To understand the behaviors, needs, and motivations of people who hammock.
Online hammocking forums and local hiking clubs. I wanted a combination of dedicated hammockers and non-hammock outdoor hobbyists to begin the research with, in order to capture a range of beginner to expert use cases.
To understand the tasks and experiences associated with hammocking.
From the 126 survey responses, I was able to validate some assumptions and lay a more informed foundation for all the open questions that remain.
Mobile use is prevalent in outdoors activities. Survey results show that hammockers use their phones outdoors for photos, chatting, and music. Concerns about using a digital tool to solve a physical problem were lessened. Also helps inform where an app like this might fit within a person's existing flow.
That outsized 9.5% in the "Other" column had the majority of respondents type in "music", which was an option I had not added to the list.
According to this survey, most users hang their hammocks in a forest. Where users are currently hanging their hammocks informs the initial environment for modeling environmental research and prototypes.
I want to highlight the following two questions because on first read, it looks as if the entire hypothesis falls apart. When I started getting live results back from this survey, not having any insight yet, I was a bit panicked that the project would end right here because 74% of the survey participants found it easy to hang a hammock.
But, another question betrayed the high self-assessment and made space for survey participants to identify some known hammock hanging problems researched from forum topics and comments.
To understand the difficulties and obstacles people face when engaged in hammock tasks.
Phone or video calls with active hammockers, helps increase recollection and connection to the interview questions.
Based on participant responses to the initial hammock survey, and opt-in to be interviewed.
Interview participants were asked to walk me through the memory of their most recent hammock trip. The interviews diverged in their own ways, with a pattern emerging on the question, “How do you find a place to hang your hammock?”
Each participant responded emotionally to this question in similar ways:
This revealed to me how internalized and intuitive the decision matrix was for hanging a hammock, and how it taps into a spatial awareness unique to each person. This feeds into each person’s mental model of how to hang a hammock, as it is so context-specific (specific to the person’s size, and available trees).
When viewing forest surroundings and imagining what would and wouldn’t fit between two trees, each person’s awareness is directly relational to the surrounding trees in a way that it wouldn’t be if they were hiking, driving, or biking through. Focusing on this direct relationship between hammockers and trees, and encouraging more environmental awareness, is one of the primary design goals.
"I came home stressed, and I remember being a kid on a swing-set… so I can set a hammock and that’s kinda similar. Remembering my childhood and reverted back to that.”
"I find trees that look like they’re gonna work. Trees that are far enough apart. Trees that are big enough to support my weight. Trees that look like they’re in a safe area.”
To gather insights by observing a complete hammock hanging process.
Forest or park location, observational session of a user setting up a hammock.
During my observational hike-through and hammock hang, a behavior pattern began to emerge where the participant would frequently stop along a trail and stare at a grove of trees for up to 50 seconds at a time. That may not seem like a lot, but go time yourself staring intently at something for 50 seconds. I counted five pauses on one 35 minute hike, bringing the overall duration of tree staring to about 5 minutes.
During these moments of stillness, I had some idea of how many spatial and personal calculations were going on in their minds. Trying to hold tight to a mental concept of the length you think you need, and comparing that to the multivariate scene in front you, while being alert for any dead trees, shark rocks [note]I was going to correct this typo in draft, but they’re shark rocks now. They are sharp and large and if you hang your hammock over them, you might fall and bust your head open.[/note], or other dangers. A lot is going on in there.
This is an ideal opportunity to utilize personal journals [note] https://medium.com/user-research/user-research-weekly-9-diary-studies-e53d9312b485[/note] as part of a more longitudinal research process. As users go through trial and error to build their internal hammock models, personal journaling may reveal longer pauses, more active patterns, or other behaviors unobserved.
I started with a retrospective user journey instead of the more common prospective to understand how the tasks and steps involved in hammocking are currently done by experienced hammockers.
This will set the foundation for any designed experience to better integrate with a person’s existing routines and patterns. It is also important to note at this stage in the process, there isn’t yet an app or prototype to integrate into the flow or test against.
I'm beginning when a person first makes the decision, “I want to relax in a hammock” instead of “where do I hang my hammock”. There are a lot of steps between those two points, and a lot of opportunities for a person to change their mind or get discouraged, understanding that path is important because it informs the environment that a design solution needs to exist in.
Starting from a challenging emotion is a common trigger for hammocking, as one interview revealed they use hammocking to de-stress after tough days. Getting out in nature has been shown to decrease stress and increase resilience [note]http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/eco.2012.0042[/note].
One of the prerequisite actions needed to relax in a hammock is to first find a suitable pair of trees, the next action after that is to hang the hammock - either of those tasks could demotivate a person to follow through on their original plan of relaxing. This is especially true when someone is new to an activity, and must trust that the payoff will be worth it. Potential blocks in the user flow take place at these motivation/decision points.
"… (1) the attraction of a particular activity overpowers the motivating power of its negative consequences, or (2) the motivating power of beneficial consequences is not enough to overpower the person’s aversion to the activity...”
I identified prerequisite actions from user interviews and observations to help define the stages in the retrospective user journey.
PLAN: Makes the decision to go hammocking, and begins planning and packing
EXPLORE: Hikes through the forest looking for a particular spot to camp or rest
COMPARE: Scans the area for trees that fit their envisioned criteria
INSTALL: Goes through the process of hanging a hammock
ADJUST: Goes through the process of re-hanging a hammock
RELAX: Settles into hammock for a duration of time
During interviews I learned no hammock gets hung without some adjustment, no matter how experienced the hanger and how perfect the trees. Bringing the adjustment step into the primary flow allows us a more realistic model of the process, and an opportunity to integrate a solution (like an AR overlay).
"Explore” (finding a location/base) and “Compare” (finding a hang) are separated, even though a participant may calculate the same factors in each stage. For example: quantity and thickness of trees plays a role in searching for a field of options, and in the next stage plays a role in refining tree selection from that field.
The retrospective user journey revealed people are most frustrated with the process during the “compare” stage and the “adjust” stage, so those are the stages design is going to focus on. Most hammockers consider the installing of the hammock a necessary cost, and as the survey results showed, don’t consider that specific step to be difficult.
User goals aren't always something the user comes out and directly states, they are most accurately found by analyzing pain points. The identified user goals for this project will be given a prominent place in the overall design strategy. As a hammock user: