PKSpotter — overcoming the hurdles in parkour

William Man
Apr 26, 2018 · 6 min read

Parkour! You’re probably already thinking about Steve Carrel enthusiastically hurling his body across the room, screaming at the top of this lungs. And somehow that ninety second skit perfectly captures the thrill of what makes parkour so exciting.

Screaming, however, is not necessary.

After all, parkour practitioners thrive on challenging themselves to grow as athletes. Whether it’s by finding that new hot spot to develop their skills or seeking support from others who share their similar passion— or at least finding someone to spot them on their first failed back flip attempt.

This is made difficult, however, by the limited platforms available for discovering new avenues for runners to grow and practice their craft.

The Original PKSpotter: a misguided solution

Touted by Tempest Freerunning Academy as the premier parkour app, PKSpotter was released to the world as the answer to this problem.

This impressive-yet-cringey promo video is just like the app: flashy with no substance.

As a service for finding and sharing parkour spots and connecting with other practitioners, this mobile app certainly had potential to solve for some major user problems within the parkour community. So where did it go wrong?


Key Pain Points

What does the big plus sign button do? Why are all the buttons so small? Why is the map a tab and not separate? What on earth happened here?

Simple design faux-pas riddled the app (e.g. text illegibility, unidentifiable iconography, superfluous video tutorial section, general poor information architecture, connectivity issues). The following user review sums up what many others have said:

Good idea This app is a realy good idea,but it is full with bugs: 1.When i try to upload a photo it just restarts 2.There is no option to delete or edit spots 3.Gps locks at a different locatio 4.Lags like hell 5.The buttons of the map zoom are too tiny. Please fix those issues and ill rate it 5 stars.”

However detrimental these choices were, the real debacle here was how these poor decisions muddled their initial user goal: finding and sharing parkour spots and connecting with other practitioners.

Research & Analysis

But rather than just solve these problems, I had to get an even better sense of the users, to verify or debunk any assumptions I had.

Compiling the results from Reddit’s /r/pakour community and mapping them accordingly

The above is the result from surveying the Reddit Parkour community to have a baseline understanding of current solutions to problems. The main takeaways:

  1. Ideal training spots required details on terrain and equipment with plenty of space but was reasonably safe.
  2. Previous spots were found based on proximity and by simply stumbling upon them or by word of mouth.
  3. Those who liked to train with others did it for motivation, confidence, creativity and fun.
  4. Meetups were centered around friends rather than meeting new people, usually on routine basis.

Design Solutions

I mocked up a high-fidelity prototype, with each screen methodically planned to meet needs. I then conducted guerrilla-style user testing at my local parkour center, in hopes of capturing real reactions from target users.

I borrowed heavily from Material Design to assure better affordance and heuristics. In short, I could rely on proven design guidelines so I can concentrate on feature prioritization and content strategy.


Ideal training spots required details on terrain and equipment with plenty of space but was reasonably safe.

Locations should be selected as easily as with Yelp — toggling between map and list options. The spots were made with a Google Maps-inspired layout with tabs to prevent cognitive overload (too much stuff on screen) while presenting all information in a concise way.

User Task: Find a spot to train backflips safely

More testers found their way to the Locations page from the Homepage than from the bottom tabs, which validated my decision to include the most used features prominently.


Previous spots were found based on proximity and by simply stumbling upon them or by word of mouth.

For the community to have access to spots, contributors needed to share locations so this initial step needed to be as painless as possible with only the name and location necessary. This is meant to encourage community input for reviews, information and photos.

User Task: Add a new spot you discovered

Concerns of safety and trespassing were a recurring theme from users and testers. In later revisions, I added a disclaimer screen towards the end of the process to not disrupt the flow.


Those who liked to train with others did it for motivation, confidence, creativity and fun.

My measure for solving for this was to ensure that users had enough incentive to reach out and train with others. This required two user tasks.

Task: Add a new move you are trying to learn: the front tuck

Adding new moves to your “Learning” or “Mastered” repertoire was made simpler by being prominently featured on the home page. These moves would be saved in the user’s profile as a means to track their own progress.

Task: Find a training buddy for someone who knows moves you are trying to learn

Once saved, users who browsed for training partners (also featured on the main page) could easily find who has mastered a technique that they are learning, in hopes to encourage connectivity through friend requests.


Meetups were centered around friends rather than meeting new people, usually on routine basis.

With the idea that the app would open up opportunities for users to discover friends, I felt it was essential to have a calendar events with options to invite friends. The design was made to be as straightforward as possible.

User Task: Schedule a training session with your friend, Juji, which repeats every Monday

It was a challenge to display the layout and copy of the “Repeat” option for users to intuitively create repeating events. The final design was a result of iterative redesign before I learned that testers responded best when “Repeat” wasn’t tucked away under “More Options.” It was here I discovered that the default Material Design info architecture was not infallible and how I had to discover my own solution.


Takeaways

I may have been a parkour enthusiast myself for almost a decade but I am always aware that I am not my user. I aimed to solve for the needs of the parkour community and I believe I have validated that in my redesign.

With future iterations, I may wish to build upon my current framework and focus on the needs of those who wished to trained alone — perhaps integrating a feature which details how many runners are at a specific locations.

For now, the most recent design is the culmination of countless iterations to make seamless user flows that separates itself from the other parkour apps out there (and even the original PKSpotter app). With these positive results from latest testings, I feel confident that I have more than satisfied the app’s claim to be the go-to service for finding and sharing parkour spots and connecting with other practitioners.

William Man

Written by

Product Designer with a specialty in Pet-Tech and Fitness apps @thepixelpup

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