The Angler’s Conundrum: a Case Study

Background on FishID

While I was a junior at the University of Florida, I took a class called Principals of Entrepreneurship. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was engaging in user experience research. I went around interviewing anglers, asking about the difficulties they faced while fishing in Florida. After more market and industry research, I later went on to add meat to my skeletal concept and wrote a prospective business plan for a theoretical app called FishID.

While learning about user experience and interface design, I thought “this is the perfect opportunity for me to visually bring FishID to life.” The case study you are about to read entails my process from how I uncovered the problem with fishing, how I later evaluated the competition, and my prototype design process and rationale.

Section 1: What’s the Problem?

My Interview Process

I went out on weekend mornings to local fishing hotspots and interviewed anglers face to face on their fishing experiences and needs. Some people thought I was an undercover Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) agent, which is a testament to how paranoid some anglers feel when fishing. They were very careful with what information they provided me, and only opened up when I established rapport with them by stating I was a local and just doing research for a college assignment.

I went on to ask about the obstacles they faced while fishing and how often they felt confident identifying fish they caught. Each person was unique, so I’d take cues from the information they provided for my questions. After interviewing 15 people, I was able to compare notes and establish a few common characteristics.

FishID’s User Personas: Alex and Harry

Several like and dislikes are shared between the two personas — in general, they both are environmentally friendly and practice catch-and-release fishing

Defining user personas helped me think about the situations a person would be in and how they’d feel about the app experience. It helped me to humanize the design process a bit more while giving me insights into user needs and attitudes.

Identifying the Issues

Recreational fishing is one of the most popular activities in Florida, bringing the Floridian economy about $7.6 billion per year, according to the FWC. Since it is such a large industry, with many people wanting to partake, the FWC must set limits for the size and amount of fish a person can take home. This is where the first problem arises:

Problem #1: Fines
Ever been fined by the FWC? It’s not cheap, especially if you are caught with a protected species. In my interviews I determined that most beginner level anglers were afraid of getting fined, which kept them from fishing more often. Some didn’t even know about the regulations. Imagine how embarrassed they’d feel if they unknowingly landed an undersized fish, and some FWC officer pulls up in their boat with lights flashing. The officer then lectures them and give them a ticket in front of everyone. It would most likely discourage the new angler from trying again.

Problem #2: No Fishing Community
Also discovered from my interviews was the lack of fishing community for beginning anglers. Most of the experienced anglers credit their experience to a family member or friend who taught them how to fish within the FWC limits. It’s the classic issue of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Some anglers cannot avoid Problem #1 because of Problem #2.

How were people solving these problems?

Multiple ways things could go wrong

Some beginners were finding information at bait shops in the form of a pamphlet that listed popular fish species and their regulations. Others were Googling the fish on the docks as they caught them to learn the species and regulations. Both solutions are time consuming, especially for new anglers who aren’t seasoned fish species identifiers.

The amount of time it takes new anglers to identify a fish using the methods discussed is detrimental to the angler, and to the fish itself. The fish will be stunned after capture, and some anglers might want to keep it on dry land while they attempt to identify it…and then there’s the photo opp with the fish. All this time out of the water shrinks it’s chance of survival. Being caught with a live illegally sized fish is bad, but being caught with a dead one is worse in terms of fines. So, the “solution” that some people came up with was actually not fool proof.

Other Solutions

There are some apps already on the market that offer similar services to FishID, so I wanted to evaluate the competition. I analysed both of the most prominent apps and have provided my summary below:

FishBrain

My first thought was “wow, they have a nice community going on here.” They open up with the feed to showcase their users, which is smart. They are literally user centered, with the profile icon being in the center of the home bar. The user profile features a large cover photo and seems to draw emphasis to the user themselves, user stats, and social features of the app.

The fish identification feature is under the “Log Catch” tab on the homepage, which I only discovered while clicking through the features. I would not have instantly known that the ID feature was within the “Log Catch” because the term “log” makes me think I’d have to manually record and input data. In fact, even after submitting a photo, the user must input the size and location data themselves. The photo-recognition is not streamlining a solution to the problem in this case. Time would not be saved by using this app to identify a fish and it’s legality; it may even take longer to go through the FishBrain process.

FishBrain is a friendly looking app, bringing brighter colors and more white space than the next app. Each featured post in the feed seems a bit crowded with all the information, though. My opinion on FishBrain is that this app is mainly focused on creating a friendly fishing community rather than on being a useful field tool. I would recommend it to anglers who already have a small fishing community and are looking to share their experiences with other anglers in their area.

