Research to understand user needs within context

Research to understand user needs within context




  • User research / Service Design

  • Atlanta BeltLine

  • 6 months

  • Team of 2


Context & Question

Public art makes up an essential part of the the vibrant culture and the identity of the Atlanta BeltLine. The experience of artists is important for the success of not only the public art exhibition but also the quality of community experience at large. 

So how can we improve artists' experience to maintain and further cultivate the arts and cultural scene on our beloved BeltLine?



  1. Artists are missing a community where they can connect with each other both creatively and socially.

  2. Artists lack financial and career resources to support their creative endeavor.



A re-designed journey that consists of three touch points - an physical art plaque on the BeltLine, an mobile app, a web app - that guides artists from the initial on-boarding experience all the way to post-exhibition community engagement, through features that facilitate communication and collaboration amongst artists as well as features that invite funding and career opportunities. 


My Role

I was the go-to person for research. I conducted primary and secondary research, designed survey and interview guides, and developed evaluation plans. I conducted interviews, feedback sessions, and usability tests. I analyzed data from surveys, interviews, feedback sessions, and evaluations. I also collaborated with my teammate to ideate, wireframe and prototype. I created a video and co- presented our research and design concept to Atlanta BeltLine management.


Process & Methods

          PHASE 2

In Depth Research

  • Survey

  • Semi-Structured Interviews

  • Personas

  • User Journey

  • Service Blueprint


Generative research

  • On-site Observation

  • Cognitive Walkthrough

  • Artist Roundtable

  • Strategic Document

  • Brand Analysis (SWOT)

  • Stakeholder/System Map



  • Task-based Usability Testing

  • Think Aloud Protocol

  • Observation



  • Ideation with Stakeholders

  • Wire Framing

  • Prototyping







Phase 1 - Generative Research

On-site Observation - to understand how trail visitors interact with art pieces

We observed that most visitors don't stop to interact with the art piece nor reading the art plaque, but simply treat art pieces as the backdrop of the trail.


Cognitive Walkthrough - to understand how usable and user-friendly the web and mobile applications are, specifically regarding access to key information and resources.

We found that information regarding Art on the Atlanta BeltLine program is hard to access (buried under layers of menus), and that target audience is unclear (no differentiation between internal and external functions). 

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Artist Roundtable - to hear from artists firsthand their experiences and pain points.

We had three main takeaways from our conversation with artists:

  • 'Prolific' - support artist to produce and install art pieces in a way that maximizes impact and minimizes unnecessary effort.

  • 'Make it Atlanta' - Incorporate strategic branding of the BeltLine and Atlanta.

  • 'Bring more people!' - engage more artists as well as nearby neighborhoods and the larger Atlanta community.


Brand analysis (SWOT) - to evaluate how Brand Identities of both trail and non-trail communities across the world have played a role in better artist engagement.

  • We took Boston Greenway as an example of trail community of artists and DeviantArt as an example of a non-trail community of artists.

  • We looked at:

    • Vision: Both Brands look at pushing the boundaries of art. The Boston Greenway tries to encourage artists to take greater risks by having free and temporary exhibitions. Whereas DeviantArt gives tools and resources to the artist, including an inclusive and supportive community of artists to gather feedback from.

    • Touchpoint and Architecture: We explored all the touchpoints with the user both the brands had and the user experiences at each and also created a Brand architecture that showcases various Brand initiatives.

    • SWOT Analysis: We identified Evolution opportunities for both the Brands and explored how we could take some principles, marketing channels and inspiration from both onto the BeltLine project


“We are where art starts, but that is only the beginning. We are a community for the creative in everyone to develop and heighten their personal sense of taste, but that’s not where it ends. We are the movement for the liberation of creative expression.” - DeviantArt Website

“We are where art starts, but that is only the beginning. We are a community for the creative in everyone to develop and heighten their personal sense of taste, but that’s not where it ends. We are the movement for the liberation of creative expression.” - DeviantArt Website


Stakeholder/System Map - to identify all important stakeholders in the BeltLine Project

We explored who were Partners, Primary stakeholders and secondary stakeholders.



