A project designed to connect people to communities.
Client and Role:
ECUAD Student Assignment, Individual Project.
Community, Education, Mental Health.
Your City is a research project based around community and reconnecting ourselves to our surroundings. As technology can cause us to disconnect from our surroundings, Your City uses that technology to bring us closer together, and see what is and isn’t right in front of our eyes.
In our world today, awareness and knowledge of our surroundings appears to be in decline. I think we have all been on that bus or subway, and have noticed that 80% of the passengers are immersed in some kind of electronic device. Studies have shown, that many of the new habits common in our society contribute to feelings of social isolation and isolation which is a rising problem, particularly in young adults.
I wanted to find a way to build a sense of community that could be used anywhere, and increase the amount of influence and accountability that people had in their surroundings.
To do this, I created the concept of Your City. Your City is an application that allows you to view your surroundings in different time periods throughout history, as well as visualize new development proposals in the locations that they will occupy. The app lets you pan your phone or tablet, showing you what your city physical surroundings would have looked like at different points throughout history.
This allows you to connect and learn about the places you live or visit, and engage with your surroundings in a new way. It also allows you to be involved in the development and proposed changes taking place in your own neighbourhood.
Inspired by Community
My story with this idea began with the topic of Community Building. I was assigned this theme as a jumping off point to start the research process. I began by using an affinity diagram to explore themes around the idea of community and what makes a community strong. I started exploring the ideas of connection, and what it takes to find people that you really resonate with.
My diagram then lead me to explore common associations, like education and support, as well as what often seems missing like accountability. I realized through this process that I tend to gravitate away from community based events, as they often feel like they try to be so hard to be for everyone, they end up being for no one.
This realization let me pivot to look at niche communities, or something that could be flexible enough to be applied to multiple smaller communities. I started to build on the themes that were related to a sense of connection, and what makes people feel like they belong. I also delved into common community issues such as the environment and eliminating waste.
I realized that having a history with a person or a place creates a very strong sense of belonging. I asked the question how could we use new technology to create a past?
At this point, for some reason, the idea of Pokemon Go popped into my head. Which led me to think, what if you could use augmented reality to view your surroundings at different periods throughout history.
From here, I though if you could see the past, why not also the future? With 3D imaging improving all the time, there must be a way to view new developments before they have been erected.
Focusing on the Features
At this point, I decided to use a “crazy eight” exercise to map out a quick view of what a user journey may look like. Now that I could begin to visualize how this application may work, the next step was identifying who would use this app. Keeping my key themes in mind, I identified as many users as possible, as well as the common tasks that each user may wish to accomplish.
The users included tourists visiting a new city, residents interested in learning about their city, as well as residents who are concerned with how their city is being developed. Developers would use the application to input their plans and visuals, and city planners could assign lots to different companies and approve their designs.
The users included tourists visiting a new city, residents interested interested in learning about their city, as well as residents who are concerned with how their city is being developed. Developers would use the application to input their plans and visuals, and city planners could assign lots to different companies and approve their designs.
This exercise allowed me to discover that the application would have two very distinct groups of users with very different needs. The public who would use it out of interest, and the city planners and developers where it would have a business application. This let me realize that Your City would benefit from a sister app, Your City Developer to meet the distinct needs of its business users. I did begin to also scope out the user flows for the sister application, however, I realized that this would be another project unto itself, and my timeframe did not allow me to fully explore both to the best of my ability. So I put it on hold, for now.
A Personal Element
I grew up in Vancouver B.C. in Point Grey, which is a highly residential area in the west side of the city. Vancouver has seen massive change in character and development, since I was a child. As I drive through my old neighbourhood now, I see that so many places I used to know were gone. I realized that children growing up now would have no concept of this change, and I felt that this was a loss to our society. Seeing the larger picture of how things have changed gives perspective, and allows us to see patterns before it is too late.
Testing the Theory
I used paper prototyping to work out the flow of the different tasks I had worked on. I started with the task of a tourist visiting a new city and wanting to view the area during an earlier time period.
My first set of cards needed a great deal of clarity around the purpose of the application for new users. It also needed restructuring around the two main features, viewing history and new developments. I revamped the process so that the user chooses between the two options much earlier in the process, allowing the screens to be clearer and less cluttered.
After several iterations and testing, feedback allowed me to add map elements during the selection process to make the selected area more clear. I also added on boarding and loading pages to the view timelines feature, to add clarity and to mitigate user expectations, as well as other structural and content based improvements.
Now for Structure
Flushing out the structure of the app, by creating wireframes, gave me further insight into how the different components of the app would work together. The division between the two main functions became a clear benefit to the usability of the app. It also allowed me to identify other needed pages in the main menu, such as a portfolio and a favourites page.
Although it is typically best to keep wireframes in black and white, I chose to add the photos to this set, as the application has a very visual concept. The feedback I received said that this added a great deal of clarity, for those seeing the project for the first time.
Your City Developer
Moving on from this point, this app would have a sister app, Your City Developer, that would allow city planners to assign certain areas to developers. In turn, those developers could add 3D images for review by the planner, and upon approval by the public.
Your City Desktop
This application could also be extended to a desktop version, that could let you view all available timelines and proposals throughout the world. This would expand beyond the capability to just see what is available in your physical location.
Another added function would be guided tours within the timelines, that takes users on a journey in the area, showing them curated landmarks, with additional voice over with information about certain areas.
Expect to Redo
We are often taught that having to do multiple drafts of something, is a sign of a lesser quality product. However, reiterating a process such as prototyping adds incredible value and insight to a project.
The Business Side
We can all enjoy producing a concept when the sky is the limit. However, my experience as an entrepreneur, reminds me to always keep in mind how a project would be executed if it were to come to fruition. I tried to stay realistic when composing this project, and made sure all technical requirements were possible.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Since this project is all based around visuals, the addition of photographic elements in the early stages turned out to be very useful. I learned that the tools used should be dependent on the project’s needs, and will express the spirit of the project in the most digestible way.