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Discover activities, make plans, and share ideas — all in one place.

Making plans with friends can be a stressful experience. If only deciding what to do this weekend was as easy as picking a playlist! Dora aims to reduce uncertainty and promote collaboration with a playful, curated set of activities and places that lets users easily browse, share, and organize ideas.

MY ROLE

I led the design phase of this project, spearheading ideation and prototyping, working with one other designer. I also created the visual design system, and participated in the initial user research and product scoping phases of the project.

THE TEAM

Florian Janke — Designer / Developer
Aylin Saribudak — Researcher
Dianne Kim — Researcher
A. Fleming Seay — Project Advisor

— SCOPING THE PROJECT

What's the problem?

People tend to put off planning in advance because it requires a lot of effort and time. If you're a planner like me, you've probably at some point found yourself with 50 tabs open while trying to figure out weekend plans.

It's a lot of work to gather information from multiple platforms to get a holistic idea of all the options that are out there, make the plan, and ask their friend for input. This entire process also makes it rather difficult to collaborate with friends to make plans in the first place, which once again results in the burden of planning and organizing to fall on one person.

HOW MIGHT WE...

Streamline the process for planners and make it easier for people who aren't planners to explore?

Understanding the competition

For our competitive analysis, we looked at a variety of products that users typically use to plan trips, browse places of interest, or provide curated recommendations. The analysis made it clear that there was a gap in the market for an app like dora. AllTrails and the Nudge are well curated, but the former is only hiking-specific and the latter doesn't provide much autonomy for the user. The concept of our ideal product lies somewhere at the intersection between Google Maps, AllTrails, and the Nudge.

— USER
RESEARCH

Identifying the pain points

To understand how our potential users feel and further test out the validity of our hypothesis, we conducted generative interviews with 5 users and supplemented our findings with survey responses from 78 users. We created an affinity map in Miro to identify overlaps and commonalities in users' pain points and preferences.

Affinity mapping diagram

Prioritizing our features

Based on our research findings, we created a list of requirements to guide our design and ideation process. The requirements were separated into 'Must-Haves' and 'Nice-to-Haves' so that we could better prioritize our features and manage the scope of the project with our user's needs in mind.

⭐️ MUST-HAVES

  • Saving or bookmarking capabilities.
    Users will often save places of interest from social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter in their notes app or through screenshots, but generally forget to refer back to them when actually looking for something to do.
  • Recommendations from other users.
    Another thing that almost all of our participants brought up was that they are more likely to do an activity that someone else has done and can vouch for. In particular, recommendations from friends was the most trusted source of information for finding new things to do.
  • Highly visual, more descriptive results.
    Users mentioned that they prefer being able to see pictures of a place of interest, and that existing sources of information did not include enough imagery or description about a location.
  • Map views.
    Many users cited Google Maps as one of their preferred tools due do how it easy it was to understand the proximity of places of interest. The ability to see places in the context of one another is especially important when planning days out with multiple stops.
  • Up-to-date, relevant, and important information.
    One big pain point for users was that many apps had outdated information or weren't necessarily accurate.

🎁 NICE-TO-HAVES

  • Searching by 'vibe' or intention of activity.
    One of our participants talked extensively about how existing methods of search did not necessarily encompass the intention of the activity, e.g. if a user is interested in study spots, they could search for 'Coffee shop' or 'Library' but possible spots could also be 'Beer garden' or 'Park'. We were interested in this concept of providing the ability to search by a specific atmosphere or 'vibe' appropriate to an activity, rather than a type of location.
  • Automated itinerarization of multiple saved locations.
    A big pain point that many users had was about the logistics portion of planning activities — planning out which place to go to first and figuring out travel times. While not necessary, we thought it could be helpful to have a feature that helped to automatically create a route plan for users to more easily visualize their day.
  • A way of initiating activities with friends.
    Proposing plans in groups can feel amorphous and it can be difficult to get consensus immediately. Our participants expressed an interest in a tool that could help them confirm the interests of their friends, as well as receive feedback on their ideas.
  • Intelligent reminders of saved locations or ideas.
    Because they typically forget to refer back to previously saved places of interest, some participants mentioned that it could be nice to receive contextual reminders when their phone recognizes that they are searching for places or things to do.

QUOTE FROM INTERVIEW

“I wish there was a way to organize the activity digitally so I could get feedback. Some tool that is fun and interactive and doesn't make it seem like a ‘job’ to plan the activity together.”

— IDEATION & SKETCHING

What could a solution look like?

