We spent a beauty sunday afternoon walking in Burnet. As we traversed the park we took mental notes about every problem we saw. We brainstormed ideas out loud while still in the park. Problems we saw were that the park was not maintained well. The trails were overgrown and there was trash everywhere. The park smelled of sewage. Trail markers seemed to be in random places and it was hard to understand where you needed to go. The wooden trail markers posts were all too similar and needed to be refreshed.
We focused on physical factors such as how easy it is to trek through the trails. Could the user trip on the multitude of stairs are not kept up. Would the user get cuts or poison ivy from the plants along the path. Cognitive factors we looked at were how easy to was to navigate the park. Do users get lost frequently. Was it frustrating to maneuver in the park? Would the user find the signs clear.
While we were in the park on sunday we ran into a couple of dog walkers. When we approached them, we found out that they were teachers who have been coming to Burnett for 20 years. They have also gone to different citizen community meetings concerning the park. We asked them what they thought about the park and what needed to be addressed. They had many of the same concerns we did, but a few points they mentioned were that maybe the city should provide paddle boats or canoes for people to use in the lake. That the nature center should be open more often. They also told us that it has been 10 years since the city has updated the entire park. That long of neglect was very evident as we ourselves walked around.
We created two personas in an effort to cover as many bases as possible. The personas are Kenneth Davis (62/M) and Maria Porter (9/F). Kenneth is a new retiree with a penchant for the outdoors and fishing. He wants somewhere in his local area because unfortunately he isn’t able to travel very far, that he can go to take a nature walk or sit by a pond and cast his line. Burnet Woods is his closest wooded area, but as it is now, he doesn’t feel comfortable navigating the park and trails as they are. Maria is an elementary school student who lives in an apartment with no greenspace for her to play and enjoy the outdoors. She likes going to Burnet Woods, but her mom doesn’t like the idea of her going by herself and has little free time to accompany Maria in the park. Her mom’s main concerns are the lack of clear indicators of where you are in Burnet and some general public safety concerns such as cleanliness, thoroughfares, etc. If these issues were addressed, she would be more comfortable with Maria going off on her own.
The primary users of this trail would be your average Cincinnati resident, a family like Maria’s, and a dog walker. The secondary users are the Cincinnati Parks & Building Maintenance and any groups who volunteer to help Cincinnati Parks.
Standards of Success
Should be intuitive, should be easy to clean, should be durable, should be user-friendly, should be unobtrusive.
Potential Concept Solution
The most pervasive problem in Burnet Woods was the lack of intuitive and clear navigation features around the park, especially on the trails. The current system consists of a series of wooden posts with desaturated colors, carved letters, and trail names with arrows. These posts aren’t particularly helpful due to the letters being misleading (one trail is indicated by “P” which usually means “parking”), too similar of colors (trails “O” and “W” both use an orange color too similar) to differentiate from far away. There are also rampant vandalism (the posts are covered in graffiti). These problems led to the park being difficult to navigate even with prior knowledge of the trails of Burnet. With this knowledge, we set out to find ways to improve or completely revamp the navigation system of Burnet Woods.
We identified two potential solutions to improve Burnet Woods: Concrete Markers & Park Posts. Concrete Markers is a concept that involves relatively large concrete cylinders of various easily identifiable colors located around the park to replace the current trail markers/other wayfinding devices. On a maps spread out around Burnet, there would be icons representing the concrete markers indicating the start/end of a trail or other important locations. For example, one trail may be denoted by a green concrete cylinder while another may be a red cylinder. In addition to being a minimal and effective wayfinding method, the cylinders would be at the appropriate height to sit on, so people can take a break before and after taking a nature walk if needed.
The other solution we found is Park Posts. Park Posts is more akin to a traditional mapping system, but much more refined than the current system Burnet has in place. Park Posts involves a series of posts shaped like a map of Burnet Woods where the trail in which the post is located is brightly colored with a point indicating where along the trail the user is. In addition to locating the user, the on-trail posts will show where more comprehensive maps are within the park. These maps, mostly at entrances and gathering locations, will show a full color map of the trails and other important features such as bathroom, tables, etc. On all of the posts and maps, a sheet of transparent material which can be easily cleaned off will deter vandals and make cleaning the signs more efficient.
User testing method
The user testing method for our Concrete Markers would be difficult to create an actual prototype. We recommend taking a survey of how they thought the solution would work. After listening to what the user has to say, we would wrap the already existing wooden posts in different colored paper and have the user walk through the park. The results would show whether the user thought the colors made an impact on their experience. For our Park Post solution it would be easy to print out our version of the Burnet Woods map that we could place on the existing wooden post. After placing the maps, we could walk around with users and get feedback to either better develop the map or a different system.
Through investigating and assessing the state of Burnet Woods, we gained knowledge about not only the park but about designing for a public space as well. The biggest takeaway was the fact that actually experiencing something is the only proper way to learn as much as possible about it. Our thought process before actually visiting Burnet Woods was that we could develop an idea and ask people at the park what they thought about it. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out as we expected. Upon walking around Burnet, we recognized other things we could not have just by thinking about and researching on our own. After the visit and talking to some friendly folks in the park, we had a completely new set of ideas and concepts to work with.
We changed our initial thought process from making additional wayfinding cues to completely revamping the cues currently in place. Being in the space at Burnet changed the problem because we could actually see and experience the faulty system at the park right now. If given a chance to do this process over again, we would likely visit Burnet as many times and get as much feedback about subsequent ideas as possible. Working with the people who experience the system is an important step in the process that we didn’t flesh out as much as we perhaps could have. Outside of visiting Burnet fewer times than we likely should have, we did an exemplary job researching the problems and working to improve the current system through many iterations of ideas; our group would get a nine out of ten in terms of process.