Citizen Science Dive Application

By November 8, 2013 Design

Project Summary

This project aims to deliver an online dive logbook solution which incorporates citizen science in order to mutually benefit both scuba divers and marine researchers. Through the use of proven methodologies it is hoped a successful start-up will be formed that has the potential to revolutionise the industry.

Project Background

Current Market

A report by The Australian Government Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimates that the recreational diving and snorkeling industry is worth an estimated $670 to $1,070 million per annum to the Australian economy (2009, 20). “This equates to approximately 13 to 21 per cent of the total contribution of the tourism industry” (The Australian Government Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2009, 20).

Statistics provided by the dive organisation PADI (2013), show the diving industry continues to grow. Since 1996, PADI has had a 67% increase in individual members (PADI 2013, 2). Queensland Tourism (n.d.) estimates there to be 5 to 7 million active divers world wide.

A review (Appendix A) of the current dive log solutions available to this growing market exposes a number of critical observations:

  • Market leaders have few users
  • Outdated design and stale content
  • Poor usability
  • No incorporation of responsive design
  • Aesthetic appeal of some applications is not reflected across corresponding websites.

Opportunity

From the market research (Appendix B), it can be acknowledged that there is significant opportunity for a leader amongst the online dive logbook niche.

The more successful companies already incorporate features such as seamless syncing with dive computers, reliability and community driven databases, yet they are barely scratching the surface of the potential market. Therefore, a market leader needs to go beyond incorporating useful features for their users.

Citizen Science

There is opportunity for a market leader to contribute on a greater scale through the integration of citizen science. A citizen science platform, if executed correctly, can provide divers with opportunities to contribute to large-scale projects, with very minimal effort on their behalf (Koss et al 2009).

The vast amount of data already collected by divers and recorded in traditional logbooks is invaluable to science. If this data is inputted into an online platform, it can help scientists solve problems and tackle projects that would otherwise be impossible (Holtd et al 2013).

Divers care about the oceans and “see themselves as conservationists” (White 2008, 23). Dive quality is affected by the amount and variety of species available, with divers highly valuing coral ecosystem protection (White 2008, 24).

An online logbook that shares its data with organisations conducting ocean research could provide an effortless and mutually beneficial way for divers to become involved with ocean conservation.

Citizen Science Data Concerns

For citizen data collection to translate into legitimate, publishable projects, common concerns of the scientific community must be addressed (Gura 2013).

Many scientists question the quality, reliability and utility of data collected through citizen science methods. This form of data collection is often labeled untrustworthy and biased (Gollan 2013). Which has an effect on its “acceptance in the wider scientific community” (Gollan 2013).

The project will seek to address these concerns through the application design, recruitment of scientific advisors and working with environmental organisations to create a platform that successfully deals with data integrity.

Addressing User Needs

For a successful outcome, the solution should seek to address the needs of both recreational divers and researchers.

Considering both user’s needs from an early stage will inspire the design of a web application that can be used by both divers and researchers.

The platform will aid research projects by helping:

  • Acquire volunteers
  • Engage volunteers
  • Produce accurate results due to the implementation of quality control measures
  • Monitor the underwater environment.

The platform will allow recreational divers to:

  • Log their dives
  • Research diving destinations and operators
  • Share their experiences
  • Actively participate in marine research, monitoring, and conservation projects.

Project Aims and Objectives

The underlying aim within the project semester is to launch an online dive logbook web application which has the foundations in place to grow as resources become available.

Dive Logbook Web Application

A lean version of an online dive logbook, or minimum viable product, will be launched. The aim is not to provide full planned functionality, but instead create a tool to share the big idea with the world.

The website will be used to:

  • attract early adopters
  • create an environment whereby future decisions can be determined by user feedback
  • gain publicity for the project
  • present the project to future investors
  • apply for grants and seed funding
  • acquire partnerships with environmental organisations.

The focus will be on clean design and usability. In terms of functionality, users will be able to register, record and share basic dive details manually through a form. Users will also be able to retrieve and view past dives.

Additional pages will include an overview of the project and future plan, blog to communicate project updates, get involved, contact, user feedback and home.

Lean Start-Up Business Strategy

The business strategy will provide a guide to get the project up and running. It will include:

Business Model Canvas

The business hypotheses will be summarised using the Business Model Canvas (Appendix C). The aim is to show how the project will create value for itself and customers (Blank 2013, p64). A high level of attention will be given to the revenue model section, in order to develop multiple strategies for cash flow generation.

Customer Development Strategy

A plan to source and manage feedback from early adopters of the web application, potential users and partners. It will detail how testing will take place and how iterations and pivots will be implemented. It will also include a brief overview of the intended incremental development phases.

Marketing Plan

A plan to get the web application and big idea in front of potential users, partners and investors. It will outline online and offline strategies to grow the userbase.

