End of study project
Date : June 2020 - April 2021 Softwares : Figma Skills : Product Thinking, Interaction Design, Visual Design, Proactivity, Workshop facilitation
Ski touring is a Nordic skiing discipline consisting of making long routes in the mountains with skis on all the time. During the ascent, the heel is detached, "sealskins" are attached to the underside of the skis to prevent them from sliding backwards. In recent years, this practice has become increasingly popular. With a general evolution of 5% per year, there are now about 200,000 practitioners in France (2021). All these new people know little or nothing about the dangers of the mountain environment and are directly exposed. Indeed, ski tourers are the most exposed to the danger of mountains, and especially to avalanches (tied with off-piste skiing). As a result of the growing number of skiers and the unpredictable dangers of the mountains, by May 2021, 150 people had already been swept away by avalanches in France. 21 of them died. This number was twice as high as the number in 2020 over the same period.
Every year, 30 people (in average) die in avalanche accidents in France. But also, hundred of people get injured. Among all of these accidents, 95% involving humans are triggered by themselves, they could therefore potentially be avoided. Some technics and methods exist to observe conditions during an activity in high mountain, but less than 10% of ski tourers know them, while they are the most affected by avalanche accidents.
For almost one year, I worked alone on this subject as part of my end of studies project at l’École de design Nantes Atlantique. You will understand that I wasn’t totally alone, indeed many experts and skiers helped me to understand and develop the final solution. But I completely managed all of this alone from the start to the end of the project. For that, I worked on many various subjects, some more common for Product Design like research, product thinking, interaction design, visual design, or workshop facilitation, but also some new things for me like a market study and a business model.
By discussing with experts but also reading and learning many new things, I framed the solution on how we could reduce the number of accidents triggered by skiers, and reduce the number of death:
- The analysis of the conditions must be accessible to all ski tourers, as well as understandable by them. By offering a pathway, experience, and support in observing and analyzing conditions in order to adopt the right behaviors.
- We should put the new tool in the hands of all skiers. By using a widely available connected medium/device that allows long-distance communication.
- Every user will be able to share with the community. By creating an exchange and sharing of information about avalanche risks between mountain stakeholders.
- Integrate that solution into an already existing application used by many ski tourers: Whympr. Which proposes support before, during, and after a mountain outing. I realized that this temporality was very important, effective, and used in mountain risk prevention.
So I got in touch with Tim, the founder of the app, and told him about my project. He and his team were obviously very interested in the idea and encouraged me to develop it to the final prototype to present to them.
First and foremost, I conducted some interviews. I discussed with around 10 experts from the domain of mountain activities: mountain guides, equipment companies, rescuers, ski tourers ... This helped to understand the challenges and identify the main problem to move forward in the project. After that I created a quantitative study to try to understand the ski tourers’ habits and behaviors with new technologies and connected devices. I created a 10 questions Google Form and I shared it in some Facebook groups and online forums dedicated to ski touring. I gathered 78 answers and I kept in contact with a few of them to organize another session to discuss their practice in more depth.
So I brought together 5 ski tourers of different levels during 1h hour on Zoom. We discuss about the project, their practice of ski touring, but they also participated in an ideation workshop to come up with ideas for the functionalities of the final solution.
The outcomes of this session were:
- Of course, I found 5 involved and interested skiers.
- Confirmation about the lack of knowledge of the mountain observation techniques by a majority of them.
- A list of potential features: an app connected to real-time data, provide reliable observations, the solution should advise but not force, accessibility for the mountain environment ...
- The discovery of possible obstacles: creation of interferences with the avalanche victims detector and the lack of internet access in the mountain.
This workshop and the discussion with the participants help me to understand what are the different profiles of ski tourers: Beginner skiers He is the administrator of the call, and he owns it. He can also be the teacher and the main speaker and decides who can speak and when. Finally, he also manages the timing of the session and decides when it starts and when it ends. Expert skiers Experimented skier: He knows very well how to observe conditions and danger. But the 0 risk doesn't exist in mountains, and they want to share their knowledge with the other beginner skier, so they also need a solution for that.
I explored how to bring more prevention and security inside the existing application before, during, and after a mountain outing for both beginner and experiment skiers. Before:
- Possibility to explore and discover the routes listed in the app.
- Outing reports allows skiers to see what their friends are doing.
- Creation of outing projects to plan and manage a mountain hike. The skiers can associate a day with an itinerary and a group of people. Later, the app will inform them about the conditions.
- In the management of an outing project, the beginner is guided by suggestions and the help of the other members of the group. The expert can follow his experience and knowledge to consult precise snow and weather conditions and decide by himself the day and the timing of the outing.
- An interface to track the activity and perform related actions.
- Notifications/alerts to inform the skier something can be dangerous in the current area.
- A new experience to observe the mountain, snow and sky conditions in order to deduct a new progression mode. Then they can share this observation with the other skiers in the area.
- At every moment of these experiences, the beginner skier accesses the more important information that are always highlighted. The expert can still access to more precise data on the same or a different screen.
- Every user can simply share an outing report at their turn in order to inform the community about the itinerary and the conditions. This will help others to plan their activity but also allow some users to discover the outing.
After exploring several possibilities for the application, I developed a test phase on Maze. I presented one main flow for the app, but which showcase different versions for the keys features like the tracker and the observations interactions. They were then asked which version they preferred.
