Crowds

Crowds is a start-up based in Philadelphia started by four University students to make navigating study spots, bars, and restaurants easier. The app provides users with information about how crowded an area of campus is, giving them the opportunity to choose a quiet space to study or a busy bar to meet others. As the Lead Product Designer, I was tasked with bringing Crowds to life through a mobile app and to promote it on the web.

Crowds Karate Club Mockup

Client

Crowds

Project Years

2017

My Role

Product Designer, Researcher, Founder

Problem

This project involved both the initial ideation of the app concept as well as determining the best approach to ensure the app was beneficial to both students and the places they were hoping to visit. Because the app could be used to avoid busy restaurants and therefore deter customers, we would need to design it in a way to inform the user but still attract them to our partner businesses.

Understand

As one of the founders of the company, I wanted to make sure our business strategy and designs were heavily informed by our users. Because students were our primary demographic, it was very easy to reach out to those around us for user interviews and testing. During the first round of design we spoke with 30 students and 10 local businesses to gain their insight on the concept. Speaking with these potential users and stakeholders, we became aware of a few necessary objectives:

  1. 1. The design should be simple with very few core screens, so exploration of locations is possible without cognitive overload.
  2. 2. We needed to consider whether separate apps for Universities would be the easiest way to gain them as partners.
  3. 3. Businesses were wary of the potential to deter customers, so we would need to provide value for their participation.
  4. 4. The design needed to be primarily visual, as most students did not have time or want to read detailed information before finding a location.

I began our design discovery with user flow diagrams of interactions and screens to better understand where to simplify our processes by finding only the most useful features.

User Flow

Explore

Branding + Styling

I created three style tiles that were discussed with each member of the team and were researched through user interviews. From there I evolved the branding and retested styles until arriving on the final brand and styling. The styles were created to allow for a flexible and scalable design language, so that they could be potentially applied to University branding. I also wanted to have a few secondary colors for each level of feeling crowded.

Style Tiles

Structuring

When testing out wireframes, we found that a map-focused design was the most effective in allowing exploration as well as simplicity. It also closely connected the idea of a location-based application to the experience. We then decided on four levels of a location being crowded. This created enough variation for the numbers of people in a location but also was not too overwhelming. We also understood that how crowded a location is would vary based on capacity. Because of this, we used the terms as more subjective than quantitative markers.

Wireframes

Produce

While creating the final designs, there were two divergent design patterns that both seemed viable. So after speaking with the other founders we decided to split and test both an Android and iOS version of the location detail pages. For iOS, the detail page was always the same, with every location in a list. However, the locations were organized based on proximity to the user. This allowed for users to explore both on the map and detail pages. On Android, users would only see one location and would be required to return to the map page to explore other locations. This created a simpler interaction and would be easier for the developers to implement.

We learned that most people did not necessarily care which design was presented to them. They both fulfilled their needs, but because the iOS version allowed for more functionality we decided to stick with that option for both platforms.

High Fidelity Designs

Results

While Crowds is still in development, we have received great feedback from users. The map-based design has been effective in allowing for exploration by the user. While many of the usability tests were generlly successful, once the apps are released the team will do more extensive testing and iterate based on those findings.

The company is in process of gathering feedback from possible location partners and will be continuing to explore those solutions as well. I've since moved off of the team, but occassionally consult with the founders as they prepare for launch.

Reflection

Some successes from this project include:

  1. 1. Designing an intuitive application that focuses on the user’s goals.
  2. 2. A simple interface that still allows for a very large amount of map data.
  3. 3. High user satisfaction in the application flow and usability.

A few areas for improvement:

  1. 1. Expanding on how to bring in more businesses as partners needs to be evaluated.
  2. 2. An even more flexible color palette could benefit the apps growth.
  3. 3. Further research on the connection between the app and if users visit a location would be useful.