City Scour

A Travel guide app gamified to connect families.
Explore UX research insights to design solutions for the mobile app.
Jennifer Lau, No Boundaries Design, LLC

Making travel memories for families.

City Scour takes families on an exploration around the city. Its intention is to have you and your family go on “scavenger hunts” to learn about the history of the city while answering challenges along the way. The outcome the owners wanted to have is to have people using the app to make these experiences fun and memorable, especially when there are younger children involved. It gives them an incentive to earn experience in a gamified app.


  • Staying focused on the milestone. 
  • Planning features to fit the pain of what families are experiencing while traveling.
  • Maintain consistency with its complex features.


Jennifer Lau, Principal Creative, No Boundaries Design LLC

Since City Scour had parts of the app designed, they conducted testing with users to get input on their app. My job was to combine the findings with their current business goals to begin reaching their milestones.

Task 1 of 3

Understanding the initial insights and pains of the app.

Initially I learned that City Scour had conducted first initial rounds of unmoderated usability testing on They shared with me five interviews conducted for the app of the flow, enjoyment, and concept of the app. Here were some highlights from the interviews.

“That was intense oh god. Complicated to get to the Party Page.”

– Blueboy91 – Android User

“It’s like a history and
science lesson.”

– Dreambeliever – Android User

“My son loves history and dinosaurs and animals and prehistoric times. It would be entertaining for him as far as activities.”

– Perkmom – Android User

A lot of users, including Blueboy91, found the scour (scavenger hunt feature) to feel daunting* due to the challenges and not knowing where they should be in the app and location.

*In the first round of testing, the testing was conducted digitally, not in context.

First reaction of the app were positive. People understand that families, including children are able to grasp the education of the city and history by reading the articles.

We learned that children around 5-7 loves learning about things they’re familiar with like dinosaurs, animals, space. I noted that it was important for articles to show the image of what the article will be talking about.

What did we learn?

Overall, the participants found the app to be fun and concept engaging as its a way for parents to connect with their children on vacations. Based off of their insights, I used Mural and mapped-out my findings using a mental/affinity map model.

City Scour Affinity Map-Edited

Since the information is sensitive to the company, I have to blur out all the findings.

Going through each of the users by categorizing them by color on “sticky” notes, I placed each of these notes according to the specific column and row on the map. This method allowed me to see the overall vision of the product and where the negatives are in the flow.

Because of this methodology, I was able to present to the owner how to approach the UI of the home screen and scour screen (the main feature of the app).

Task 2 of 3

Translate the insights and pains
to designs.

Based on what City Scour reached out to me for this first phase, my primary focus was first understanding the home and scour experiences and how to merge the findings into features
and solutions.

sample audit of the home, article, scour information screens

annotation home screen
annotation article screen
annotation map navigation screen
Task 3 of 3

The Solutions

Problems to define & Solve:

I was always reminded of the business goals, intent of the app, the insights from participants, and my initial insights of the app. Some elements and features needed to either be designed out and explored further, so that we create the “fun” in people’s lives. 

We took a look at the Home, Scour Information, and Scour Challenge Screens.

  • Ensure families or individual playing the scour had a memorable and delightful end-to-end experience. Hence, once a player completes a scour, they will receive a physical pin.
  • Continue to improve on the app outside of the scours e.g. like adding more fun to the articles.
  • Create engaging user flows that maintain user engagement on the app
    e.g. adding a leaderboard.


Solution 1 — Keep the user engaged.

iPhone13 Home CityScour

Problem: Lack of content e.g. not showing blank content

Since City Scour is bound to be a content-driven app, in the early phases, it’s important to have the users engaged early on in the app while learning about different places in the app. 

For example, on the home screen shown in the example, it’s important to show content closest to my location, should I visit let’s say “San Diego” on of these days.

This means:

  1. To show the closest location at top level.
  2. To show the proximity in how far a person is to a Scour location.
  3. If a person were to start on a scour, they are shown on screen they’ve started a scour and are able to resume on screen.


Solution 2 — incentives for the people using the app.

iPhone13 Scour CityScour
iPhone13 EarnXP

Problem: Maintain a level of fun in the app.

Since the goal if for the person to learn about the history of a specific city, we wanted ways for users to stay on the app.

Prior to working on City Scour, the notion of the app was to gamify or make a game out of learning. “Explorers” would be rewarded experience points or XP and earn physical pins along the journey.

1. It was important to have a continued experience after an explorer plays a scour.
2. We don’t want to discourage players for losing XP.
3. Above all, we wanted to be sure we guide them along their journey.

Round two of usability testing

After the first phase of design, City Scour decided to conduct a second round of usability testing in Madison, WI. Prior to the testing, a list of questions were created to ask users as they were doing the scour.

Brief understanding of participants:

  1. Tell me about your day-to-day.
  2. How often do you go on vacations? Pre-covid and now? Is it by plane or road trip?
  3. How do you plan your vacations? Explain your process?
  1. Do you play games? If so, what games do you play?
  2. Do you play games with a someone else or by yourself?
  3. What do you like about playing games?
Brief understanding of the app (sample):

Login Screen
  1. How did you feel about the overall onboarding sequence after creating an account?
  2. After going through the on boarding sequence, what is your understanding on how the City Scour app works?
Home Screen
  1. You are on the home screen, explain what you see on the screen.
  2. What are you likely to tap on first? Explain why you chose that.
Some Insights
Less interested in reading.

“Sentences were hard to read”

“Did not understand the city.”

Challenges are too easy.

“Highlight importance of location.”

“Some plaques are hard-to-read.”

show a disclaimer

“Show a safety disclaimer before starting.”

“Kids wanted to go inside. Weather?”

Our family of 4 had so much fun! We’ve lived in Madison for well over a decade and didn’t know any of the trivia. We truly had to hunt for the answers. Our kids ages 9 and 5 are looking forward to doing another scour!

Jennifer Lau has been a great pleasure to work with. While designing a great user experience is always first, she also makes sure to keep business objectives and technological limitations in mind. In addition, she is always very focused and organized, sending follow up emails after calls, thoughtfully describing her design process in writing, and more. In addition, Jennifer is very creative and has helped guide many decisions involving new features in the app. Overall, I am very happy to be working with Jennifer, and with the app design in general.

Sawyer Herbst
Co-Founder of City Scour
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