Smart Explorer

Smart Explorer

Areas of Design
Product DesignUX/UI DesignUser Research
Marielle Wall, Julia Yee
An app that helps hikers discover new trails and plan their hikes. Unlike other hiking apps, it prioritizes the hikers safety at each step
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Smart Explorer is a school project that I created with 2 other members in Spring 2021. I contributed in user research, UX design and user testing. This project has won the 🏆 2021 Vancouver UX Awards


According to BC Search and Rescue Association (SAR), there was an increase of 48% in call-outs over the last year from both experienced and novice backcountry explorers, which made 2020 the busiest search and rescue year in BC SAR history.

Our goal

With limited options for activities, we are seeing people who have never participated before attempting difficult hikes without safety knowledge, leading them to be stuck in an unsafe, or even fatal situation where BC’s Search & Rescue must be called. We are looking for a solution that prioritizes hikers' safety while making it easy to find the best-suited trails.

Our online research were coming from news and statistics from BC Search and Rescue (SAR) Association
Our online research were coming from news and statistics from BC Search and Rescue (SAR) Association

Framing design intervention

To empathize with our prospective user’s experience, we conducted 8 surveys with both novice and experienced hikers, and 2 virtual interviews with SAR volunteers along with online research. Most calls received from SAR were because people are not prepared before their hikes. The majority of novice hikers often think nothing bad could ever happen to them; therefore, having a trip plan is essential for hikers so an alert can be made as soon as possible if they are lost. What we also discovered is that the top 3 reasons SAR get called are getting lost, injuries, and being stuck in the dark.

How might we provide avid adventurers resources for trip planning, safety precautions tips, and find new trails for their next adventures?


Through our interviews, as well as a great amount of online research, we were able to pivot on three insights:

"Hiking accident victims tend to have their phones running out of battery to call emergency contacts or the rescue team because they are using them as flashlights" - Douglas Pope (North Shore Rescue team volunteer)


Trip Planner

Novice hikers don't have much experience in finding good trails to start with, or cannot check trail conditions in their area. The majority of them neglect the importance of a trip planner and don't know what to pack for their specific location.


Safety Precautions & Education

Lacking knowledge about safety precautions in hiking could turn a short day hike into a potentially dangerous outing. Finding ways to integrate safety education into the app without making it a boring library and easy to digest is what SmartExplorer tries to achieve.


Emergency Contact

During our interview with the SAR volunteers, we found out that phones are often lifelines for hikers. Hikers need a simple and systematic way to let people know where you're going, when you plan to return, and what to do if you're in danger.



Feature proposal


Personalized Onboarding Process

People often neglect the importance of onboarding process, which helps give users a sense of what they'll need to do in order to get what they need from an app or product. We worked together on the copywriting of this, aiming to make it concise and informative.


Conditional Interactions

With UXPin, I had an opportunity to work on conditional interactions, especially in our log in screens. By mastering conditional interactions, these platforms (UX Pin, ProtoPie) helps further UI screens options that our designers often forget to do before we send out to the development team.



When thinking about novice hikers, we encouraged detailed and informative hike information that novice hikers need when they hike: sunset & sunrise time, difficulty levels, current conditions, and an interactive packing list.

Initially, hikers often have to search different sites just to know the hike. We want this Discover page to be the only source where people can find about their hikes.



The planning stage of the application allows you to understand the hike from a high level, such as place and time, right down to small details like what to pack. There is a social aspect included where your hiking partners can be invited so that everyone can collaborate to be equally prepared.



We provide critical first aid information in brief digestible format, complete with images, built into the native application. No internet connection is required to view tips, tricks, or first aid guides that would users navigate tricky situations.


💬 After thought

Collaborating with my team members was the most rewarding aspect of this project. Each of us brought a unique character to the table, along with unique skills and perspectives. My pervious experience taught me the importance of teamwork and collaboration. In this event, all the lessons I gathered along the way I brought to the table, which enabled me to effortlessly share and gather perspectives that brought us to success.