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This project was my first UX challenge, and one that I still look fondly on as the research was so enjoyable and surprising. Tasked with interviewing a fellow student and determining a pain point that could be solved with an app, I came up with a platform that would help users locate stables for horseback riding when they travel. Focused on user research, the assignment culminated in a lo-fi prototype.
After interviewing the first user, I identified that he had a difficult time finding stables for horseback rides while traveling, due to the complex vocabulary and the hassle of searching. If he didn’t book in advance, once he arrived at his destination the stables were often fully booked. Going through a series of Jobs to be Done and How Might We’s for this sole user, I sketched out six solutions — some more traditional, and some a bit more out there. As it seemed as though the problem was that stables were often fully booked, as this user didn’t put much effort into searching in advance, I sketched out an idea for a horse-sharing app, allowing people to ride horses in their current area that also needed exercise and/or grooming.
Enlarging the Scope
This idea was bookmarked as I moved on to the next stage — finding and interviewing new users. As ‘users who like to ride horses when they travel’ is a fairly niche market, sourcing participants was a task in and of itself! With the generosity of slack communities, friends, and friends-of-friends, I managed to convince four users to speak with me over zoom about their experiences.
Once speaking to these users, I found out that while it was indeed difficult to find stables online, the main issues were that the riders had a lot of criteria they wanted to be sure the stables met, and these were often best judged in-person.
“I wanted to book a horseback ride in Costa Rica but I didn’t end up doing it because I don’t speak Spanish”
“The most important thing for me is making sure the horses are healthy and not over-ridden”
“Once I was given a horse that wasn’t matched to my experience level and I was scared the whole time”
This new data allowed me to realize that not only was my first idea not great, it was potentially dangerous. In the interest of avoiding injuries, faulty equipment, and exploited animals, it was obvious that we needed to go back to the drawing board.
With these issues in mind, I came up with a new problem statement:
Users need a better way to confidently book horseback rides abroad, because stables are difficult to find in advance due to unclear terminology and lack of information regarding safety and facilities, and often there are no available horses at the last minute.
I went back to sketching with a round of Crazy 8’s (one sketch per minute for eight minutes), keeping this problem statement and a few How Might We’s in mind. The winning design was a booking system that allowed riders to easily search for available stables during their desired dates and location, comparing the stables and their facilities with the help of filters and a clear search page. I added a few of the sketches as features to the main design, such as the offline glossary. The flow was designed entirely with pen and paper, and then transferred onto Figma.
Lo-Fi Figma Prototype
As this was one of my first times using Figma, the prototype was inherently awkward. As my hand-drawn sketches were not in a mobile format, and more of a tablet form, I lost some clarity as they slimmed down. However, the ideas behind this clunky prototype are all taken directly from user research, and focused on a few main features:
The search bar allows riders to directly search for their desired dates and location, with an option to geolocalise for users making last-minute bookings. I also wanted to make sure that it would be easy to search by multiple criteria from the beginning, and the filters section in the search allows users to immediately choose the riding style, trail type, experience level, and equipment.
Search Results and Stable Pages
With the goal of making it easy to compare stables and their facilities, the search results page shows the users the filters they have applied, and gives the pertinent results with an image and a short description of the stable, so they can easily compare without having to click on each. Once at the stable page, users can see images of the horses they have available, the riding level the horses are suitable for, and the facilities available. There are also reviews from other users, building trust that this stable is as advertised.
As many users spoke about the difficulty of translating specific vocabulary regarding equipment, speed, and riding cues, an offline glossary was added which would allow users to have riding-specific terms in their pocket. Since some users don’t dare to horseback ride abroad for fear of not being able to communicate essential terms, this should give them more confidence that they can communicate to their hosts if something is wrong.
Conducting moderated testing with three users, it was immediately evident that the search bar needed some fine-tuning to be completely intuitive. The ‘Search’ button looked too much like a search bar, and users didn’t know if their choices had been saved when they were taken back to the main page after having selected filters . All users could find the glossary, although there was some initial confusion about whether or not it was a hamburger menu.
Version 2 Prototype
After changing the search call-to-action and moving the glossary together with the other icons, users found the flow much more intuitive. Most users tried to click on the image of the horse, hoping it would expand, and two users asked how they would contact the stable, which hadn’t been built out yet.
If I was to pick this project up again today, I would definitely update the UI with design principles in mind when upgrading to a higher fidelity. I would implement the feedback such as contacting the stable, building out some extra filters for children or price range, and allowing users to click on the horses to see larger images and more information. In addition, I’d do a bit more market research, carrying out a competitive/comparative analysis and speaking to a few more users.
- The first idea generally isn’t the right one, especially when working with an unfamiliar subject
- When developing an idea, always think about potential harmful consequences — for the user and for the business. In my first idea, I hadn’t thought about the safety of the riders or the horses!
- Design principles are so important — I have a hard time looking at these wireframes now!
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