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UX Case Study

Field Guide Hiking App

Phones showing the Hike·n·Seek app


UX Designer


Figma, Notion, Zoom

UX Skills

Interview Guide, User Interviews, Wireframes, Prototypes, User Testing, Visual Design




Hike·n·Seek is a mobile app that allows users to search for hiking trails and plan individual and group hikes. The app also features a digital field guide that helps users identify wildlife while hiking.

This case study is from a group project in my UX Design master's program where I worked with three other designers to plan and execute this project.

We started this project by investigating current problems that people routinely encounter while hiking and strove to discover how we might make the experience better. We ended up deciding to investigate the idea of combining the features from conventional hiking apps and digital field guide apps into a singular experience.

We put together a research-based approach to understand hiking preferences and field guide usage, and to gain insight into what users would expect or want in a mobile app that allows them to manage their hike, as well as identify flora or fauna along the way.

Problem Statement

Outdoor enthusiasts want to understand the local plants and animals on their hikes. Because their hiking apps don’t have a field guide and their citizen science database apps don’t let them record their information, they’re not able to properly track what they’ve seen. This is a problem because they can’t remember what they’ve seen and where they saw it.

The team

While we all contributed to the project as a whole, we each specialized and owned a part of this project. I was in charge of prototyping.

Photos of the team

User research


We conducted 10 remote moderated user interviews with users with the following demographics:

  • 6 men and 4 women
  • Ages 32-65
  • 4 had used field guides
  • Located across the United States

We asked the participants about their hiking experiences, their familiarity with field guides, and what they look for in a hiking excursion. This exploratory user research allowed us to gain important insights from our potential target audience for this app and to better understand people’s needs and wants from a hiking app with field guide capabilities.

Research approach

We chose to do qualitative user research because we wanted to gain a broad understanding of the needs of our users. We wanted to better understand their current hiking habits, whether they have used a field guide, how they currently identify features on a hike, as well as other experiences that they may have while hiking and preparing for a hike.

Team Organization

We stayed organized by creating a Notion database to keep track of our interviews.

High-level findings

High-level findings

Key insights

  • Simple and all-in-one – Users want very simple design and interactions when using an app while out in nature. They don’t want to spend time digging through app features or other apps. The app needs to be straight forward, seamless, and with very few clicks.
  • Organized – People currently take lots of photos while being outside, but typically don’t go back and connect them and their location afterwards. There is a desire to have a more organized and streamlined process for remembering what they see while on a hike.
  • Social – Users want a social aspect of this app. The outdoor and hiking community tend to rely on each other for insight and recommendations, so a majority of the participants expressed the need for connecting with others within the app.
  • Get informed and educated – Users are very drawn towards the digital field guide aspect of this app concept. Many feel that it would help them be more aware and informed of what’s around them while on a hike. The app could help them identify wildlife when foraging, or keep them safer while outdoors by being able to identify dangerous plants or animals.

“I mean, just keep it simple, right? Don't make it convoluted. I mean, if people wanna nerd out on stuff, that's fine. But like if it's somebody who's just an average hiker going in there – which a lot of people are – it doesn't need that.”


We created two personas that captured two separate user types for people who may use this app.

Persona 1 - The Mountaineer
Persona 2 - The Casual Hiker


We created three scenarios to convey three separate potential features of the app. These stories were the foundation for the prototypes we were about to build.

Scenario 1 – Find a trail based on recent flower sightings
Scenario 2 – Identify a tree while on a hike
Scenario 3 – Plan for a group hike

Design system

Based on what we learned in our user interviews, we created a design system that was practical, as well as aesthetic. We chose to have this app be dark mode- and mobile-first to conserve battery life and be available on the go.

Design system
Design system

Usability testing


We conducted 5 virtual moderated usability tests where we presented the participants with 3 scenarios that pertained to our apps functionality.

  • 3 men, 2 women
  • Ages 29 - 40
  • Located around the United States


  • Determine if users are able to successfully navigate to the different functionalities within the app (planning a hike and flora/fauna identification).
  • Understand if users find the experience intuitive and helpful.
  • Identify any gaps in the experience or if there are any points within the experience where the user is confused or needs clarification.

Key insights

Scenario 2 - Identifying wildlife

  • Overall, users had some confusion with the functionality of the field guide filters as a identification option, and how they related to the search results.
  • Users were confused about the “Skip” button.
  • The Search box wasn’t clear that it functioned as an input field.
  • Users gave a positive response to the camera being a tool for identification.

“It doesn’t really have any guidelines or instructions with a skip option ... when using a website, I will automatically use the search filter to find what I need.”

“This is more what I’d be likely to do – make it faster.”

Before and after
Based on our usability test findings, we made adjustments to the prototypes

Scenario 3 - Planning a hike

  • The users had some hesitancy regarding the functionality of the "planning a group hike" feature. Users didn’t understand whether their action of inviting people to their hike was confirmed. We identified opportunities for optimizations within this feature to make it more helpful by providing the user feedback.
  • Users were uncertain whether the packing list was an individual list or a group list.

“How do I know if they accepted or not?”

“I would want to see an RSVP option ... Also, if I go back into edit my hike, do I have to re-invite everyone?”

Before and after
Based on our usability test findings, we made adjustments to the prototypes

Updated design based on feedback

Overall, the layout and design is well received. Users like the clean interface and darker background, and are able to easily navigate throughout the app.

By taking the feedback from our first round of usability testing, we made updates to the user flow of creating a group hike, and the identification feature. We then conducted a second usability test to determine if the updates were beneficial to the user.

Next steps

During this project we learned an enormous amount about how people hike and what they're looking for in a digital field guide.

  • Create an MVP – We should create a bare bones app for better user testing.
  • Iterate based on feedback – After we get the MVP in the hands of real people, we can gather feedback and improve the simple app.
  • Add more functionality – Add more functionality to the hike planning feature including adding multiple trails, assigning packing list items to specific people, etc.
  • User-generated content – Explore user-generated content such as photos, ratings, and opinions of the trail(s).