Onsight Climbing Case Study

I designed an app to help rock climbers track their improvement and boost their confidence.

Rock climbing can be a competitive sport. Often, the competition is with yourself.

The Problem

Rock climbers are always comparing themselves with their past performance. The frustration comes when progress seems to be stagnant and there is no objective way to view growth over time. Rock climbers want to see tangible progress to gain confidence in their skills.

The People

Before creating any designs, I went to the climbing gym and interviewed rock climbers about their journey with the sport. I asked questions to gauge their motivations and to understand how they track their growth. I also wanted to know any pain points they experienced or aspects of the sport they did not enjoy.

The Persona

Rock climbers are a diverse crowd so I needed to narrow down my target audience. A few of the rock climbers I interviewed were “casual climbers.” They were not interested in progressing in the sport and mainly went climbing to connect with friends. Because these “casual climbers” didn’t experience the problem I was trying to solve, I decided to create a persona based on more serious climbers to refine the ideal user.

The Market

After clarifying the target user, I conducted a competitive analysis. I wanted to find other companies that were trying to tackle the same problem for rock climbers. Each of the companies I found took a different approach with helping rock climbers track their progress.

Some companies relied on wearable technology to collect climbing data. This approach allows climbers to easily track progress without manual data entry. However, these wearable technologies often came with a higher sticker price. I wanted to achieve the benefits of wearable technology without the need for an additional hardware device.

The Features

It was tempting to go “feature frenzy” with all the different options I could pursue. At this point, it was especially crucial to revisit the research I conducted. I refined the problem I was trying to solve to avoid focusing on less important features.

I made a conscious choice not to incorporate social features because the problem I was solving was about personal progress instead of social sharing. In addition, many of the rock climbers I interviewed were driven by internal motivations (personal growth) instead of external factors (being better than others).

I decided to focus on two main features to meet my users needs: tracking climbs and the data dashboard.

The Ideas

I went forward with sketching and ideation. After pages of sketches, I started to recognize a similar pattern across the board.

The app would have three main views: home, entering a climb, and the data dashboard. These views could be the key to helping users visualize their progress and become more confident climbers. Though the approach and solution for these views were still ambiguous, it became more clear that these screens would be essential to the users’ experience.

The User Journey

After initial sketches, I clarified the user journey from end-to-end.

The first time on-boarding experience would instruct users to create an account and set their initial goals. From that point they have two main actions: inputting climbs and viewing data. It was at this point I recognized that data visualizations needed to be engaging enough to promote the behavior of inputting climbing data consistently and frequently.

The Wireframes

In the process of creating initial wireframes, I was able to organize the hierarchy of information for the app.

I wanted to encourage users to log both their attempted and completed climbs because even incomplete climbs can help rock climbers grow stronger and gain confidence.

The Feedback

I created a high-fidelity prototype and conducted a round of usability testing. Users progressed through the app as I took notes on any roadblocks they experienced.

Many of them did not connect with the data visualizations in the initial prototype. The use of colors did not communicate significant meaning and the data dashboard was too overwhelming. I needed to figure out how to communicate climbing data in a simple and meaningful way. One solution was to align the data dashboard with the goals they set during the on-boarding flow.

The Final Solution

On-boarding & Home Screen: Account set up, goal setting, home screen

Entering a Climb: Data entry for individual climbs (climb grade, attempted vs. completed, and additional comments)

Data Dashboard: Data visualizations (categorized by attempted, completed, and goals)


As a rock climber myself, I resonate with the problem of feeling “stuck” in my progress. I tried the approach of data input and tracking to tackle this problem. In the future, I would love to iterate on this approach by grouping climbs in “sessions.” Since rock climbers often do multiple climbs in a single session at the gym, the repetitive action of inputting individual climbs can become tedious and eventually lead to inconsistent data.

I’m excited about the evolution of this product. Interested in seeing more? Check out the full prototype.