Report, Specifications Document, Presentation
UX Designer, Product Manager
Urban Archive is a technology non-profit aimed at helping New Yorkers discover the history of their city. The app provides descriptions of over 75,000 New York sites, self-guided tours, and audio museum tours at select locations.
My UX design team of four was privileged to work with Urban Archive to improve the design and functionality of their app. While there were many available angles from which to tackle the project, after meeting with the Urban Archive team to understand their business objectives, our team decided to focus our research and overall design sprint on the tour functionality of app. This feature extends to self-guided tours both throughout the city landscape and within specific museums.
New Yorkers experience the growth and evolution of their city firsthand. Many wish to learn about the city's history for personal development or social engagement, but in an authentic and accessible way. Common roadblocks when engaging in a museum or walking tour include limited time, lack of control over the experience, and language barriers.
How might we construct a consistent self guided tour experience about the history and evolution of NYC for people who value exploration as a social activity or solo endeavor?
After conducting eight interviews with a combination of museum staff and individuals with a penchant for exploring New York, we synthesized our research using an affinity map. Using this technique we list the insights gained from each interview and rearrange them in groups by a common theme. This lets us easily identify trends across multiple users, which allows us to draw overall insights that accurately reflect our user's needs, preferences, and pain points.
We created two personas who exemplify the different types of New Yorkers who could use the Urban Archive app. Our primary persona, “The Lone Explorer,” is interested in spontaneously exploring various areas of the city that he finds himself in. We designed specifically with him in mind as our users. Our secondary persona prefers to explore with family and friends, she needs a more structured experience.
We performed an Open Card Sort in order to see how users categorized the existing tours and sites in Urban Archive and help fulfill users’ desires to see tours and lists further organized.
In the end we came up with 8 categories representative of the open card sort results from 7 participants. These categories were used in the app for both the tours and sites sections, ensuring navigation is consistent for ease of use.
We performed a control group of usability tests. The purpose of this of this test is to understand if and where users have difficulty operating the app. It allows the designers a baseline for comparing any new design tests against. If we do not know how the app performed in its current state, we have no way of determining if our new designs are better for the user. We performed five usability tests on users 24 to 60 years old, both male and female. These tasks were based on the goals of our personas, a lone explorer and a pack leader both living in NYC.
We developed three design iterations and tested the first two. We focused these iterations on improving the information architecture and UI elements of the current app to address the findings of the control usability test and creating a consistent tour experience between the museum and cityscape features. We also added an interactive map feature that allows users to explore tours, sites, and hunts nearby, further elevating the experience and addressing users’ desires to interact with the map found during the control test.