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Anchors Aweigh

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The Challenge

Our team of two designers and four developers was tasked with the challenge of creating a scavenger hunt app. We had 4 weeks to accomplish this and it needed to be done remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The following considerations would need to be incorporated into the product:


To begin the research process, we posted a survey and conducted individual interviews. During an interview, one individual revealed, “I feel like I would only want to play in a scavenger hunt with my friends, but maybe that’s the introvert in me. I could see it being cool for college groups.” A survey responder said, “The community behind the scavenger hunt can make or break the game. If the social aspect is unwelcoming and the teams are not balanced, it loses its appeal.” We all strive for human connectivity and that desire applies when playing games as well. If the amount and quality of socialization isn’t balanced well with the objectives of the game, the entire experience suffers as a whole.

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The Solution

Our team of two designers and four developers was tasked with the challenge of creating a scavenger hunt app. We had 4 weeks to accomplish this and it needed to be done remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The following considerations would need to be incorporated into the product:

Hopes and Desires for the Game

After doing some investigating, we discovered that there were some other scavenger hunt apps out there and they all had different features. One was visually appealing but required the user to navigate to a desktop webpage in order to create a scavenger hunt. Others seemed enjoyable at first but were missing key features that made the experience shallow and lowered the replay value. As a team, we discussed how we wanted to incorporate some of the features that we liked from all of them, address the desires/concerns from our research, and also meet the requirements listed to us initially.

To find out what makes a scavenger hunt enjoyable and what factors to account for when creating one, we needed to talk to those with experience.

A few of the questions we asked were:

  • If there is a time frame that you are competing against, does that invigorate or detract from the experience?

  • What kind of strategic prompts or clues do you prefer to guide you through a scavenger hunt? (Examples: riddles, landmark hints, lyrics, sentimentality, etc.)

  • Do you prefer scavenger hunts that you carry out solo or hunts where you are with a group of people?

An interviewee who had extensive experience with scavenger hunts expressed to me,

“The true joy is making the game myself. I can express my creative side that way and not have to worry about the stress of the game.”

In regards to creating a game, a surveyor mentioned, “I enjoy clues that are like a good mystery novel. The answer has to avoid being obvious but feel inevitable once you figure it out. I believe this is the hardest part of making a scavenger hunt.” Over 20% of surveyors said that they would prefer to participate in a virtual scavenger hunt, likely due to the current global pandemic.


The insight we gained from our research was that people have drastically different preferences when it comes to scavenger hunts, and those preferences are largely based on their personal experiences. For example, some believe that timers add a level of interest, complexity, and excitement to the game. Others feel pressured by the clock which detracts from their experience.

The game creation process would need to be highly customizable to accommodate the preferences of as many users as possible instead of appealing to only one type of player.

The User

The goals of the user based on research.

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Based on our research, we developed our persona: Amelia. Amelia is a 35 year-old mom who works full time and doesn’t have a lot of time to see her friends. When she does see her friends, it’s only for a few hours at a time and she doesn’t want to feel pressure during an activity. She likes to have new experiences with those she loves but doesn’t want the stress that can come from competitive activities.


Understanding that this was about developing an application for users with different ideologies of what it means to have fun and also guiding them to have new experiences beyond their routine helped give us a direction for our design.

Concept to Content

With the mid-tier wireframes completed, I created the prototype and found some holes that we hadn’t realized were there. Many of them were small fixes but ultimately still important to the functionality of the design. Had we waited to prototype, these flows would’ve gone missing for a longer time period and possibly even made it into user testing — influencing that process. Prototyping sooner in the process was massively helpful and promoted discussions amongst the design team on specific feature functionalities early on.

Wanting to create more engagement for the user, we began thinking of themes for the app. When deliberating on various possible themes, we wanted to make sure that it would be inclusive to all users; one that everyone would feel comfortable using. Likening a scavenger hunt to a grand adventure — a voyage, we put a maritime twist on it. Though it had a theme, we were conscious of the possibility of the theme overpowering functionality and causing confusion. We tested it repeatedly and found a balance between pleasing visuals and clear directives and calls to action.

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Low-Fidelity flow creating tasks for a scavenger hunt.

