Better Hiking in Burnet Woods

by Maria Ciampone, Madeline Sohngen, TyAnn Amos, @renishacohen, @wendallbrown

Identifying the Problem

Our group of five went to explore Burnet Woods in the late afternoon on a Monday. Two or three of us had explored this park before, but the others had never been. It was not too crowded for us at this time, but there were many people on runs or sitting on benches by the lake.

We walked around for an hour or so, taking notes and pictures of what we thought could use improvement, which we all agreed that the park needed a lot of TLC.

Burnet Woods seemed very cold and uninviting to us. There wasn’t a lot of color, other than gray concrete, and if there hadn’t been people there, we would’ve thought that no one uses this park at all.

User Research

Below are some of the pictures we took while exploring the park.

Left: Notes we took while walking around the park. Center: Looking down at slide, pavilion, and swing set area. Right: A Wooden sign with no writing on it.
Left: another shot of the pavilion,picnic benches, and dead grass. Right: stairs leading down to this area and the old concrete slide.
Left: “Stairs” leading down to the lake. Right: One end of the park, uses the small poles to stop cars from coming in.

We agreed that the main problem with Burnet Woods was the lack of signage. At one point we walked into an intersection with four different paths to take. There were no signs telling us what was down each path/what general direction was ahead. We ended up having to randomly pick one and explore it, and then come back to this intersection and pick a new path. This is not at all convenient or ideal for a user trying to get where they need to go in this park. Of course people who have been to the park before know which path to take to get where they want to go. However, we need to design for the user who is new to the park.

A member of our group also explored a park by her house and took pictures of things that this park had that seemed to be missing from Burnet Woods (below).

Potential Concept Solutions

Below are our individual ideas on the changes we would make to Burnet Woods.

The main ideas we came up with: some sort of signage at the entrances of the park and at the major points within the park, and some cosmetic changes usually regarding lack of color.

User Testing Methods

We talked to three people in the park, one man sitting by the lake on a bench, a college student who was stretching before a run, and a mom watching her two children play on the swings and slide.

The first man said he likes to sit by like lake to relax and think about things. He said that the benches are kind of old and maybe some new ones that are “more comfortable” could be placed in this favorite spot of his. The student who was about to run said that the first time he ran in the park he was very confused about where to go. He said that it would be very helpful to him and other runners if there were simple signs pointing to the directions of the streets surrounding the park. The mother of the children said she always comes with her kids to this park because she is afraid of the possibility of crime happening in Burnet. She says her kids love to swing so they usually come on weekends during the day or after school to play at this part of the park. The mother also hates how unsafe the slide is, but still lets her children use it because there isn’t much else to the park beside the swings and slide.

Our Solutions

After discussing all of our ideas and options, we came up with our favorite ideas on how to help make Burnet Woods more enjoyable to the user.

The first is to make signs that would be at each entrance of the park, at the four way intersection, and by the lake and playground. These signs would look something like this:

Left: A sign like this by the Burnet Woods lake could help show some history about the park and/or what you can find in and by the lake. Right: These could be at every entrance of the park, showing you an overview map, some history on the park, and rules of the park.
Two different ideas of how the signs at the four way intersection, each have arrows pointing to the direction of things throughout the park.

The second involves a lot of cosmetic changes. Below is our idea for updating the pavilion by the playground.

Options for the Pavilion: Have a slanted one-sided roof so light can reach the inside and be more welcoming on the outside. You could also keep the roof the same, but narrow the columns so that it is still more open to the outside.

Another idea is to paint the swing set so that more kids will want to use it because of it bright colors.

By painting the seats primary colors, the swing set immediately becomes more inviting to children and people of all ages.

The old concrete slide definitely needs to be dealt with, too. A simple plastic cover that is a bright color, like red, can be placed over the existing slide, and come up a little higher on the sides. This way the user can actually go down the slide at a reasonable pace and won’t potentially fall out of the slide because there was nothing keeping them in the slide.

In both of these examples of concrete slide, the sides of the slide are pretty high up so children won’t fall off to the side when using it. These both also have a little red in the layout to make it less cold feeling. We think the entire slide in Burnet Woods should be a bright red like this.

The frisbee golf course is very rusty and is very often overlooked. Below are some examples of how to help solve these problems.

Left: The basket should have a bright color, such as yellow, on it so it can be easily seen from a distance. Right: Each hole on the course could have a starting point. A sign could also be placed at the start to tell you the distance from the starting point to the basket.

In Conclusion

There are so many others ways to help Burnet Woods become a better place to visit. We focused on signage and cosmetic changes. Even though these seem like very simple and minor changes, we believe that it will make exploring in the park much easier. With some paint, some signs, and a few other materials, Burnet Woods could be user friendly in no time.

Our final takaways…

What did we learn from this process? Good user-centered design requires time and thinking outside of the box. You must make yourself the user and see things from that perspective in order to best solve the problem.

How did the problem change throughout the process (especially after talking to visitors)? I think our problem stayed relatively the same. We knew that a friendlier environment was needed and that’s what these people reinforced with us. We can’t really change the fact that this mom doesn’t feel safe letting her children play here by themselves, but we can change if the kids are having fun or not with the cosmetic changes. The man on the bench might like the bright colors added to the park, and new benches could easily be added, too. The runner wanted signage and directions, and that was in original ideas as well.

What would you do differently? We would have gone at a busier time of day, possibly a Saturday morning. We went on Monday at 5 so Saturday at 11 am would’ve drawn a different crowd.

How would you grade your group 1 to 10 on process, not product? We believe our process is a 9. We all went to Burnet Woods together and talked to the people in the park together. We’ve all sketched our ideas and looked at tons of process work and examples from other parks.

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