Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Barely Design Updates

As part of the Design for Screens course with Brent Arnold, we revisited the app sprint from last semester, conducted small-scale user testing, and made edits based on the feedback.

Some of the key learnings from the feedback included:

Users may have different needs depending on their different stages of comfort/experience with barefooting.

There is a potential for more direct bioremediation through this app.

The app is missing the spontaneity of walking barefoot and doing parkour.

User-generated ratings and recommendations pose the concern of misinformation from trolls.

The direction interface options may not need to be separated and instead may be layered as different levels of information.

First timers may feel uncomfortable not just because of dangers, but because of the presence of onlookers.

There is an opportunity to have this app also indicate to businesses that they don't have to have "no shoes, no service" policies.

In this first round of iteration, I have not been able to incorporate all of the above feedback. But I have addressed the need for varying modes. In this updated version of the Barely app concept, the user can choose from two modes: discovery mode or map mode.

In Discovery Mode, users simply press "Start" and "Complete" at the beginning and end of their journeys. The intent is to allow for free-form exploration of spaces. This is also the primary mode for the app to collect data. Pressing "Start" in Discovery Mode initiates GPS tracking to map the user's route, then after her journey is completed, she is prompted to answer a few questions about the route.


In Map Mode, there are two primary features. First is the destination search. Users can search for restaurants, stores, etc. and see user ratings on their barefoot-friendliness. If the ratings don't look so good, the user can select "Find Alternatives" to be recommended similar options with better ratings.

Then once the destination is selected, the user can select from several route options. Each route option has a brief description, i.e. "Smooth, lots of puddles" or "Rough, grates, some grass", which are generated from the cumulative data from Discovery Mode. The routes also show how direct the path is, and the amount of off-street travel on the route (i.e. through grass fields or across plazas).

Finally, there is an optional review prompt in Map Mode, to reinforce the ones coming from Discovery Mode, if the user would like to review the route and the business they mapped to.

I am not yet sure if I will be continuing with this app or working on something new for the purpose of this course. If I do decide to continue Barely, I will incorporate some great feedback I received about focus and size of user group. Because the barefooting community is still small, it may not be the case that I could get enough users to make the user-generated ratings and data functional. I will need to test this out and gauge market size.

In addition to the user testing, we also created problem statements to loosely outline our goals for this course. Whatever app/interface/interaction I create will be within the following parameters:

For humans who have lost sight of their own wildness.

This digital interaction is a provocation that initiates a long term behavior shift in the physical world.

Unlike most digital interactions about nature, our product is not about controlling nature, identifying, or simulating it - but instead it is about being a part of it outside of the digital world.

Jenna Witzleben