FishVerify

I couldn’t try out the scan feature since the app requires you to pay a subscription fee to use it, but I was able to view screenshots from the website. The scan page has some information that I don’t think is crucial to the scan feature. The “last scan” header at the top isn’t really useful since anglers usually focus on one fish at a time. If someone wants to see their previous catches, I would think looking at the user profile would give more information anyways. Also, the top instructional text advising the user to “place fish inside box” is not needed, since the box is the only place you can see the fish clearly. I’m not sure what the “219" in the bottom right is referring to, either.

Where you’d expect to see a profile icon on the navigation bar is a “Log Out” button that immediately kicks you out of the app without verifying the action. First off, there is no traditional profile page for the user to ground themselves in. Secondly, having the log out icon on the navigation bar might lead users to accidentally log themselves off while looking for the profile page.

I imagine one of my user personas in a rush to photograph a feisty fish and accidentally logging themselves out when their thumb bumps the log out button. It’s the closest icon to the thumb for right handed users, so it would be easy to hit on accident. I am not convinced the log out button needs to be on the navigation bar; it would make more sense to place it in settings. Most people don’t like to log out of apps anyways because they have forgotten their passwords, or just don’t have the need to log into a different account since they are using their personal devices.

The menu icon on the home bar opens a side bar that lists different actions. I believe that the app could be organized in a more intuitive way that presents the different options when needed, rather than just bombarding the user with all possible options at the menu tab. It makes the app look cluttered. For example, the option to “Import Photo” should show up on the “New Scan” page, since that is the time the user is trying to identify a fish. Same thing for “Catch Log” and “Favorites”.

I like that they have the photo of the fish as the focus point of the search feature. The “Species Details” page throws a lot of information at the user with two tabs of facts. I would have consolidated the different tidbits of info into a form that is easy to scan for an angler who may be in a hurry to find specific information. Having a bunch of tabs and columns and random paragraphs makes it harder to search for that information when a live fish is on the deck. The longer a fish is out of water, the less likely it is to survive when thrown back.

The color scheme of this app lends a serious mood. They use a bright seafoam green to attract the eye to some words and numbers, red to call attention to various features, and shades of dark grey as the background. I think the app would look more elegant if they reduced the amount of colors used. The main selling point is the identification function, but the garish combination of red and seafoam green distracts from that, especially in the search feature. The scientific name is in bright seafoam green, making it the first thing the eyes notice. Most anglers know fish by their common names, so formatting this secondary information in a way that allows it to visually compete with the primary information is not user friendly.

All things being considered, FishVerify has mainly positive reviews. However, it is a one-of-a-kind app with few real competitors concerning the identification feature. Since it is one of the only apps that provides this service with speed and efficiency, users hardly have the luxury to be picky about user interface.

How does FishID compare?

In the next section I recount how I designed FishID and what I wanted it to be to users. FishID is a tool first, and a social media app second. Both competitors have strong points, but FishID would bring stronger UX/UI to the table to solve a problem quickly and without bells and whistles. This gives it a good chance at stealing some of the opposition’s user base.

Section two: Conceptualizing a Solution

“The process is streamlined, anticipating the user’s actions and desires during a time-pressed situation where the app is not the center of attention in the moment it is being used — the fish is”.

Designing FishID

My design process was heavily empathetic, keeping the needs and emotions of the user in mind throughout the different stages. It was important that my users felt confident enough to start fishing and that they trusted FishID to work under time constraints.

I used my personas again to visualize the situation. Alex or Harry would pull out their phone using a single hand to snap a photo quickly while the fish is laying still next to a ruler. They would have one hand on the fish while they view the ID results. Once they get the “must be returned” answer, they might press “learn more” to verify the stats. If they put away their phone to toss the fish instead, that info will be available on their profile later, where they can choose to publish it or not. The process is streamlined, anticipating the user’s actions and desires during a time-pressed situation where the app is not the center of attention in the moment it is being used — the fish is.

Gaining User Confidence

Making sure that my app would provide a quick answer to the user’s question is the main priority, which is why I made the camera the home screen. Once the photo is snapped, the app will clearly tell you whether it is “Safe to Keep” or “Must Return”. There is little room for user error, since the camera takes up most of the home screen. The home page design also helps to reduce fish-out-of-water time when the camera is ready to go from the start.

