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.
Product Designer, Researcher, Founder
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.
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. The design should be simple with very few core screens, so exploration of locations is possible without cognitive overload.
- 2. We needed to consider whether separate apps for Universities would be the easiest way to gain them as partners.
- 3. Businesses were wary of the potential to deter customers, so we would need to provide value for their participation.
- 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.
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.
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.