Case Study

Basemap Mobile App

Understanding how — and where — users were interacting with the Basemap app lead to significant improvements in navigation.

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Understanding the

User's Pain Point

As a mapping application for outdoorsmen, Basemap offers a number of great features. But accessing those features in the outdoors was often complicated by inclement weather, rough terrain, and the need to juggle multiple objects at once.

The app's list-style menu and small icon touch-points led to frustration when users tried to navigate the app menu in the field.

Image demonstrating the user's pain point.
Image demonstrating the business opportunity.

The Business


In the preceding year, Basemap had released a number of new features. By optimizing the app menu, we had the duel opportunity to increase exposure to those new features — including paid features — and eliminate a user pain point creating an all-around better experience.

My Role

As UX Designer and Manager of User Testing, I worked with CEO Jeffrey Balch, as well as the Marketing and Dev teams, to update the app's primary navigation.


We cannot design for a user until we know who they are. By creating user personas with which to represent our target audience, we are able to better understand our user’s personality, habits, and motivators. As we had already defined our user groups with representative personas, I began my research by doing a quick review of the personas we were targeting — in this case, all of them, since navigation is a tool used by all of our customers.


With an firm grasp on who we were targeting, I reached out to our customer base, as well as our in-house staff, to find volunteers for one-on-one interviews with individuals within our audience. These interviews were informal, and designed to understand how users navigated our app, where they struggled, and how our competitors were measuring up.

With an idea of how our users were navigating and which apps were doing a better job, I was ready to move on to the competitive analysis.


Between our user interviews and our targeted list of competitors, we had a comprehensive list of mobile apps to analyze.

I downloaded each app to both an android and an iPhone device, and proceeded to document each app’s primary navigation methods. I focused on 3 areas of use — interaction, features, and design. I also noted differences between device types — as there are different underlying human interface guidelines and UI functionality.


With a firm understanding of our user’s needs and our competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, I took to the whiteboard to brainstorm ideas. For me, this can look like a lot of things. From lists of what navigation items/features we should include, to mind maps, to very fast & loose visualizations of various concepts as they come to mind. When I feel like I’ve better ordered my thoughts, I usually proceed to the wireframing or design phases (or a stakeholder review.) In this case, I was able to go a step further.


As we knew from our users that using the app in the outdoors created an added layer of complexity to the interaction, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get a first-hand understanding.

To this end, I took my phone on a walk through a park-like area, near our offices, in inclement weather. I made use of all of our primary features, including recording a track, and recorded my observations about the experience before moving onto the design phase.


applying what we learned

With  a stronger understanding of the user's needs, it was time to begin exploring a variety of concepts for the design. I began with manual exploration using whiteboards and pen & paper, then moved into the digital realm once I felt I had a few strong candidates for testing.

Ideation and

Design Concepts

As the first step in design, I took to the whiteboard to begin sketching possible concepts. This is a way for me to get non-viable ideas out of the way quickly.  No point in wasting paper!

Once I had some solid ideas, I began sketching with pencil on graph paper to get a more complete picture of the possible options.

Image demonstrating the design concepts.
Image demonstrating hi-fi concepts and/or prototypes.

Wireframes and

Lo-fi Comps

Once I felt I had at least three to five really solid options, I reviewed them with our CEO, Jeff, and our lead Android developer (our lead iPhone developer was unavailable.)

We narrowed our options down to the top three to be made into interactive prototypes for testing. As I work in AdobeXD for this purpose, I started with the basic layouts and then further elaborated on the wireframes to create low-fidelity, interactive prototypes.


handing-off the final designs

With stakeholder approval on moving forward, I made a few final revisions to the design and reviewed with both the Android and iOS development teams. During review we were able to cover any questions about functionality, linking, and design elements.

Development and


One of the many reasons I enjoy working closely with developers, is because they can often provide insight and suggestions for improvements, as in this case, where I was advised that there were some small pre-existing iOS elements we could reuse instead of creating new assets.

I was then able to test and approve an unreleased version of the app before it was uploaded to the app store.

Image demonstrating development process.

The final


Seeing all of the work and user testing we put into this menu update go live was very exciting to me. I felt very confident that we had improved the user experience in a way that would have a lasting impact on the app as new features get added in the future.

Business impact and

Key Learnings

This was Basemap's first foray into usability testing. While I knew there were some nerves over the cost of investing in a platform like, the stakeholders at Basemap were deeply impressed with the depth of user feedback we were able to glean in such a short period of time. Not only did we discover what wasn't working with our existing menu, we were able to move forward with a better design. Unfortunately, due to the speed with which we were growing, it was difficult to define quantitatively what impact this change had to the business. However, feedback directly from our app's subscribers suggested that our changes were a big hit.

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