Trail Entrances in Burnet Woods

First Brainstorm

The first step in the process of improving the Burnet Woods experience was to get some ideas out on paper. As a group, we brainstormed various ideas and concepts. They ranged from changing the landscape of the trails to creating new products that would help a hiker. A lot of sticky notes and keywords were used to quickly come up with ideas.

Our brainstorming session using Sticky Notes

Initial Research

As a group we took a hiking trip to Burnet Woods in order to find out what parts of the experience needed to be improved. We became the “users” of Burnet in order to gain insight. While on our trip we found that there are a lot of things that could be improved. For example, the waste collection bins were very old and rusty and there was no place to recycle anything (a place that revolves around the nature around it should strive to protect it).

Images taken from group trip to Burnet

The Problem

The biggest problem that we found in the trails was the trail markers. Right now they are difficult to find. The color matches the background behind them and it acts as a camouflage. Also they are relatively small and hard to read. When hiking trail markers are very important. If you don’t have a map the trail markers are the only thing that you have to keep your sense of direction. This was one area that we thought we could explore more in order to benefit Burnet Woods as a whole.

User Research

Methods

We mainly used observation as we took our own hike through Burnet. We came with no plan, acting as if we just wanted a short break in our day from the busy DAAP life. We encountered quite a few issues in our experience. Firstly, we were confused on where we should go. The way we decided to enter took us right to the middle of the woods where the nature center was. We wanted to explore, however we personally did not want to have to double back along a long path we had already took in order to return to DAAP. While most of our exploration left us confused as to where we were and where we were going, it was overall a pleasant experience. There is plenty of beauty in Burnet Woods to be discovered. However, the last path that we found was extremely rocky and made walking very uncomfortable. There was even a fallen tree blocking the path that we had to climb over. We were not sure if we were even supposed to be on this trail. This took us out to the intersection of Clifton and Ludlow. From here, we just decided to head back on the sidewalk to campus. Throughout our trip, we documented our experience with photos. Unfortunately there wasn’t many other people in the park, so we did not get to conduct interviews. We found it appropriate to use our own personal experience as our main source of research. College students are an important part of the target group of visitors.

Human Factors

The human factors at play are mainly related to visual communication. However, there are some physical factors, such as the type of surface used for hiking. Is it just a dirt trail or is there some sort of pavement? Is it free of debris? Can it be easily navigated? These are all very important to create a good fit between the hiker and the environment. Research should also be done on whether any more physical interaction is expected by or would be helpful to the average hiker. As far as visual communication, the possibilities are endless. The most obvious factor would be navigation. Should there be maps or signposts? Where should these be located? What physical form should they take? What is the relationship between the signage and the surrounding environment? Research should be done on what hikers like to visually see on their journey. It could be that they want as minimal manmade structures as possible, instead wanting to appreciate the environment. Or it could be that the average hiker would rather have as many informational structures as possible for the easiest experience.

Personas

Primary User — Hikers and trail walkers

Secondary Users — Park Users, Park Commissioners, Maintenance Crew, Trail Managers, Law Enforcement

The primary user is of course the hiker. Going back to the original goal, the client wants to create a better experience for visitors who wish to spend 45–90 minutes hiking and exploring the park. Our job is to analyze their needs and desires, then implement some sort of solution that improves their experience. There are a few secondary users that should be taken into consideration to prevent any unexpected negative side effects. These include the employees and volunteers of Burnet, the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners, local government, law enforcement, the installers, private investors, and the general population of Cincinnati. While this project primarily benefits the actual visitors, care should be taken not to negatively affect these other groups. For example, if our solution might ever need maintenance to fix damage inflicted from weather or people, this would take up the valuable time and money from some of these groups.

Another research method that we used was creating a persona. Creating a persona allowed us to look at Burnet woods and specifically the trail markers from someone else’s perspective. We also took into account who primarily uses the trails as well as the others who use it occasionally.

Picture of Travis (our persona)

Persona 1: Name: Travis

Age: 29

Ethnicity: Ethiopian

Employment: CEO of home-owned company

Marital Status: Married 3 years

Family: One son (1 year old)

Hobbies: Hiking, running, cooking, traveling, reading

Needs:

  • A place to hike that is easy to navigate (limited time due to work)
  • A place to get away from work
  • Family friendly trails
  • Place where he can enjoy nature

Behaviors:

  • Goes on trail walks to de-stress and get away from work
  • Takes family on trails on the way to a picnic
  • Listens to music while running on trail
  • Stays in shape by running/hiking trails

Persona 2: Name: Marvin

Age: 58

Ethnicity: American

Employment: High school football coach

Marital Status: Married 27 years

Family: Three sons, one daughter

Hobbies: Coaching football, watching football, rock climbing, watching movies

Needs:

  • A clear communication of easy and difficult paths, to prevent wear-and-tear on knees
  • Intermittent benches to rest from walking
  • Family friendly trails
  • Open space to throw football with kids

Behaviors:

  • Goes to Burnet to keep family and himself active
  • Needs rest every 30 minutes of walking
  • Likes to give friendly greeting to others in Burnet

Standards for Success

Informative (give user information)

Visible (can be seen easily)

Readable (not too complicated)

Eco-Materials (friendly for environment)

Durable (can withstand weather)

Our Solution

Our solution is to create and install new trail markers that can cover all of our standards of success. Our new design is called “The Hundred Year Marker.” The new marker is made of concrete something that can be easily discernible from the natural environment around it. There are symbols on each marker that show clearly which path you are on.

Sketching for the trail marker design

Another feature of the trail marker is cutout trail shapes. The idea of the cutout trail shapes is that they always will be visible. Graffiti is prominent in Burnet Woods so this cutout design is to ensure the trail shape is visible. The trail markers also have a light to make the trails a tad bit more safe. The top of the trail markers are made of metal. The metal is harder to vandalize and more durable. Also the metal adds to the aesthetic of the trail marker.

Final render of the design

Testing Methods

Theoretically when the trail markers are made, they can be used on the trail itself. The best way to do that would be to put the trail markers on one of the trails to test it against the original posts that are in place now. That way trail users can compare the old system to the new system to see that differences in the new design. Ideally, they would notice the new efficient signs and enjoy their experience in that trail more than the others.

To determine whether the new markers are successful we will use a survey. The survey will use likert scales to determine how the user felt about the new path experience. Also in the survey, users will be able to communicate if there is anything that should be changed before that final design is implemented. This ensures that the best trail marker design for Burnet Woods is the one that is used.

Takeaways

This project led to a lot of different learning outcomes. The process of becoming the user gave a lot of insight on what the actual issues are rather than just hypothesizing. It also taught the group about brainstorming and working together on a design project.

From this design process, we worked at identifying poor design on our walk. This meant actively searching for products and systems in the woods and then analyzing the benefits and drawbacks of them. We also learned to better apply human factors to design a product that would fulfill the needs of personas we created, thereby fulfilling the needs of the public they correspond to.

How would you grade your group (One to Ten, no sevens) on process (not product)?

9 out of 10. We did a lot of research both in person and online as well as brainstorming and ideation. The one area where we could have improved would be interviewing. We became the users ourselves, but it might have been nice to ask someone who goes to Burnet Woods on a normal basis their opinion.

The only thing we would change if we had to do this project again would be to interview a regular user/visitor of Burnet Woods. They would be able to find different problems than we did in our visit.

Inspiration

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