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REI Climbing App Concept Case Study

Completed alongside Nicole Scimia, Kelly Lin, Leah Tulino

  • Kept team on task to meet milestones

  • Performed user interviews

  • Collaborated on sketches and wireframing

  • Performed usability testing of mid-fi prototype

  • Developed hi-fi prototype based on user feedback

Adventure isn't something that just happens these days; we don't live in a world where you can expect to thwart bank robberies, fight dragons or discover lost treasure on any given day. If you want to have a story to tell your friends about your death-defying escapades, you have to be able to go out there and make it yourself. Rock climbing is such an adventure.


For this concept project, Recreational Equipment, Inc., (REI) was looking to create a mobile platform to help climbers stay more informed on their hobby. Our team took the challenge to create the #1 platform for climbers to stay informed on their hobby every day of the week, whether they were climbing or not.


My role was general guidance for the group to complete research milestones on a consistent schedule, setting deadlines for our tasks on the Trello board.


Defining the Problem

REI has long been a retailer of a variety of climbing equipment, and features robust resources in their ecosystem that would be useful for aspirants and experts. 


The real issue they’re having is knowing how users want to consume this information in an app. 


Through research, our team was able to develop a problem statement to help us in our approach: 

Outgoing climbers need a mobile app to track, plan and share climbs with friends so that they can feel a part of the climbing community.

Research Phase

We knew our audience would be climbers, but because a mobile app could be a great entry point for newcomers to the hobby, I took the initiative to design our questions to be non-specific to climbing, and cover a wider scope of what users want from an activity app, with leanings towards fitness.


We worked together to create a research plan and interview script. I interviewed two of the 6 total individuals for about 15 min each. Our key takeaways were:


These insights, along with demographics research into hobby climbers, helped us create a persona. These let us narrow down our target goals:

Create an easy-to-use app that can:

  • track a user’s climbing progress (withholding info as they deem fit from the app)

  • Give them the ability to share that progress with friends

  • Allow them to connect with other climbers to form a community


I also took this information and created a user journey for this prospective climber, identifying the main pain points as analytics not being accessible from a novice perspective and socialization being difficult.

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REI P3 User Journey.png
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Ideation & Conceptualization

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Mtn Project proved to have all of all the features that our interview subjects looked for, but not in the way they wanted. The community, for example, was a barebones forum.

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REI App User Flow

Our group conferred to discuss our findings and inspirations for the new app. We developed a user flow and sitemap to plan out the pages we would need to mockup. 


I did a feature analysis of competing climbing and fitness apps and found that, while there were some that fulfilled the user needs of our research, none were able to cover all of them adequately in a single package.


We did two rounds of sketching and discussing our findings before we settled on our designs.


After login, users would be guided to three major calls to action:

  • Find a climb

  • Engage with the community

  • See expert advice. 


We wanted our screen for finding a climb to work like a navigation app, with the timer being something akin to a workout tracker, with the community page taking cues from social media.

REI P3 Sitemap.png

REI App Site Map (Orange units were planned to be mocked-up in the mid-fi)

We set about on our mid-fi prototype by each taking a set of pages and laying them out individually, with considerations to our content audit and discussions from the sketching period regarding style choices. 


I took the home page, the pages for the “find a climb” task, and the location page right before a user starts their climb.


With this mid-fi prototype assembled, we began user testing, instructing users to:

  • Find a climb

  • Start a climb

  • Share your progress

  • Like another user’s post

Design & Prototyping

Testing & Validation

Through usability testing of 6 individuals for about 30 min each, we were able to learn that the process was intuitive, but didn’t convey a sense of a fitness app, causing confusion that slowed down user progress. I performed the usability testing of two individuals.

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Development & Implementation

Taking this feedback, we began to sketch out ideas for the hi-fi prototype, putting and emphasis on cleaning up the more garish design elements like the navigation at the bottom of the screen, and gearing navigation more towards what a busy climber would look for, including changing the difficulty from a numerical scale to the French Grading.

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My sketches for an updated page for finding a climb.

My sketches for an updated homepage and screen for finding a climb.


The team split up and updated each of our pages to reflect the sketches for the hi-fi prototype, taking care to ensure we had a consistent style across all pages and that the user’s path forward was unobscured.


After all the changes were made, I went through and made sure that our asset library was followed.

Key Takeaways & Lessons Learned

  • Another round of Usability Testing

  • Apply changes

  • Present to REI

This group project gave me good experience working on a design team. I took it upon myself to keep everyone on task and focused on critical deliverables. 


On that same note, it taught me that I need to improve my communication skills to ensure that the voices of everyone on the team are heard.


Regarding the hi-fi, I would like to carry this design through another batch of usability testing to see how well it fares compared to the mid-fi.


With the feedback gained from further testing, we could make updates and ultimately present the design to REI.


How do you feel about this climbing app? Does it fit the needs you find yourself needing as a climber? How does it compare to the fitness apps you use? Reach out to me and together we can make innovative designs to guide users on their own adventures!


While you’re here, check out some of my other case studies like for the redesign of the Labyrinth Game Shop website, and the HealthTech Hang Helpful Hour Redesign!

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