Integrating “non-linear” routing functionality into a navigation app doesn’t mean the whole app has to be redesigned from the ground up.

Cover for Sproute meets traditional Navigation

So while Sproute was moving in a more experimental direction, I worked on a little side project to show how a more conventional navigation app might incorporate some of the same values and ideas. This fake app is called [Insert Title]

Visit the project

In Sproute the user selects a character and the character than has an algorithm associated with them that determines how they get from A to B. It would be easy to imagine how the character selection in Sproute would translate into a more traditional app interface. It would probably look something like this:

Cover for Sproute meets traditional Navigation

If Sproute were a normal navigation app the only difference would probably be a lack of animated characters

But since that kind of integration speaks for itself, I took the opportunity to explore some other potential interactions.

Notification integration

Instead of being presented with a specific route to follow, [insert title] uses notifications as prompts to make me aware of other ways I could be navigating.

The notifications would come at three different moments during my day: in the morning, and then during and after a trip. With the notifications then changing depending on what I am up to.

What works well with notifications is that I don’t have to have the app open in order to interact with it. In this way they can act as little prompts that drop in throughout the day, helping me to stop and think.

Morning Messages: Hints and ideas

The pre-journey notifications could be small bits of information that I could factor into how I get from A to B that day. For example, maybe it’s super windy, or the trees are starting to blossom in a park nearby, I can then decide to change my route accordingly.

If I tap the notification I am simply given a marker on the map showing the location that was being referenced. It’s then up to me to decide whether to factor in the information during your trip.

These notifications could be personalised and generated, or could also be a form of editorial content sent out to a whole neighbourhood or both (of course).

Cover for Sproute meets traditional Navigation

Hints and ideas

A little message in the morning that might get you to consider taking a different route

During the trip: Live detours

By integrating some sort of bookmarking functionality (like in Google Maps), [Insert Title] would be able to create live detours and pitstops depending on wherever you are going in the city.

For example, I always have a bunch of book shops and eccentric-looking print shops that I want to visit, but I rarely get around to actually visiting them. (It doesn’t have to be shops, in your case, it might be parks or cafes or street art or museums or ... you get the point).

With this kind of detour functionality, there’s a much higher likelihood that I’ll go check them out, since I’ll be close by anyway, so I might as well.

If I’m in a rush or not in the mood then that’s fine as well, I just ignore the notification.

Cover for Sproute meets traditional Navigation

Live Detours

Having these little detours also introduces a little bit of anticipation and spontaneity back into a trip

After the trip

We rarely think back on a trip we have just taken. But by actively reflecting and being shown information about whatever trip we have just been on, we can start to become aware of our habits and unconscious decisions. As with most things it is only once we are aware of our behaviours that we can start to consider if and how we might want to change them

This could happen in a few ways, one being where I would draw out the route I have just taken, and get some hints if I can’t remember it.

The idea for this came from the experiments and prototypes where we gave out tourist maps and had participants draw out everywhere they went.

The act of drawing it out makes me much actively reflect on the navigation decisions that you made. Was there a parallel road I could have taken? or a park that I could have cut through?
On top of this, because our brains tend to link thoughts and emotions to specific locations, it can remind you of thoughts that you had already forgotten about.

Cover for Sproute meets traditional Navigation

Trace your trip

Spend 30 seconds re-tracing your route

After the trip: Journey report

Another idea is a journey report, which would give some lite-statistics about the route I just took. Having stats gives me something to try "beat", but at the same time, you don’t want to hit people over the head with numbers as this can start to stray too far into the realm of overly manipulative gamification.

We had looked a bit at defining the “superpowers” of various modes of transport, to help people find the right mode of transport for the right situation. For example, by my trip, it might be possible to highlight how a journey might have been easier if I had taken a scooter instead of a tram.

Alternate but equally suitable trips could be shown as well. If I take the same route often, then this a journey report could help create a curiosity for trying out something new. Once again, the key thing here is to raise the idea, not force the action.

Cover for Sproute meets traditional Navigation

Journey Report

A journey report could show you lots of different statistics, like how many times you stopped at a traffic light or how many times you have taken the same route before

Of course this would need to be delved into much further if it were to become a real thing, but it hopefully shows some directions worth exploring. Keep in mind that a person is getting notifications from many different apps at the same time. So you have to avoid bombarding them with frequent and irritating interruptions throughout the day. It is a fine balance to find.

A thought on designing for complexity

Instead of technology telling people how to understand new things, sometimes it’s worth just helping them become aware of these unknown unknowns, and leaving the interpretation up to them.

I think designers need to become better at throwing the people we design for, back into the complexity of the world around them.

Even within Sproute we have future characters planned that don’t provide a line on the screen for you to follow. [Insert Title] just does it much more overtly.
Visit the project