Rec.Gov

A one stop shop for camping and backpacking enthusiasts to plan trips, share information and make reservations.

 
 

THE BRIEF

Recreation.gov’s mobile application allows you to look at campsites in searchable areas but all actions (i.e. reservations and lottery applications) must be done through the website.

The opportunity is to learn from backpacking enthusiasts what works well, what could be improved about the current experience with trip planning, and explore additional services and features that would make the new app indispensable for the backpacking lover.

 
 

This project was primarily focused on design and professionalism - in particular team collaboration. What follows is the functional team plan that all four team members set, agreed upon, and referenced in times of conflict:

As a team, we will keep open lines of communication.

The team will work to create a united vision and goal. This will always be the focus of our team’s work. Included in this vision will be a plan for shared expectations and responsibilities.

 The team will respectfully acknowledge each person’s opinion and take into account each other’s strengths.

If a conflict arises, it will be addressed immediately. The team will respectfully talk through the issues and be considerate of each other’s opinions.

TEAM & PROJECT PLAN

 
 

SCREENERS & INTERVIEWS

Our group developed a short screener survey to find people with experience in camping and planning camping trips. From the results of the screener, we reached out to the people who fit the criteria we were looking for in interview subjects.

We interviewed eight people who are interested in the outdoors, and have been hiking or camping within the last five years. Our interview questions focused on the process of planning a camping trip from beginning to end, as well as the overall experience of the process.


After conducting interviews, we created affinity diagrams that would help us in creating personas. We evaluated statements from our interview subjects, and sorted them into several "I statements" that would shape our personas.

AFFINITY DIAGRAMS

 
 
 
 

 

PROTO-PERSONAS

Once we had finished the affinity diagrams, we were able to create two personas, each with their own pain points. We created two personas; Morgan and Gene. Morgan would be our primary persona, with Gene as secondary, but still important.

 
 
 
 

We also created user stories for both of our personas. These personas and their stories would help us design an experience with as few pain points as possible.

The user story of Morgan, our primary persona, reads as follows:

Morgan is a married IT manager who enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and her friends. Morgan is an avid camper who books trips well in advance to ensure she can find an available campground. Whenever she books a trip she emails her friends to see if they are interested in joining. Morgan typically finds new locations by browsing books and websites. She likes to explore interesting destinations and tries to camp near hiking trails.

 
 

 
 

INTERFACE DESIGN

With the user flow in mind, we used a design studio technique to sketch our initial wireframes. We were able to generate many design solutions and select from the best to use in the design. 

 
 
 

After sketching black and white wireframes, we were able to create more high-fidelity screens and screen states using color, photographs, and illustrations. With my background in graphic design and some experience designing interfaces, I took on a lot of the interface design responsibilities. 

The goal was to design an interface that allowed the photos of the outdoors to get the most attention from the user. We understand that many campers are attracted to locations with tremendous views and scenery. A primarily black and white interface would allow the emphasis to be on the photos.

 

Three unique screen states of the Rec.Gov app - the loading screen, a dates selection screen, and a trip information screen.

 
 

The primarily black and white interface also used plenty of white space -  we did not want pages too cluttered. We aimed for each screen to present only what the user truly needs on a given screen. The home icon appears on every screen, so the user always has a way to return to the main menu. The user is also shown a left-facing arrow on some screens, giving them the option to backtrack or escape from the current screen.

The interface uses color sparingly, and only uses green on things like call-to-action buttons, selected items, and other elements that advance the user to his or her goals. The specific shade of green that we used has a high level of contract with both black and white, thus allowing it to stand out on the screen.

 

With screens designed, we began work to make the prototype clickable and interactive so that we could do usability testing. We began with a usability study script that was used as a guide in getting responses from the test user.

Here are a few things we learned from the usability testing:

  • The search bar line on the home page was not immediately apparent to the user.
  • In several places, the text was too small. This was an issue primarily on the call-to-action buttons.
  • On the calendar page on which the user selects dates to go camping, the users wanted the option to click the first date and the last date of the trip without having to click the middle dates, because those should be implied.

And here is how we addressed these issues, respectively:

  • Decrease the opacity of the text (appearance went from light gray to a darker gray) and make the search bar line black rather than gray for higher contrast with the white background.
  • Make text larger, bolder, or both, and adjust size of button accordingly.
  • Allow the user to select the first and last dates of the trip, and the app fills in the middle without the user having to click the middle dates.

USABILITY TESTING

 
 

We were able to accomplish a lot in the two weeks we had for this project, but there is always more that could be done. Our "stretch goals" or next steps for this project would be:

  • A lottery feature - For this iteration, we decided that the lottery system (in which a user applies to register for a popular campsite by entering a lottery raffle to determine who is awarded the site) was not a priority. Only one of our eight interview subjects said they had used a lottery system, and we did not feel it was necessary to include in this version of our MVP or minimum viable product.
  • More suggested lists - We would like to flesh out more "Top Ten Near You"-type lists for our users to browse.
  • Other activities - Our interview subjects expressed desire for our app to also include other outdoor activities such as hiking. Since camping and hiking often go hand in hand, this would be a logical next step for the Rec.Gov app. 

NEXT STEPS