DISCLAIMER: This project was part of General Assembly's User Experience Design Immersive.

Source: Aline Jalalian

Source: Aline Jalalian


Friend + Persona = Awesome Human

Ani is an outdoor enthusiast in every sense of the word. Whether it's kayaking, hiking, rock climbing - you name it, and she'll be embarking on that adventure next chance she gets.

Here's the deal: she just moved to the Bay Area from out-of-state, and doesn't know a single person here. You know the feeling: craving community, that sense of belonging, people who know you for what you love and not what you do for work. 



Marin County is home to many iconic American cycling playgrounds, like Mount Tamalpais and the Repack Trail, and with so many avid, all-year riders, it remains a hotbed of cycling culture and innovation. Marin Bikes was born out of this culture in 1986, founded by passionate riders. They've been around, and their roots are as deep as any. They strive every day to learn, improve, and evolve while staying true to the place that made them who they are: a company of devoted professionals who live what they preach and ride what they build.

Source: Marin Bikes

Source: Marin Bikes


Marin Bikes wanted to create a way to promote outdoor cycling and raise brand awareness through a cycling lifestyle oriented application. Although Marin is well known to mountain biking enthusiasts community, they have not gained as much mainstream reach as they would like.

Marin believed that there may be opportunity to increase awareness of their brand through providing value-added content to new mountain bikers or people with an interest in outdoor sports. 


Marin Bikes wanted to increase brand awareness by providing an application with real utility for this market.


I had the good fortune to collaborate with three other talented designers on this project: Aline Jalalian, Sharon Lin, and Matt "El Disco" Earnest. While we all shared the responsibilities of a UX Designer, my role focused on contributing as a User Researcher and Content Strategist .



We began our research by conducting ethnographic interviews and contextual inquiry at Marin Bike's factory store in SoMa, San Francisco.  The learnings from these initial interviews guided how to frame our survey and what we needed to ask.

Our Typeform survey was distributed via General Assembly's global community, as well as each team member's social networks. In total, we received 133 responses in >48 hours and gained the following quantitative feedback:

43% were between the age of 25-34

64% used an iPhone as their primary device

63% considered mountain biking challenging, but were up for the challenge

93% were either not afraid of mountain biking at all, or were a little apprehensive but still wanted to do it.

The most interesting qualitative feedback we received was from an open-ended question at the end of the survey: What could a mobile app do for your mountain biking experience?

The answers had some common themes, including but not limited to:

  • Ride tracking (altitude, speed, elevation, etc.)
  • Trail info & navigation
  • Route mapping
  • Tips for getting started
  • Hazard reporting/emergency response

Synthesizing the stories from interviews with the data from the survey results, we began designing an iPhone app with the initial hypothesis that if Ani could not only find trails to ride on, but felt safe once she was on those trails, it would facilitate her introduction into the local mountain biking community. 



After our competitive analysis, we pivoted from our initial concept of a tracking & trails app. Why? For one, feedback such as: 

Network Coverage Maps as of April 2015. Source: OpenSignal

"If I were to use any app that would be related to any sort of biking experience, it would have to offer something more than Strava." 

informed us that the marketplace is already inundated with activity tracking apps, and Strava unquestionably dominated.  

Secondly, the idea of a Waze-inspired crowdsourced trail map was ruled out after evaluating the feasibility (or rather, the lack thereof) of designing a data hungry app in areas with minimal network coverage.

It was an important reminder of not simply asking users what they want, but discovering what they need. When returning to the needs of our personas, we refocused our efforts on a social, community-building app


Our new hypothesis was that if Ani knew who to bike with and where to bike, she would feel the sense of belonging in her new community that's she's been longing for. But how would we differentiate ourselves from services such as



Here is our initial user flow & feature mapping.

Here is our initial user flow & feature mapping.

With our new hypothesis in mind - who to bike with and where to bike - I lead the team on how to refine our strategy, challenging us all to focus on our users' experience before and after the app, and how to most efficiently and quickly get them to doing what they love: getting that therapeutic adrenaline of mountain biking with people they safe with and care about.

Our app would focus on two main features: groups and scheduled rides.

Here is where I will discuss the reasons behind our features, and how our features address who to bike with and where to bike. I will discuss what you're looking at and why it's important.
This is the text block where I will go into detail about what influenced our final design decisions.




Here is where I will describe the findings of the usability test.