Phase 2 - In-depth Research

Creating a Research Plan

  • What do we know so far:

  • What areas we needed more exploration:

  • Key Research initiatives: Surveys and Semi-structured interviews. Use personas, user journey and blueprint as a way to map out findings and identify opportunities


Goal: The survey was a way for us to derive quantitative data about current user experiences. We used data from the survey to help us plot Artist Journey maps

Method: We created a survey on Qualtrics and got 22 participant responses. The questions were: 

Observations: The survey showed us that there was a definite need for financial support for artists for creating their art and branding (which would lead them to more career opportunities). Some of the top results were:


Semi-structured Interviews

Goal: The interview was a way for us to derive qualitative data about current user experiences. We used data from the interview to fill in the unknowns from the survey data on our journey map

Method: We prepared the set of questions below and interviewed 14 artists. Our goal was to get a good understanding of the entire artist journey with the beltline and use the interview as a way to fill in the unknowns from the survey. 

Observations: We found out what various Artists' motivations were for participating in the Art on the Atlanta BeltLine program and also the struggles some of them go through to continue their craft. Some of the most important quotes were:



At the end of the surveys and interviews, we were able identify 3 main sets of user groups. To explain our user persona, we created a user story based on the research we collected. We also created a video storyboard to help explain how the artist would use and benefit our solution and their motivations.


User Journey

We mapped out the entire user journey for each of the 3 user personas:


Service Blueprint

We created a service Blueprint to extend the user journey to identify opportunities we could potentially work on:


From data to Insights

Some of the major insights we uncovered were:

  • Not much collaboration going on among artists; relationship between art pieces not considered.

  • All artists’ info is presented as archive; no interaction between artist and audience, nor between artist and artist.

  • Would appreciate more assistance during the art installation process

  • Would like more opportunity to connect with audience; ‘can’t always be there to explain the art piece’

  • Need Career boost

  • Wanted a source of information for artists

  • Get introduced to different artistic styles and directions  

  • Learn about art opportunities from fellow artists


These insights led us to ponder what the expected solution should be able to do:

  • Artists drive engagement within artist communities

    • Encourage more artists to come to trail

  • More representation from less/underrepresented communities

  • Art from a community will bring in visitors from that community to trails

    • Increased development along trail

  • Resource sharing between artists - for space, equipment, ideas, etc.

  • Increased collaboration between artists to work on projects together

  • Secondary impacts:

    • Visibility for artists & Monetary/income potential

Finally, We created an opportunity statement based on the insights we gathered:

Opportunity Statement

To Create an Online Community

For artists

In order to facilitate communication and collaboration between them



Process: We conducted a 90 minute long Participatory Gamestorming activity. There were 6 participants including artists and the Atlanta Beltline management. The activity was split into 3 30-minute long session. 

Session 1: We asked participants to answer the Question "What are some of the problem areas that the online community should tackle?". Participants wrote their responses on Post-it notes and put them up on the wall. 

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Session 2: We picked one opportunity area from the list of areas we identified in Session 1 and spent 10 minutes first to discuss users, constraints, usecases etc. and then 15 minutes ideating/brainstorming and sharing each others ideas without any discussion. The last 5 minute was spent dot-voting the best idea.

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Session 3: We repeated Session 2 again with another group by picking a different opportunity that was identified in Session 1. 


Some of the key outcomes were:

  • The Quality of ideas were great. The time of the individual thinking segment was long enough for us to go pass more cliche ideas for more creative ones. We also got a good a variety of ideas across physical and digital touchpoints.

  • Ideation activities could have been more complex to get to more dimensions more summatively  (e.g. portfolio idea that encompass impact and feasibility); there could have been more structure within each session to facilitate more conversation.

  • We could have done a more thorough job sharing research insights and constraints at the beginning of the session.

At the end of the Ideation, we identified 2 directions we could potentially follow:

Concept 1

An Online tool for Artists working on the Art on Atlanta BeltLine project specifically focused on Onboarding of Artists and helping create Artist roadmap and art production. At each stage of the on-boarding process useful tools for ideation, art development, deployment, etc will be shared with the artist.

Concept 2

An online tool that provides financial assistance to artists in the four formats below:

  • Direct fundraising

    • Physical and digital fundraising channels

    • Patron development, bidding and temporary art ownership

  • Artist Branding

    • Art themed/artist signed souvenirs and products

    • Artist online representation: stories, exhibitions, opportunities and services

  • Community Engagement

    • Art workshops & assistance with installation

  • Resources and Activities

    • (Cost-cutting) Tool use resources, communal resources and artist entertainment


Our final prototype took a mix of ideas from both the above concepts to test out.



