REI CAMP PLANNER

A tool for collaboratively planning your next getaway

UX design  |  Web app concept

QUICK OVERVIEW: All summer, Claudia Gold dreams of camping. Being in nature recharges her after sitting at a desk all week.

Claudia likes to invite friends to camp with her, but she's tired of planning trips all on her own. And she's frustrated that her favorite camping spots have become overcrowded due to the ease of sharing destinations on social media -- it's hardly a "getaway" if she encounters so many strangers.

This is the story of how I designed a web app for REI, to reduce the barriers between customers like Claudia and the great outdoors. Claudia can collaboratively plan trips with her campmates, and browse her friends' favorite camping destinations online -- without those special destinations being broadcast to the whole world. This is a two-week concept piece (not officially endorsed by REI).

MY ROLES: Solo UX designer, domain and organizational research, in-depth user interviews, persona development, ideation, interface design, prototyping, usability testing, design iteration, presentation

SOFTWARE: Balsamiq, Illustrator, InDesign, Omnigraffle, Photoshop

THE CHALLENGE

I was "hired" by REI to create a web app that would provide a way for multiple campers to plan all aspects of a trip together, based on the evidence that this would reduce a common barrier to camping. I started by researching the American camping domain, the REI organization, and existing group planning apps.

Domain and competitive/comparative research

I interviewed five potential users who had been camping with a group in the previous twelve months, two of whom took the role of primary planner. I discovered that the planners enjoyed being planners, but they wanted help delegating and keeping others accountable to their tasks.

I also discovered a frustration common to every person I interviewed: overcrowding of camping and hiking destinations. Websites like Washington Trails Association, Instagram and other social media have made it very easy to share and learn about destinations that were, until recently, fairly remote. Every person I interviewed goes camping in order to "get away" -- and that includes getting away from strangers, which is becoming more of a challenge.

Meet Claudia

CONSIDER CLAUDIA GOLD: Claudia is so frustrated by overcrowded campsites that she goes to great lengths to truly get away. She has started learning to read contour maps and wayfind, so she can hike off-trail. She loves going with close friends to remote, off-trail spots, but she doesn't know of many, and she refuses to go anywhere that's easily found online by the public.

QuoteCamping recharges me. I spend 40 hours a week at my desk and I need to disconnect. I just want to get out and be one with nature -- NOT in a tent city. I don’t want to see anyone except the people I’m with. It’s getting harder and harder to find that.

- Claudia Gold

THE SOLUTION

I designed an app that would help users like Claudia collaboratively plan camping trips, and share favorite destinations online ONLY with trusted friends.

REI Camp Finder home page

The app allows users like Claudia and her friends to collaboratively plan the "who, what, when and where" of camping trips, including finding and booking a destination, meal planning and sharing gear, which were important factors to users in my initial interviews. If Claudia initiates a trip with the app, she can invite others to join and take on specific tasks, and everyone can track each task's progress.

REI Camp Finder Choose Dates
REI Camp Finder Trip Summary

E-COMMERCE: The app also includes an e-commerce element, in which users can book a campsite. After consulting a developer, I learned what a tech nightmare it would be for an app to accept payments on behalf of all national, state, county and private campgrounds. Still, this was a fun exercise in practicing how to make a check-out process as painless as possible for users like Claudia who want to get off their screens and onto the trails as painlessly as possible.

REI Camp Finder e-commerce checkout

USABILITY TESTING: I tested Version 1 of the prototype with five users, which led to a major redesign of the gear planning screen. This round of usability testing also identified that Version 1 felt too much like REI's website, leading users to assume certain images represented advertising rather than useful features. Insights from testing also contributed to many small changes aimed at improving usability and clarity of the UI.

REI Camp Finder Gear Version 1 and Version 2
THE IMPACT

USER IMPACT: I tested Version 2 with two users, and found the redesigned UI to be much easier for users to navigate and understand. Before launching the app, it would be important to test and prototype even more versions -- one of my mentors says that given enough time, six versions is usually her magic number before "the need to launch a product" outweighs "the new insights gleaned from testing further iterations."

OBJECTIVE SUCCESS METRICS would include number of alpha release purchases and downloads, frequency of use after purchase and download, number of users engaging with collaborative planning features, number of users sharing and viewing destinations with friends, and increase in camping frequency among users.

SUBJECTIVE SUCCESS METRICS would include overall user satisfaction with the app, users feeling more satisfied with the camping trip planning process, increased ease of delegating camp planning tasks, increased ease sharing favorite destinations with friends, and increase in camping quality among users.

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