I also asked a question about how they rated the experience and if they want to list one positive thing, one negative one, and one improvement. So I collected a lot of priceless commentaries. Then, I wanted to have feedback from real ski tourers of course, but not only, that is why I also sent the test to designers friends in order to have more ergonomics tips, but also to my family and friends who have no link with ski touring and design to have their fresh eyes on the project. Finally, 45 people tested the prototype and gave their opinion on the experience. I made a card sorting with all of that and the main outcomes were:
- The choice of a tracker version where the user can leave and go back thanks to a dedicated zone just above the navigation bar.
- The choice of an observation flow where each of the points to be analyzed are presented together, and the user can choose which one he wants to observe. But still, give some useful tips in the observation for beginners.
- Increase the accessibility of the interface used in snow conditions: bigger buttons, bigger texts, high contrasts...
- Many other recommendations and ideas for the app.
With all these precious feedbacks as well as other discussions and sessions with experts, I finally succeed to build the final hi-fi screens for the project.
The final product
Before an outing, the basics of the app
Even before deciding on any outing plans, in the feed, every Whympr 2.0. users can explore what their friends are doing in the mountain thanks to trip reports. They are also able to immediately consult today’s weather and snow conditions thanks to the report at the bottom of the same page. By clicking an outing report they will access more details about it on a new page. First, it presents the list of the participants, but also some photos of the activity. Then skiers can access more precise information such as a description and a lot of data to understand the difficulty or not of the outing. Then every field analysis, observed during the outing are also presented. If the skier wants to learn even more about an itinerary he can access that in another page, from the report the map ones. He will retrieve the GPS track, many associated data, as well as the conditions of the day.
Once the skier decides to organize an outing, he can create a project in the app. He will decide a day, or period of multiple days and an itinerary. Then, he will be able to add his friends who also use Whympr 2.0. All of them will be able to manage the activity. Until the day before the trip, the app will show the predicted weather of the chosen day, but will also recommend others if the conditions are better. And the day before the outing, around 5 pm, the weather and snow reports for the next day are available so the app will showcase them with more details. This will also the team to organise the last aspect of the activity. Once the big day arrives, the skiers can click the new CTA at the top of the page to start the activity and open the tracker.
Tracker and notifications
Once the activity is started, a full-screen tracker appears, it allows the skiers to follow the outing and the itinerary with many information. The layout of this screen was though in order to increase the accessibility in a mountain environment. Buttons are bigger and important texts also. At the top, we can find the less important actions as well as guidance information. The user is less likely to click on that, that is why this is a the top. The at the center of the screen, the big map with the GPS track. This is the most important part for the skier in the mountain, the path he needs to follow. Finally, at the bottom, some data to follow the progress of the activity and the most common actions in bigger button: take a photo or observe the conditions. If the skier passes through a dangerous area recorded in the app or reported by others, he and all member of the expedition will receive a notification. They will be able to learn more about the danger or launch a new analysis of the field conditions to determine if they can continue or not.
Observation and analysis of the conditions
When the skier decides to start a new analysis of the conditions and click the dedicated CTA in the tracker, a bottom sheet appears. From there he accesses every elements of the weather and snow conditions. The first 3 elements are linked to real data: snow condition, slope inclination and temperature evolution, so they are updated by default to help beginners. But the more experts users will be able to overwrite that if they want to add a more precise analysis. Then the users will be able to observe the other 3 elements directly on the field. For each one, 4 answers are available. Every skiers can switch to the “beginner mode” to access an illustration and some guidance with the answer to help them observe the conditions.
Once one or few observations are filled in, the app, by following the supervised vigilance model, will deduct one of the 4 progression mode to continue or not the outing.
- Relaxed: no danger signs, keep it up.
- Suspicious: signs of danger, avoid danger.
- Alerted: signs of danger, the risk must be reduced.
- Hazardous: signs of danger, give up.
With the deducted progression mode, the app will propose to skiers to adapt the outing by changing the itinerary or not.
Share with the community
After observing the conditions, and discovering the appropriate progression mode, the skier can share the analysis with the other users of the app directly in the mountain, to inform them in real time of potential danger in the area. If there is no network, the analysis will be shared as soon as the phone will be connected. At the end of the outing, the skiers can create their own outing report to share their impression and experience with the rest of the community. They will enter the itinerary, the date, the activity, the conditions, members of the team, some picture and a description.
The watch app
During the activity, the watch app presents exactly the same features as the mobile app: GPS tracking, itinerary to follow, data and conditions observation. But this is a more fast and convenient way to access the information during an effort. If the skier uses both smartphone and watch at the same time to track his outing, the devices are linked with Bluetooth. But he can also only use the watch, if the model can be connected to a phone network.
- This project allows me to learn a wide range of things in a completely new domain: mountain, and mountain activities, by talking to users and experts. This helped me understand quickly and well.
- All this project was led remotely, because of the Covid pandemic at this time. I discovered that even when staying at home, it is quite possible to work, develop and propose an advanced and concrete project. This is made possible by the democratization of collaboration and remote working tools and software.
- I collaborated with the Whympr company to discuss and maybe integrate the feature inside a new version of the app.
The future of Whympr 2.0.
- It is planned to continue the discussions with Whympr in the future in order to really implement the imagined features in the application.
- By the way, the company has already implemented one of the features. It is now possible to access the day's weather forecast at the very top of the output report feed.
- The aim now is obviously to integrate functionality at key locations in the application so as not to distort the current experience, but still provide more safety against avalanche risks. Then test and analyzed the interaction and use by real users in order to continuously improve the experience.