A Google Ventures Design Sprint

Helping travel enthusiasts find the best

photo-ops, in any city.

My Role: User Researcher, UX & Product Designer              My Timeline: 5 Day Sprint



I performed a five-day modified version of Google Ventures Design Sprint through BitesizeUX and Springboard. The challenge brief was provided by BitesizeUX, which was to create & test a feature solution to an existing mobile application. This was a modified version of the design sprint because I performed the project solo, not as part of a team as it is typically performed.

The Challenge

GramCity is a photo editing application for mobile that helps travel and photo enthusiasts easily edit their photos before sharing them on Instagram or other social media networks. They want to create an active community of users who find and share their favorite photo-op locations. Explore how to help GramCity users find the best photo-ops, in any city.

  • Design Constraint: My solution should be designed as a feature to the existing mobile application.

My Solution

A location-based filter functionality that allows users to search for the best photo-ops based on their sightseeing interests.

Day 1 - Understand & Map

I kicked off day one by synthesizing user interview notes into an affinity map in order to spot frequent themes and insights. Users were asked to talk through how they go about finding new locations to take photos.


Affinity Mapping






Some users prefer to photograph popular tourist sights while others prefer to photograph lesser-known places or “hidden gems”.

Some users want to search for photo-op locations before visiting a new place, and then plan their day around it. Others don’t want to spend time researching or traveling out of their way, they just want to know what good photo-ops are already near them.

Users will search the web or social media for photos taken by others at a location they’re planning on visiting, or nearby, to influence their decision in going there.


Based on my interview findings, I came up with four HMW questions looking for design opportunities.

  1.  HMW help GramCity users find popular photo locations in unfamiliar cities?

  2.  HMW help GramCity users quickly find popular photo locations nearby?

  3.  HMW help GramCity users plan their trip around popular photo locations?

  4.  HMW help GramCity users find & share their favorite photo locations?


With a couple of design opportunities identified, I quickly sketched three different experience maps listing the steps a user would need to take to achieve an end goal of taking a photo at their desired location.

  • The first two maps that I sketched were based on a user already being at their destination.

  • The third was based on a user planning a trip and looking for photo-ops before arriving at their destination.


Day 2 - Sketching

I started day two of the sprint with a 30-minute lightning demo, it's like conducting a really quick competitive analysis for inspiration. I looked at apps Zillow and Carvana to see how their search and filter functions worked, which ended up being great inspirations for my solution sketching.



Zillow’s filter feature is very detailed and helpful when you want to narrow your search results. The most common filters, price and home type, have a dedicated button with additional filters buried into a sub-menu. Switching between list view and map view is very intuitive. The map view has a nice carousel function allowing you to see where each home is on the map.


Carousel map view


Carvana prompts you to select your search criteria from the home screen before grabbing your location and showing results. It categorizes main search criteria such as 'commuters dream' and 'luxury' as a carousel with big graphic buttons that can be filtered even more once search results are displayed. On the search results screen, suggested filters are always present across the top as a carousel and you can always see how many filters are currently applied to your search results.

Select search criteria

Results & filters

I now had to decide which step (screen) from my mapping sketches would be the most critical for GramCity users and quickly sketch 8 variations of it. I chose viewing a location details after a search (bottom right) as the most critical screen because it’s ultimately the deciding factor whether the user will go to that location to take that perfect photo-op, thus achieving their end goal.

8 sketches of the location details screen


I then had to sketch a three-panel storyboard of (1) the screen that comes before my critical screen, (2) the critical screen itself, and (3) the screen that comes after my critical screen. You’ll notice I also added a bit more detail in these screens for context.

3 panel storyboard


Day 3 - Storyboard Sketch

To flesh out my solution a bit further, I had to quickly sketch the other necessary screens that would guide my prototype on Day 4 of this sprint. The goal here was to take a few steps upstream from the beginning of my actual solution that I wanted to test. Since my solution is a feature to an existing photo-editing app, I decided to start the user from their camera roll as if they had just finished editing a photo in the app.

3 panel storyboard


Day 4 - Prototype

Day 4 was dedicated to building my prototype, but only the bare essentials needed to test the functionality of my design while also making my designs fairly realistic. This was a good lesson in working fast and lean.

View prototype

Day 5 - Validate

On the last day of the sprint, I conducted five usability tests with my prototype via Skype using Google’s five-act interview technique. Since I only tested the most critical screens, I gave users context about the app before giving them their tasks:


"To begin, we will assume that you’re a returning user and you’re ready to use its new  photo-op finding feature for the first time. You are in Charleston South Carolina and want to find the best photo-ops nearby."

My goal was to validate that the following main objectives are easy and intuitive: 

 1   Find information about the desired photo-op location nearby.

 2   Get to your desired location, take your photo there, then share your photo.

 3   Filter nearby photo-ops based on your visual interests.


  • 5/5 participants were able to complete all tasks without error.

  • Each participant cited switching search results between the default list view to a map view is extremely important, as the map view is their preferred viewing preference.

  • When viewing more info about King Street, each participant cited the importance of seeing other user’s photos at the top of this screen.

  • When viewing more info about King Street, each participant cited they really liked seeing sunrise and sunset information because the lighting is an important factor.

  • Each participant found taking a photo and sharing it to be a very intuitive experience. However, one participant mentioned the share icon was more familiar as an external sharing function.

  • Two participants wondered how to add a photo to a location at a later time, but this wasn’t a capability I included in my prototype.

  • All participants asked about the capability to save or favorite a location to view at a later time because they noticed a heart icon in the title heading. But, I did not include this capability as part of my solution, so I decided to remove the heart icon to reduce cognitive load.

  • Surprisingly, all participants enjoyed the app’s look and feel even though I didn’t focus on the visual design, and I kept the app’s color scheme to black and white.


Google Ventures design sprint was a good challenge for me because it taught me to work within defined time limits and to move on beyond the design of things. Working in a lean and agile framework is something I’m not used to with my previous design experience, but it taught me that a great solution isn’t always the most time-consuming.

I'm a UX & product-focused designer with experience making things simple and obvious. I have a background in art direction and motion graphics, so I'm well versed in all aspects of visual design. My areas of expertise include user experience, design thinking and problem-solving.

© 2020 by Eric Meller. All rights reserved.