Safar is a mobile application for both travelers and locals alike to plan trips and discover sustainable places around them, in an urban environment. Users will also gain insight into the qualities that make a place sustainable, and are able to provide feedback to the app about the places they visit, specifically in terms of its sustainability factor. This is a collaborative effort with Raha Ghassemi, my peer at Parsons.
It is ongoing year long thesis project that started off in the month of September, 2016. My role in the team is focused on creating user flows, undergoing user research and designing the UI/UX of the app. We are researching neighborhoods in Brooklyn so that we can find out how to create a database of sustainable places for tourists or locals to visit. Brooklyn is our test city.
Tourists with an interest in a real immersion into the local experience of the places they visit will use this app to help solve the root problem of anti-tourism sentiments and the decline of highly-visited areas. The app also aims to create an inclusive and enjoyable platform for users to help us help them boost their local economies.
We want to evoke a sense of “smart and mindful” tourism in users, so they can be instruments of change in the context of current environmental, social, and economic issues caused by mass tourism.
Proof of Concept Video
The research is broadly focused on altering people’s behavior while traveling, so that it has a positive effect on cities, generations to come and future travelers. Focusing on the three important indices of sustainability - social, economic and environmental, we are researching cities that are working towards developmental and attitudinal changes to address its obstacles.
The tourism industry is one such domain that challenges cities with the management of natural, cultural and economic resources. I am studying these management tools from the perspective of helping make tourism sustainable yet accessible. Tourism is paradoxical as it helps boost the economy at the cost of social and environmental degradation. Venice and Barcelona are examples of how local economic benefits of tourism are sometimes outweighed by social costs. Overcrowding, congestion, erosion of cultural and architectural heritage are a few uncontrollable threats that these cities face.
I am creating a persuasive design model and studying behavioral decision theory as prescribed by many researchers and economists who are working towards building a sustainability index for tourism. The plan is to use this approach to change travel behavior of tourists in a passive way while simultaneously enhancing their travel experience. This will help to address the socio-economic challenges with respect to host communities, conserve the cultural heritage and boost local businesses.
By studying the attitude of a tourist who moves around in groups, ticks off “to-do/to-visit” lists and follows over-crowded paths that does nothing to elevate their self-discovery, the aim is to build a mobile application that creates a shift from leisure to responsible tourism.
Focusing on 'Brooklyn' as a test case, Safar gives users the ability to search places based on neighborhood in the borough. Why Brooklyn? Brooklyn is no longer up and coming; it’s arrived. It close but yet far from the maddening crowds in Manhattan. Buzzing with pioneering artisans, it is a dynamic hub of culinary innovation, green spaces (Smorgasburg) and cutting-edge culture (Brooklyn Museum, DUMBO art galleries) that remains true to its roots with its historic districts (Brooklyn Heights) and landmarks (Green-Wood Cemetery).
Discover and Search
Users can access quick information on 'Things to do' around them based on the time of day and popularity of a place.
In addition a user can also further 'search' places tapping into the search bar. This opens up filters categorized under - Green Spaces, Culture, Food, Shops and Leisure.
Each broad category (eg., Food) has further sub categories in order to provide in depth classification of places.
Point of Interest : Detail Page
Gives an overview of the place and categorizes the place into hashtags for quick information. The user has the ability to save the place in 'an itinerary' for an upcoming journey or 'save to favorites' to visit at a later time.
Endorsements in screen 2 highlight the sustainability of a place. Giving complete control to the users to choose what factors of sustainability the place adheres to, thus 'how sustainable' a place is determined not by the app but through crowd sourcing. Over time 'points of interest' with low endorsements will be deleted from the app to give users only a database of sustainable locations.
Screen 3 highlights the 'Popular Times' section on the current screen. Users are able to identify at what times the place is usually crowded, so that if one prefers visiting quieter locations.
Itinerary View : List / Map
Recent User Test
The first prototype was focused on search and discovery method, giving the user the ability to explore places and filter by preferences. This prototype also incorporates a reward model each time a user checks into a sustainable place of interest or business. This mechanism helps local businesses economically while giving the user an incentive to support the local economy.
This prototype focuses again on discover but giving emphasis to the planning stage in the form of an itinerary. The search page has been modified to give the users the ability to explore but also giving them recommendations based on the time of day and location.
Users also have the option to create an itinerary and see the context of their journey on a map and in the form of a list view.
Prototype created using Origami to test interactions.
Prototype developed in iOS Swift to test UI.