The initial problem
The first time I planned a camping trip, the process came in the form of a million open browser tabs. It seemed like there should be a better way to get outdoors. There are the detail-oriented, type-A, “check-every-single-Yelp-review’ campers and then there are the spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, “let’s-figure-it-out-when-we-get-there” campers. It’s also difficult to navigate one park’s many campgrounds and choose which site best fits the camper’s needs and expectations, whether it’s availability, amenities or atmosphere. Selecting and reserving the campsite of your choice should be as simple as booking a hotel room or flight, but the reservation process can be as tedious as mailing in a reservation and hoping for a spot. No one-stop shop for organizing a camping trip existed. So as part of my 10-week User Experience Design course at General Assembly, I designed campr.
How the problem shifted
When I go camping, I’m hoping to escape the human race as much as I can. It didn’t occur to me that many people go camping to spend time with other people. My user interviews revealed that many people go camping in groups and use third party applications to schedule plans. They complained that it was difficult to keep track of conversations and keep everyone on the same page with coordinating.
Context is everything
For users like my persona Oliver who likes to plan in advance, the responsive website would function as their main planning station. The native app would not feature full functionality but allow users to access trip plans and make last minute reservations. And due to lack of cellular access in remote areas, mobile functionality (trip plans, lists, park updates, and maps) had to be accessible on the go. Users like my persona Emily would rely on the native app as she finds campsites in transit.
Since campr is a personal project for my General Assembly User Experience Design class, I focused on learning the fundamentals of the UX process rather than implementation or technology requirements. I considered business constraints with implementing new reservation capabilities with participating parks, especially with any of the National Parks. (There would be considerable work and patience required to place a bid to become a government contractor for the federal agency.)
I performed usability testing with a prototype and gave users two tasks. Feedback revealed that the current functionalities surrounding group plans lacked a central administrator, the reservation process needed more fluidity, and I needed more testing on what campground and park features should be prominently displayed. Users were confused about the level of their responsibility with group planning. (e.g. Who assigned the items on the group’s supply list or did they choose their own items?)
In addition, I spent a week camping across Utah, shadowing a camper in his converted van as contextual inquiry. My research revealed that personas like Emily needed a feature to find nearby BLM land for when they didn't know where they were sleeping that night.
This was an early project in my UX career and a great opportunity in learning to trust the process. The process guided me with my initial user interviews when I found a major (but unexpected) shift of my problem. Here I learned the importance of dispelling assumptions, listening to users, and research-based design. More importantly, I learned to value group critiques as my respect for my peers and instructor grew with each constructive comment and opportunity. Next steps include more research on how users plan trips, more usability testing, exploring reservation user flows, and creating a user journey.