urban archive

client redesign

      rban Archive is a tech nonprofit fostering connection between people, places, and cultural institutions.


The Urban Archive app takes users on self-guided tours and sites throughout the city of New York, all based on search and user proximity to historical areas.


Urban archive also recently expanded their focus to include audio-enhanced tours of museum exhibits. They hope to extend museum use and popularity, as well as better integrate this new feature into the existing location-based app.


In order to have the most meaningful impact, we decided to focus on research and design for the Tour function of the Urban Archive app, This feature extends to both tours throughout the city landscape as well as museum specific partnerships. We used this opportunity to focus on better servicing users during both of these situations.

"Our mission is to inspire learning that is rooted in what is local - the architecture, culture, and unique stories of New York City." - urban archive 

team  process

I championed research for our team during the duration of this client capstone project. We consisted of four UX designers, each with cross-disciplinary strength in research and design. I focused on improving tour discovery, app navigation, and cohesion between these levels. Every member of our team was involved in research, analysis, translation to design, and prototyping.

1) preliminary research

2) feature translation

3) design and testing




  • on-site interviews

  • personas

  • service blueprint

  • synthesis & revised problem

  • feature analysis

  • user testing

  • open card sorts

  • feature priority matrix

  • task flows

  • user flows

  • style guide

  • first iteration design

  • first iteration

  • test

  • second iteration design

  • final prototype


Our key target demographics included museum-goers and urban explorers who enjoy solo journeys or learning about history and culture as a social endeavor. 

We developed primary and secondary personas, after informational interviews, in order to better empathize with our audience.

In order to gather information from the initial museum tour, we ran in-depth user and expert interviews in the field. We visited the Museum of the City of New York and took the Germ City and Timescapes Urban Archive audio tours. We assessed the app performance and interviewed the museum curator, the educational curator, and front desk staff in order to get a birds-eye view of the app experience. 

service blueprint

After our interviews, we generated a service blueprint to encapsulate the museum experience. We identified key growth areas in which the in-museum experience can be improved, particularly during the value exchange between museum personal and prospective users.


affinity (theme) mapping

We took the combined sets from 8 interviews as well as testing and aggregated our data in order to find patterns across our findings.

How might we construct a consistent self-guided tour experience about the history and evolution of NYC, for people who value exploration as a social activity or solo endeavor?

These methods allowed us to revise our problem statement. This increases its specificity and makes finding a solution tangible...

New Yorkers experience the growth and evolution of their city firsthand. Many wish to learn about the city's history for their own personal development or social engagement, but in an authentic and accessible way. Common roadblocks when engaging in a museum or walking tour include limited time, lack of control over the experience, or language barriers... 

revised problem


feature analysis

usability testing

Next, we tested usability for the existing app. This provided a baseline from which to measure. 

open card sort

This control allowed us to quantify our improvements based on measurable outcomes.

Following user tests, our team created an open card sort to align the information architecture of the app with user mental models. In an open card sort, users are tasked to create a hierarchy of headings based on their preferences.

We supplied 7 participants with 41 different pieces of content from Urban Archive in order to ensure our sample was representative. We synthesized the results of these groupings into categories and titled them with users’ own conventions or common synonyms. We grouped content according to this hierarchy in the app. 

To understand the landscape as it related to Urban Archive, we performed a feature analysis of several other products. This assessed which features are industry-standard as well as exceptional, based on a diverse list of competitors and comparators.

Comparisons included...

Metropolitan Museum of Art,



& Historypin.


Our team created task flows to visualize the pathways users use to achieve each of the goals outlined in the initial usability test.

task flows

This helped solidify the feasible paths taken during the experience.

design studio

To kick off the creation segment of our project, our team engaged in a design studio. This collaborative brainstorm took our insights generated from research and adapted them into actionable features to solve for our challenge.


We time-boxed spurts in which we developed initial screen designs. We then took turns expressing our ideas, giving feedback, and combining the best of our features. These became the foundation of our wire-frames.

user flow

During the design studio, we created hand-drawn wireframes which became the basis of our app construction. 

In order to complete construction, we created a clear mapping of all navigation for our prototype, based on these sketches and our task flow. 


Next, we used 2x2 selection methods to assess the viability of our chosen designs. These two graphs are known as a Feature Prioritization Matrix, and MoSCoW map.



They helped us solidify designs by weighing user needs and the cost/effort required of each feature.

first iteration

Our first round designs changed the categories of the original app to feature 3 primary subgroups, tours, sites, and hunts.

style guide

We created a central style guide to keep renderings consistent across team members.

usability testing


spec doc

We finalized our designs and created a spec doc for developers. An example of the tour feature is provided here from the spec doc. 


Moving forward we encourage Urban Archive to test how sites and tours may be differentiated in the citywide experience, depending on distance crossing boroughs. Some sets vary dramatically which makes it difficult for users to explore the full range of spaces in a single outing. 

We also recommend improving the service model in museums, based on our service blueprint, in order to raise awareness about the app and its uses while wandering exhibits. Finally, we recommend testing different lengths for the museum audio experience, or varying length offerings, in order to see if listening flexibility is another variable that affects engagement. 

Museum was nested in both tours and sites.

The guide helped us to control for any variability when splitting up design tasks. 

next steps

final prototype


Our research and design culminated into the creation of our interactive prototype. Using InVision it can accomplish all of our five tasks using the direct path or roundabout paths for users…

We tested our first stage designs and synthesized the results into actionable changes.

With these findings we changed proximity navigation and added additional channels to achieve our user goals.