a hammocker pauses to visualize potential hang spots


User Research

Covers surveys, interviews, and observational activities designed to learn about hammockers and their perspectives.


Research Strategy

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.

  • Online survey
  • Interviews
  • Observational set-up

  • Persona development
  • Retrospective user journey
  • Pain points
  • User goals


Survey Plan


To understand the tasks and experiences associated with hammocking.

  • How much, and in what way, do people use their mobile phones in nature?
  • What emotions emerge when reminiscing about hammocking?
  • What are the more frustrating parts of hammocking?
  • One multiple-choice survey, 22 questions
  • Posted to online hammock communities with permission

Survey Analysis

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.



Interview Plan


To understand the difficulties and obstacles people face when engaged in hammock tasks.

  • How do people select their hammock spots?
  • What steps do they take to hang their hammock?
  • What are the most common problems they encounter?


Phone or video calls with active hammockers, helps increase recollection and connection to the interview questions.

  • 5 phone and skype interviews
  • 30 minutes each
  • Includes consent briefing


Based on participant responses to the initial hammock survey, and opt-in to be interviewed.

  • Has access to a hammock
  • Used it within the past few months
  • Has a smartphone

Link to interview script


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:

  • A quick pause
  • Begins to answer
  • Stops mid-word
  • A laugh to relieve tension or a long pause
  • Re-approaches the question from a bigger picture

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.”


Observation Plan


To gather insights by observing a complete hammock hanging process.

  • What is the user’s order of operations?
  • How do they interact with their environment?
  • How do they interact with their hammock?
  • Do any routines emerge?
  • How often do they reach for their phone? And why?


Forest or park location, observational session of a user setting up a hammock.

  • 1 talk-through session
  • 1 hour max duration
  • Includes post set-up interview

  • Pre-scout locations for usable spots and schedule session
  • Provide a hammock and straps if needed
  • Recording set-up

Observational Patterns

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.



Combining user interviews, survey results, and hammock forum reading, I was able to identify two top-level personas based on primary hammock usage: hammock camping (Robin) and day hammocking (Casey).



Retrospective User Journey

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...”


Stages of Hammocking

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.


Journey Map


Pain Points

Pain Points

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.

  • Mentally calculating a field of options misses better hang sites
  • Have to scan a grove of trees multiple times to build a mental model
  • Requires a lot of trial and error over time

  • The need for constant adjustments
  • Frustration at the redundancy and inefficiency
  • Counterproductive to the goal of relaxation

User Goals

User Goals

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:

  • I want to find the perfect trees every time
  • I want to easily hang my hammock on the first try
  • I want to be aware of any hazards around me


Prospective User Journey

The prospective journey takes a user's existing path and touch points, and integrates actions to show how a particular design strategy (in this case AR) can assist the user.



AR Research

context mapping and real world explorations

Explore this Project

Hammocks7 minute read

User Research12 minute read

AR Research10 minute read

Strategy6 minute read

Interactions8 minute read

Participate4 minute read




 © 2019  |  CONTACT

 © 2019  |  CONTACT

 © 2019  |  CONTACT