Gaining user confidence through streamlined service

Complexion Reduction

Keeping in mind the short time frame an angler has to identify a fish without suffocating it, I streamlined the identification process using the principals of complexion reduction. There are no distracting features or text on the identification page; only the most essential information. This type of design enables the angler to accomplish their single goal using the least amount of time compared to every other ID app and measurement method.

If the identification app is too complex, it frustrates the user, especially if they are in a time crunch. They can’t solve their problem any better than by using a pamphlet or Google search. By using this design method, I am ensuring that the user gets what they need and has a positive experience using the app. They will remember how simple, quick, and effective it was to use this tool, coming back to use it in the future.

Revamping the Search Feature

I created a slightly different search feature that I think is useful to my intended audience in particular. I was inspired by the concept of gamification to make my search feature flexible and fun by incorporating a game-like movement. Once the user has selected the hashtags they are interested in (and any suggested tags), they show up in a hashtag bar at the top of the screen. To encourage effortless exploration using the search feature, I enabled users to “swipe” away unwanted hashtags. It’s a quick and easy motion most social media users are familiar with (think Tinder).

When I use other search features, I am most annoyed at how I update hashtags in my search. I dislike having to click the search bar and manually deleting unwanted tags and wished it was quicker. Some apps, like Instagram, only let you search one tag at a time. This method of searching is inadequate when applied to fishing, because so many terms can be mixed to search a specific location or species: you could be looking for #snook in #brackishwater, #snook at #docklamps, or #grouper and #snook #offshore. Having this search flexibility is important to FishID users.

Section 3: Version 1.0 vs 2.0

During my design process I was still doing research on design principals and techniques, so I ended up editing a few things as I went along. I also got some valuable user testing information that inspired me to make changes to improve the user’s experience.

Version 1

Camera, legality status, catch info, and user’s personal profile

My initial concern was creating an easy to use camera feature. All a user has to do is click the screen to snap a photo. At this point I wasn’t so concerned with the fonts, which I end up changing in Version 2. The icons are all reminiscent of popular social media icons, so they don’t need much explanation.

User profile in list view, user catch locations, all catch locations, and favorite catches

I wanted to maintain a subtle brand presence, so I made the heading change to reflect usernames and functions, but with the same font. This way it doesn’t distract from the main features. I chose the three profile tabs based on what I thought the user would want to see most: their feed in mosaic and in list view, and the map showing their own catches and the catches of nearby anglers.

Search page, explore page, explore list view, and a public profile

Here is the search feature and explore page. I decided to feature relevant hashtags for the user to choose from. The grey hashtag bar at the top is where users can “swipe” away unwanted hashtags. The user can peruse posts filtered by the hashtags and navigate to other user profiles.

User testing

I had settled on a version of FishID that I thought was functional. So I put it to the test by asking a few people to navigate through a mock-up Invision FishID prototype. It was quick and simple: I watched them as they navigated the app and had them ask me question about it. Most testers asked two of the same questions:

1) How do I use the camera on the home screen?
2) How do I know what length the app measured my fish to be?

Version 2

I then went back and redesigned the ID feature path to better indicate how to snap a photo, and to show where the fish lies on the legal length range. I also added white highlighting to the icons to indicate where the user was in the app. I’ll include the Invision link for those interested in navigating the app (It looks a lot better than the first version):

Font Selection

Upon reading more about design, I realized I was using three different fonts and that it was making my app look a little less cohesive and structured. I changed things by only working with two Sans-Serif fonts. I made the body copy in a font that is easier to scan, with letters being easily discernable. I used Europa and Bebas Neue, both of which pass the Il1 test. The font I was using before (Tw Cen MT) did not pass this test.

Conclusion

Through research, I uncovered an obstacle that many beginning anglers face, and also how to overcome that obstacle. I designed FishID with the mindset that it would be a useful tool to any angler who wanted to learn how to fish ethically. At the end of it all, I realized how much I enjoy human centered design. Immersing myself in the user community and issues was something that came naturally to me.

More user testing is the next step I would take if I were to move forward with developing this design. I would keep testing and adjusting my hypothesis until I created something that worked seamlessly with anglers, gracefully anticipating their needs in the field. Ideally, I would like to have an early version of the FishID app for testing, and actual anglers to test it in the field. However, for my purposes here an Invision prototype works well.

Thank you for reading!