Based on the requirements list compiled from the user interviews, our team created a list of features to include and keep in mind during the ideation phase. The team then split off and brainstormed ideas for a different set of features that solved the pain points we discovered. We reconvened for a virtual pin-up session to discuss our ideas, which helped to clarify which ideas we wanted to move forward with.


To guide our low-fi prototyping process, I created an information architecture flow diagram to drive consistency and better understand the relationships between different screens.

— LOW-FI PROTOTYPING

Creating our proof of concept

Using our information architecture diagram to guide us, each team member worked on screens for each separate tab. We created wireframes in Balsamiq to maintain visual consistency and ensure interactivity for testing.

Users liked our product, but clarification was needed

Our prototype was tested with 7 participants in a moderated test, due to the prototype's limited functionality. The goal here was to evaluate whether users were able to understand the different functionalities of the app, as well as see our participants' initial reactions towards the product.

👍🏼 WHAT PEOPLE LIKED

  • The collaborative aspect of the application.
    Users were excited about the ability to share and work on plans with friends.
  • Being able to combine multiple activities/places to form a plan.
    Users liked the convenience of making a plan from selected locations, due to the reduced need to consider logistics.
  • The ability to save their ideas in one place.
    It was important for users that the ability to save places was front and center in Dora.

😕 What people Didn't understand

  • The distinction between similar concepts, such as 'Add to Plan' vs. 'Save', 'Share' vs. 'Collaborate'.
    Due to the lack of visual cues or distinction between different actions, the use of similar terms made it difficult to understand what each action would lead to.
  • Why 'Ideas' had its own separate tab.
    Users were confused by the concept of curated itineraries, and why they did not exist under the 'discovery' tab.
  • Where their saved content was ending up.
    Users were not expecting their saved content to end up in the 'Profile' area, which we initially proposed based on Instagram's IA.

— MEDIUM-FI PROTOTYPING

Rethinking the scope of dora

After our user tests, it was clear that the 'Ideas' tab caused confusion. We scrapped our idea of providing curated itineraries for users, focusing instead on helping users to create their own plans by providing recommendations for individual places/activities. These 'Plans' could then be shared with friends. This way, each tab has its own distinct purpose.

Determining the priorities for our final prototype

In our second round of testing, we used our medium fidelity prototype and conducted unmoderated tests through UserZoom with 8 participants. While users continued to react positively to the idea, even saying that it was a useful tool they would actually use, there was still confusion about two key aspects of the app. Users also wanted confirmation for their actions, which we made sure to include in the design system.

    😕 What people Didn't understand

    • How to add a collaborator to your plan.
      Users kept trying to click the 'Share' button to add a collaborator, demonstrating that there still wasn't enough of a signifier for where one could add a collaborator.
    • Many users found some of our existing icons and their purpose unclear.
      Several of the icons, like the 'Upvoting' and 'Map view' buttons, weren't clear to users and their purpose wasn't intuitive to users.
    • Where their saved content was ending up.
      Even though we moved 'Saved Places' out of 'Profile' and into 'Plans', users weren't finding their saved content on the first try, often going to 'Discover'.

    QUOTE FROM INTERVIEW

    “I liked the concept a lot, that you can make a plan with such good details and that you can collaborate and get feedback from other people.”

    — High-FI PROTOTYPING

    Establishing Dora's identity

    With a fun and playful design identity for Dora in mind, I created a design system to tie together the final prototype. Since Florian and I were creating our prototypes asynchronously due to remote learning, it was important that our prototypes maintain visual consistency. After I established the visual design system, we worked together to create design element components in Figma.

    The importance of collaboration

    Collaboration was an element of Dora that was both well-received by users and also a feature we decided to prioritize as a team. We made a distinction between the action of 'collaborating', where friends can contribute and vote on ideas in a plan, and the less formal action of 'sharing', where users can share potential plans or ideas with friends.

    Distinct save features

    From the very beginning, users were confused about the distinction between saving a place as a part of a plan, versus saving an individual location. In the final iteration I created an action button bar that included two separate flows for the two activities. A notification indicate where places are saved in their 'Profile' tab upon saving a new place, as users were unable to find where their saved items were located in previous tests.

    Browse and search with ease

    To encourage non-planners to engage with places around them and provide inspiration for things to do, Dora features an engaging 'Discover' page that includes recommendations that regularly update. We also prioritized the map view within the search view, providing visual cues and imagery along the way to provide users with additional context about places. Based on our interviews, users prioritize knowing the hours and price range in the browsing process, so we chose to surface this information in both screens.

    OH HEY,

    Thanks for making it down here!

    Hope you enjoyed following along on this journey. I appreciate you taking the time to check out my work ☺️

    Don't be a stranger.

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