Though the design team only had experience wireframing in Sketch, we chose to try a new program for this project: Figma. Figma allowed the team to collaborate within one file simultaneously which was invaluable while working remotely.

Finishing the Design

Finishing the high-fidelity screens, we completed another round of user testing and discovered:

  • There weren’t measures in place to prevent creators from creating empty teams or attempting to continue through the creation flow without selecting a scheduled time. Error messages prompting specific criteria were added and, in some cases, the “continue” button was removed until the creator had included the required information.

  • For MVP, it was decided that users could only play in scavenger hunts with those that they have become “mates” (friends) with in the app. Playing as a guest didn’t allow access to friend features which meant that, if one chose to play as a guest, they wouldn’t be able to participate in any of the core features. Removing the ability for one to play as a guest eliminated this potential dead end that some users could’ve faced.

  • There was too much visual emphasis on the action buttons that we didn’t want the user to select (Exit, Logout, Delete, etc.). We altered the design of these buttons to lessen their visual weight and emphasize the desired actions.

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While we designers were working on the high-fidelity versions, the developers were beginning to build the low-fidelity. Communicating with the developers was vital to fostering a shared understanding of the product and its functionality. Working in a virtual environment proved to increase the difficulty of setting stable meeting times and establishing consistent methods of communication but after a short period of time we found a system that worked for all of us.

But How Does it Look?

Anchors Aweigh became the product name after time spent pondering the theme and imaging the start of a grand voyage. Anchors Aweigh is the signal call to the rest of the ship that the anchors are no longer on the seabed and that the ship is clear to embark.

The colors were determined during a search for visual inspiration. We wanted to find colors that would be inclusive, contrast well, and invoke imagery of the open seas. The navy blue, teal, and charcoal are primary colors while the light blue, yellow, and red are emphasis colors that are used sparingly.

For the logo, we wanted a font that gave the impression that it was being blown in the wind. It needed to stand out from the rest of the copy but in a complimentary way. Putting the anchor in on the left side added in a finishing touch that we felt it was missing previously.

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Style Guide

Throughout the process, the developers requested additional notation and guides to reference. The design team was balancing an influx of more meetings, answering the developers questions, and working on the high-fidelity designs. Creating an established guide for the developers seemed like an idea that would be helpful to them and potentially increase our productivity.

We organized an assets guide and included detailed notes explaining much of the design. This was added to the high-fidelity file and sent off at the appropriate time. The design team was able to work for longer periods without being interrupted during the next phase since the guide and notations answered most of the dev team’s questions pre-emptively.

Lessons Learned

Creating an app from scratch and working through the development process uninterrupted in a team of 6 individuals for 4 weeks straight was challenging but extremely enlightening. Some of the major takeaways that I learned while creating this product were:

Play to our Strengths

The other designer that I worked with had experience with Adobe Illustrator and she volunteered to work on the visual assets, so we discussed what they would be and she created them while I worked on other aspects of the project. I helmed communication with the project manager and developers, worked through the prototype after each iteration to catch potential flaws, and ran user tests as often as we could. By pooling our strengths, we were able to work effectively as a team, build rapport with the developers, and create a product that looks as good as it functions.

Gotta Cut

As the project progressed, we quickly realized that the content that we had planned was too large. There wouldn’t be enough time to properly incorporate what we had drawn out so we had to evaluate what would be vital for MVP and move forward with that mindset. It would be better to have a smaller more polished functioning app than a larger app that’s unfinished.

Working on a Cross Functioning Team

Developers reside within a different area of the same tech world. It’s vital that designers and developers communicate and work together to make the final product come together. At times, I found myself feeling somewhat frustrated that I wasn’t able to continue working on the designs because developers had questions for us, but that’s what it’s all about — working together! The developers oftentimes had realizations that we never did and it ultimately improved the quality of the product.

Game Design

Creating a game was different than any other project that we as designers had ever worked on previously and I must say, it was fun! Games are complex in that the user has more branching paths than many other products. More options must be accounted for and this makes for more opportunities to design users into dead ends. Testing often ensured that the product functioned well. Users interact with others in games and that meant that we needed to design with safety and security as higher priorities.

Creating a game has been a nice reminder that work can be fun. I had a wonderful time working closely with developers and I can’t wait for the next creation.

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