Design Specifications Document

This will document the user research, development and planning phases to produce a minimum viable product. If time permits, the design specifications document will extend to cover future functionality not planned to be implemented by launch.

Research

To discover who the users are, their goals, requirements and views of the project; an online survey will be conducted. The results will be analysed and the insight used to create personas and user scenarios.

Information Architecture

The information architecture will be established using a flowchart to visually represent the site hierarchy.

Wireframes

Low-fidelity wireframes of all pages and stages of the application will be created to establish functionality and layout of information and navigation. Iterations will be made until a practical design concept is reached. At this stage, digital versions will be created.

Functionality

Functionality of all interactive elements will be listed in detail, ready for a developer.

User Experience Diagrams

Flow charts and storyboards will model the user experience through the web application.

Web and Brand Style Guide

A name and brand for the project will be established. The style guide will work to reinforce the identity and assist in the creation of the website.

The style guide will include logos, spacing, colours, fonts, layouts and grids, tone of voice, copy writing guide and imagery.

The web component will include design specifications for icons, button hierarchy, universal grids, typographic scale, web forms, headers and footers, navigation, links, calls to action, tables, feedback, pagination and graphs.

All the elements and every state will be brought together with code snippets on an HTML page, providing a quick reference for developers to grab elements for implementation (Creative Bloq, 2012).

Framing Document

The framing document will explore the project’s background, significance, process, result, outcome and future in approximately 2,500 words.

Project Significance

The project seeks to fill a gap in the marketplace, add compelling value for users, change behaviours and help solve real world problems.

Most aspects of this project already exist; the technologies, digital dive logbooks and marine research efforts. Where the innovation lies, is the way in which the project will recombine these (Hartley et al 2013, 113) for the purpose of reinventing the paradigm in such a way as to mutually benefit both divers and researchers.

Innovation

The web application will provide a medium to gather valuable data from divers from all around the world. A “relative advantage” (Rogers 1995, 15-16) will be achieved through implementation of data integrity measures and usability and design principles. This will ideally result in high adoption rates as its perceived value supersedes previous efforts (Rogers 1995, 15-16).

Benefiting Marine Research

The data obtained from the proposed web application could significantly assist marine research.

Monitoring ocean temperatures, species migration and populations on a large-scale can help determine hotspots to focus ongoing research and management.

It can also be useful for conservation and advocacy.

Changes in water temperatures can affect coral, with flow on affects in the environment and tourism. Species that shift their range can also have wider effects.

An example of this is the migration of sea urchins from New South Wales to Tasmania.

There are already a number of citizen science programs (Reef Check, REEF and SharkCount) that seek to identify such hotspots by encouraging divers to log species sightings (Whitcraft 2013). These are targeted to a specific area and are not easy to participate in.

Recombining a research effort with a dive log application will have the advantage of providing added value for the users who choose to participate.

Sea Urchins Case Study

Research has identified a “southernly range expansion of the habitat modifying sea urchin to the east coast of Tasmania” (Strain 2013) as a result of climate change.

The invasive sea urchin reduces biodiversity and local fishery production (Andrews 2013). The sea urchin competes with the native and commercially fished abalone. They cause “abalone to flee and seek shelter in cryptic microhabitats”, “negatively impacting the productivity of abalone fisheries” (Strain et al 2013).

Assessing the extent of the sea urchin invasion can help determine how to solve the problem. One viable management response is to introduce restrictions on rock lobster fishing (Andrews 2013). This will affect the rock lobster fishing industry, therefore it is vital to have sufficient data to support the decision. This is where citizen science and species monitoring can help.

Project Methodology

A number of current, popular methodologies will be applied to the project to maintain best practice and achieve the objective. The web application landscape is changing rapidly, therefore the selected methodologies will be reevaluated closer to the project semester.

The Rapid Prototyping Process

Rapid prototyping methodology will be applied to launch cycles and the creation of wireframes.

According to Cerejo (2010), rapid prototyping involves multiple iterations of a three-step process:

1. Prototype

The idea is converted into mock-ups, factoring in user experience standards and best practices.

2. Review

The prototype is shared with users and evaluated as to whether it meets their needs and expectations.

3. Refine

Based on feedback, areas are identified that need to be refined or further defined and clarified.

The aim is to release the web application sooner, on a reduced feature set with the intention of adding to it often. Not only will this lower the project scope so that is manageable within the project timeframe, it will mean user feedback can be incorporated earlier.

If the project is to fail, it will do so sooner and more often, giving time for reevaluation and rectification before resources are exhausted (Ott, 2011).

By creating low-fidelity wireframes, multiple solutions that focus on how the app is used, can be explored quickly. As prototyping progresses through the design cycle, the visual fidelity will increase. Elements such as style, colour, branding, imagery, content and interactivity will be added in later stages (Cerejo, 2010).

