Information architecture, Design system, High-fidelity mocks, Interactive prototype, Detailed report, Implementation recommendations
This project was conducted as part of a course offered in the Master of Interaction Design program at Laval University. In this 14-week course, we were required to carry out an unpaid professional intervention with a host organization. Since my team members and myself were all from the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region in Quebec, we were particularly inspired by the mission of a regional agricultural economic development agency. This non-profit organization offers local producers and processors services to help develop the regional agri-food sector.
After discussing with the organization, we identified their agrotourism offer as the project’s intervention area. It proposes gourmet experiences to tourists and locals to allow them to discover the regional agri-food sector by visiting producers, local restaurateurs, and other artisans. However, with the growing popularity of agrotourism, the organization’s existing tools were no longer suitable to support the current demand growth.
“The agri-food sector in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean is booming and represents significant potential for attracting tourists and locals. How can we update and further develop Zone boréale’s agrotourism offer to respond to its growing popularity?”
1 | Ethnographic research
One of the project’s first steps involved carrying out ethnographic research methods to better understand users and other project stakeholders. We first interviewed nine tourists and excursionists to get a clearer idea of their perception of agrotourism and related needs. We then visited five local producers and artisans from the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region to discover their reality and the experience they offered on-site. Finally, we concluded with an interview with the commissioning organization to better understand their team’s challenges and their vision for the project.
2 | Data analysis
The next step involved analyzing all the data collected during the ethnographic research. Affinity diagrams were created using post-its to group related data and draw conclusions. This analysis notably made it possible to identify trends, irritants, and opportunities for each target audience. Personas and journey maps were then created to consolidate the findings into a visual format.
3 | Concept development
A brainstorming session was then carried out among our team to generate ideas and concepts. The “How might we” method was used to develop several possible solutions to each challenge identified through the research findings. The ideas generated were then organized into a quadrant according to their level of importance and feasibility. This method made it possible to identify ideas with the most potential and integrate them into the development of the proposed solution.
4 | Wireframes
Wireframes were then created to translate conceptual ideas into a digital product. The proposed solution was a web application that could be accessed using a browser on a mobile device or a desktop computer. The interfaces were designed mobile-first since the majority of tourists and excursionists that we interviewed used their phones to plan their agrotourism trips.
5 | User testing
Once the wireframes were completed, our team performed user tests with five tourists and excursionists. An interactive prototype was created based on the wireframes to allow users to interact with the product. Each test consisted of four scenarios, including a series of tasks to be performed by the user using the prototype. This step allowed us to validate the relevance of the proposed solution and gather feedback to improve it.
6 | High-fidelity mocks and detailed report
The last step consisted of developing high-fidelity mocks of the proposed solution, which were notably improved based on the feedback gathered during the user tests. The aesthetic layer added to the interfaces was designed to be consistent with the brand identity of Zone boréale. A design system was created alongside the mocks to document the interface components. Finally, a detailed report was submitted to the organization to describe the entire design process and provide specific implementation recommendations related to the proposed web application.
The design system was developed in accordance with Zone boréale’s brand identity. It documents all components used throughout the interfaces of the proposed web application and specific style elements such as colors and fonts. In addition to speeding up the development of high-fidelity mocks, the design system will be beneficial if another design team is called upon to work on the project.
The “Map” tab is the main section of the proposed solution. This tab allows users to view all producers, restaurateurs, and other local artisans who are members of Zone boréale’s agrotourism program. If they wish, users can share their geolocation to discover nearby places. They can also change the view to a list view to obtain an overview of all available members. In addition, they can use filters to narrow their searches according to their interests.
The “Discover” tab offers different ways of discovering and experiencing agrotourism in the region. Its content includes recommendations for agrotourism activities in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and can be consulted by users according to their preferences. They can explore destinations by town and village, consult ideas for thematic routes, get recommended a mystery destination, or even listen to podcasts to discover local artisans.
Thematic routes reduce a tourist’s or excursionist’s need for planning by suggesting routes with multiple foodies destinations under a common theme. Each route includes a detailed map with a description and additional information. Suggested themes include the outdoors, relaxation, locals’ recommendations, and unique recipes. The objective was to recreate a word-of-mouth experience, which tourists and excursionists often mentioned during our ethnographic research.
A mystery destination is a randomly generated card of an agrotourism destination that allows users to get various recommendations of places to visit. Once a card is generated, two buttons are provided to let users take action. They can either accept a recommendation, which will open a page giving further details about the destination, or refuse it to generate a new card.
Podcasts were included in the new application to integrate some of the content available on the Zone boréale website. They allow users to discover local producers differently by listening to their stories as told by them. Episodes are grouped by Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean’s municipalities. Additional functionalities such as listening to all podcasts of a specific city or village as well as sharing and adding an episode to a favorites list were added to improve the user experience.
A “Profile” tab allows users to create an account that lets them save favorites. Once connected to their account, they can create several collections to organize their favorites. For example, a user could decide to create a collection to prepare for his next agrotourism trip. A collection automatically groups favorites under their corresponding categories such as producers, thematic routes, and towns and villages to allow users to easily find the information they need.
This project was an absolute pleasure to carry out. The organization showed a lot of openness throughout the process. My teammates and I had complementary strengths and showed outstanding professionalism and respect throughout the mandate. Ethnographic research was really at the heart of our approach and added enormous value during the design process. Some findings emerging from the project include:
- Ethnographic research has enormous potential for better understanding the needs and realities of target audiences;
- Analyzing ethnographic research data may take longer than expected but dramatically facilitates the rest of the project;
- The use of methods such as the “How might we” are interesting to generate ideas and concepts in groups.