Artist Onboarding

When an Artis decides to submit a proposal for the AoAB program, he/she is shown an interactive step-by-step instruction and material to easily Make a submission, Generate alternative sources of finance for their art work and Find resources to create the art pieces


Overview of artist journey
An artist creates is directed to this screen to create a new proposal. He/She sees an overview of the journey through the beltline and also what needs to be done at each stage of the process.


Resources to learn about beltline
The artist completes the submission process by first learning more about the Beltline and the AoAB project. Then they read the Request for Proposal. They also get a chance to learn about the resources available.


Estimate Calculator
An online calculator to help artists create estimates for their proposal


Mentorship Program
A Mentorship program for newer artists where they’re paired with experienced beltline artists or management


Once the proposal is approved, the artist is taken to the 2nd stage where they are helped with funding their art.


Financial help
Help artists find additional sources of revenue for their art or funding for their projects by creating a crowdfunding campaign or by selling their art work


Artist and Art Branding


Art branding
Each art work has a branded page on the website that visitors can find by scanning the QR code on the trail


Artist Branding
Each artist gets their own branded webpage with information about their art, career and upcoming events


Hosting events for collaboration, art development or installation are great ways to find inspiration, career opportunities and save costs/raise funds for their project. This is an event page that the artist creates.


High Fidelity Designs

Artist Onboarding

Resources to learn about beltline
The artist completes the submission process by first learning more about the Beltline and the AoAB project. Then they read the Request for Proposal. They also get a chance to learn about the resources available.

On accepting the proposal
Once the proposal is accepted, the Artist sees a list of resources to find further funding if necessary beyond what has been approved by the BeltLine


Resources to develop, install and deinstall
A full host of resources are shared with the artist to help him/her develop, install and deinstall their art

Artist Profile
To help artists with personal branding and also help visitors learn more about the artwork and upcoming events


Art landing page
If a visitor opens an art work or searches for one using QR code

Event Details
Shows visitors upcoming events by the artist. This helps the artist raise funds for their work or an income source


Offline touchpoints

Art Plaque Final.jpg
Art Plaque Mock2.jpg
Plaque Mockup Brochure.jpg

Design of Plaque at the Trail
Shows the QR code needed to find more information about the artist and art


Linking Offline to Online

Web Home.jpg

On entering the Short URL on plaque
Taken to Atlanta Beltline home page where user finds an option to scan QR code

Scan page.jpg

When shown a QR scanner
User is shown a QR code scanner on their browser

Direct Page.jpg

To install the app
User receives an option asking whether or not they’d like to install the app

Artist Profile Page Mobile.jpg

Redirected to Artist Profile
The artist is then redirected to an Artist profile page with details of the Artist. The user is redirected after visiting a landing page


A new Brand direction

Meow Page.jpg
Group 4.png

Ideating a new logo
The original logo had a color palette that confused users with that of the Atlanta Beltline color palette - both of which had green. This color chosen helps the project stand out.

We used Hiragino sans, a modern Sans Serif typeface to give the logo a fresh new look.

We retained the paint brush effect of the old logo since our user research showed how people found it very distinctive and apt



We created invision mockups of our high fidelity designs to show participants and get feedback. This helped us take our designs through 2 iterations.

Iteration 1

Few of the key updates that were identified after the first iteration were:

We originally assumed that artist would want to see the entire user journey upfront - This was confusing to many participants.
Most participants were not able to understand which stage of the process were they in
Updates: We changes the Phases based user journey flow and showed users an overview on the side. But more importantly they were only shown the information required at that stage

Feedback and Collaboration was a separate phase that the artist had to go through
Updates: We removed this since the participants felt there was no need to have this as a separate stage in their journey given that this was an ongoing need

Information Architecture for the Art development and installation resources. Most participants felt that the original information layout was confusing and disorganized.
Updates: We revised it to contain simply 3 subcategories that the user had to go through now to find resources


Iteration 2

Few of the key updates that were identified after the second iteration were:

The profile view for artist was very cluttered
Updates: We came up with a complete redesign of the profile view with little information

The events were further away and hard to access
Updates: we brought the events card up to the top for easier access

The art detail listing was not easy to differentiate from the artist profile page
Updates: We reesigned the art listing details page to give more emphasis to the art image and details

The events were further away and hard to access
Updates: we brought the events card up to the top for easier access

The project estimator in insufficient in its ability to give the artist a full experience of calculating estimates
Updates: This is for future work. We will recreate the calculator in the next phase of the project

On the mobile UI, differentiating between the Artist and User comments was hard since they had similar proximity and style
Updates: We’ve changed the design to overcome this issue

Insights for Future Iteration