Get Outside


How might we get Canadians engaged with the outdoors during winter?

Besides the massive amounts of snow, Tim Hortons’ Roll up the Rim contest, and Christmas music, the Canadian winter brings with it a unique set of challenges and problems. Let me tell you about how our interdisciplinary group teamed up to create an app that encourages users to get outside and be active in the winter time.

Invision App


How did this project get started?

As it turns out, DEI 623 is primarily a consumer behaviour course. We were tasked with building a product, with the constraint that it had to solve a problem for the Canadian winter. We chose to build a digital product instead of a physical product, which brought with it many other challenges. So why did we opt to create a mobile app? Why not just create a hot chocolate heating backpack instead? Or a flamethrower snow removal system? Team composition was incredibly important for this decision.

How do I fit into the picture?

As a team, it was important to establish roles at the beginning of the project. We had a unique interdisciplinary team, with backgrounds ranging from sociology, marketing, librarianship, computer science, and design. The thing that’s most important for me when working with a group is to make sure that everyone is able to fulfill some of their personal goals in every project. One of my goals was to explore building out the UX and UI for a mobile app. My role in the team was “UX/UI design lead”. With my background in interactive media design, I opted to lead the product design, and was given the UX/UI design lead role. Role definition helped in delegating and accomplishing focused tasks.

At the same time, we worked collaboratively on each part of the project, so it meant that we all got to experience and help out with things like the business model, consumer behaviour research, report writing, and market research. There was a lot of cross pollination and learning happening between all team members.

First Steps

I did some research and found this neat design thinking activity from Google Ventures. I picked which pieces of it I liked, and planned a design workshop with the team. We mapped out ideas with sticky notes, whiteboard scribbles, and underwent a few different thinking and sketching activities. Our collaborative ideation really motivated me to go off on my own to build out an interaction workflow, and a lo fi prototype. I brought it back to the group, and we did some usability testing in a focus group setting to find out what users liked and didn’t like about the app.

focus groups

This informed many feature changes for the next iteration of the prototype. Again, this feedback really motivated me to build out a better product, so I pulled out a notepad, redrew the entire workflow, sketched out new screens, and pulled up Photoshop to whip out the second iteration. I focused on the feedback from the focus groups to create a hierarchy for which interactions were the most important to users from our test group. After that I put together a finalized visual design structure.

The Idea

Design is a process, but you need some tangibles too. Our product, Get Outside is a mobile application that uses social and commerce based incentives to motivate users to get outside and attend physical activity related events.

At different event locations, one might sometimes see a marketing tent or booth that’s giving away free stuff. Everyone likes free stuff. We thought, hey, why not use “free stuff” as a way to incentivize users to attend events through an app. They could “check in” using geolocation to win swag.

But that wasn’t enough. You can’t run a successful application based solely on prize incentives, we would have to build a culture, community, and social experience into the app. We built in a few social aspects where users could build media pieces to create a story. We wanted to make sure that there was enough freedom for users to share unique, creative, and personal stories with their friends. We called these stories “adventures”.

Language is Important

With a new app, you need to make use of metaphors or key phrases that provide a visual and mental model for users to relate to. I have a background in graphic design, so I also focused on making a consistent brand message across the app, slidedeck, and marketing report. The aim was to communicate our product and brand story in a holistic way.

One of the most important things in building a brand is to look at how language can be used in communicating your brand message. We used the word “Adventure” as the primary media piece for storytelling within the app. It’s important to use metaphors that suit your application. The use of these metaphors helps nudge users towards different app functionality, and also helps to reinforce brand identity.

So What Happened at the End?

Well, as a final evaluation we pitched our product to some industry professionals. They gave us valuable insights into what was and wasn’t working with our pitch. This feedback was highly valuable for our team, and helped us figure out how best to communicate our ideas to investors, or new team members.

Slide Deck Report PDF

So did we launch it? No. The semester ended. Each team member had their own personal goals, and the project has been put on the backburner. All of the things we learned, ideas generated, and moments shared are there to be drawn upon in the next stages of work and life. I think that from every successful prototype you have the opportunity to learn something new that you can take with you moving forward to the next stage. I see this entire project as a prototype that helped me to grow in new ways, experiment with different design activities, and work collaboratively with an awesome team. A definite success in my books.