Research on Navigation
People navigating cities
How do people navigate cities? How does this differ between locals and tourists? How well do people understand the cities they navigate? What tools do people use? What methods do people prefer? What factors do people consider?
Research on Exploration
Earlier interviews on navigation revealed that people don't necessarily always follow the map. I then wanted to probe further into how people veered off their routes, and how they explored cities.
What prompts exploration? What guides exploration after starting? When do people explore? How do people explore?
- People differ in how they prefer to explore. Some will never do it with friends, others are scared to explore alone.
- Exploration is largely the result of free time, such as when they don't have a destination to hurry to, or they have time before needing to be at the next destination.
- Exploration is guided by “interested” things, but the definition of what is interesting differs per person.
- The intent to explore needs to be there first.
There seemed to be a need for something that would prompt people to explore at appropriate times, and to guide them in discovering what they find interesting. That is the route I went in.
I found that there were a lot of apps that provided information on what to do and where to go, as well as what certain landmarks are, but none that assisted in discovery, in finding that sense of delight when you discover something for yourself.
Defining the app
Sidetrack aims to find routes based on the user's preferences on transportation and their definition of what's interesting, learning from a combination of user profile data and other app users' route data.
The intent is not to help the user be efficient and get things done, but to help them explore their surroundings. One challenge is to design the interface in a way that helps users be on the app as little as possible—the goal is to get people to discover things on their own, not to hand them all the information.
Assumptions about the audience / use cases
- People who need a reminder to explore when the opportunity is right
- People who need recommendations for where to go
- People who are waiting and have time to kill
- People who are going somewhere and have time to kill
Situations when people might open the app
- Already exploring and want assistance
- Doesn't need to go anywhere and wants to explore
- Going somewhere familiar and wants a new route
- In a new area and wants to take a good route
- Doesn't want to explore
- Responding to a notification
Different people are drawn to different things when exploring. In order to build personalized routes where the user is likely to find something they like, there is a settings section on the app where they indicate their exploration interests. While asking users to self-identify interests may not be the most accurate way to gather this information, it's the most efficient way to do so, and the options can match with the data that the system has. In addition, personalized interests would not be the only factor in producing routes; aggregate user data would also be considered.
I sent a survey to find out what people might be interested in, and formed this list based on their responses.
Thinking about the goals of the app, getting people to explore and experience the real world, I wanted the visual language to support those goals—to almost elicit curiosity. At the same time, I wanted a flat, minimal aesthetic, just enough to communicate the information, but not too much for someone to want to stay in the app constantly.
When you hand people a route that goes off the quickest path, and they're in the mood for exploration, what do they do? How much do they veer off the route? I did a bit of research to find out.
I asked for volunteers, made routes based on where they needed to go, asked them to let their interests lead them, then followed them to see what they would do.
PZ had free time and just wanted to quickly explore her surroundings. I gave her a route that took her to unfrequented areas next to campus. Notes about her trip:
- It wasn't clear which was starting and which was ending on the route map
- She completely ignored the route summary
- She followed the general direction of the route at first, but completely just let her interests take her, which took up the rest of the time
- She was constantly trying to connect what she was seeing with what she's seen in pictures
- She expressed enjoyment, that it felt like off campus
- She said she was afraid of trespassing, but completely ignored a trespassing sign elsewhere
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