Mobile-First Responsive Design

The web application will be designed for small devices first, with layers of complexity added as the devices used for the site become larger and more full featured.

Mobile-first approach focuses on the most important content for the user, enhancing the experience as there is space to do so. The content will be presented as quickly as possible in order to build a fast-loading, optimised experience (Frost, 2012).

ZURB Foundation responsive framework may be considered when building the website. The latest version, Foundation 4, has been “completely rewritten from a mobile-first perspective” (Lardinois, 2013). Using a framework has many advantages, including saving time, community and extensions, cross browser compatibility, and documentation (Firdaus, 2013, 15).

Lean Start-Up Methodology

The lean start-up methodology has similar principles to the rapid prototyping process. However, it’s not just about building a product that users want by answering design and technical questions, it’s also about efficiently building a sustainable business. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses (Ries, 2011).

Maurya (2012, 3-13) has summarised the meta-principles of running lean in three steps:

1. Document plan A

The business model hypotheses must be captured. This can be achieved by completing a simple one-page model diagram (Appendix C). It is fast, concise and portable; and can easily be shared with others.

2. Identify the riskiest part of the plan

Stage 1, the project semester, explores the problem to solution fit with a minimum viable product. Stage 2 tests the product fit with the market. This will take place after the web application is launched. Stage 3 is where growth and optimisation of the business model occurs and is the ideal time to raise funding.

3. Systematically test the plan

The plan is systematically tested by running experiments, or cycles through the Build-Measure- Learn loop.

Project Timelines

Pre Project

The nine months lead up to the project semester will be used to build upon current skills and gain valuable knowledge that will attribute to a successful outcome.

Now

Learn the principles of responsive design and practice creating websites using HTML and CSS.

Educate myself on front-end framework such as Twitter Bootstrap and ZURB Foundations.

Sign up to treehouse.com and complete tutorials to become familiar with back-end processes. Complete:

  • Introduction to Programming
  • Ruby Foundations
  • JavaScript Foundations
  • Build a simple Ruby on Rails Application
  • Build a Responsive Website
  • Build an Interactive Website
  • Building Social Features in Ruby on Rails

Start talking to people about the project. Bounce ideas and take in feedback whenever possible.

A group of friends have started memeBig.com, a social network for idea incubation. Get involved by listing the project and discussing it with members.

Begin searching for and secure a developer. Potential options currently include: Tom Bawden, the multimedia developer at Vita Group who has expressed interest and Adam Taylor, an acquaintance who has experience developing online social networks.

Semester One 2014, San Jose CA

Actively seek out and attend startup meetups in San Jose and the Bay Area.

Apply for and participate in an internship, preferably with a startup. Do so for credit or once the semester is complete.

Explore dive sites in the local area, California and Mexico. Grow diver network and discuss the project.

Project Semester

For a successful website launch within the semester, the project relies on the services of a web developer. To minimise risk, it will be vital to complete the website front-end in the early stages of the project. With this as a priority, the completion schedule has been shaped accordingly. Branding and refinement to the design will be completed after the basic HTML and CSS framework is established.

Schedule

Stage 1 (Build) is scheduled to run for a 13 week period, from 21/07/2014 until 24/10/2014.

Stage 2 (Measure) will commence 24/09/14, once the website has launched, with Stage 3 (Learn) to follow.

Milestones

29/07/14 Survey complete
31/07/14 Research complete
01/08/14 Developer confirmed
02/08/14 Business registered and domain purchased
04/08/14 Information architecture and low-fidelity wireframes complete
08/08/14 Functionality documentation complete
25/08/14 Basic HTML and CSS complete
25/08/14 Handover to web developer
29/08/14 Design specifications complete
09/09/14 Web and brand style guide complete
19/09/14 Website content added and branding implemented
24/09/14 Website launched
26/10/14 Lean start-up business strategy complete
10/10/14 Framing document complete

Resources & Budget

 

BUDGET

$24 Survey Monkey access for one month
$19 Prototyper Pro access for one month
$107.40 Basic hosting with DreamHost for one year
$11.95 Domain registration with DreamHost
$100 Shutterstock images, variable
$500 Web developer’s fees, variableCould be either a partnership in which case there will be no fee, a student from QUT for a set fee, or a freelancer found online using elance.com or odesk.com.
$762.35  Total

 

Assets

Web fonts Downloaded copies of chosen fonts for offline use

Professional underwater photographs Placeholders from gettyimages.com.au or purchased from shutterstock.com or donations from diver friends

 

Sample data and assets to populate later prototypes

Species diagrams and images

Amateur photographs

Species descriptions

Dive computer data

Species range maps

 

All sample data and assets will require approval for use in the project from the relevant organisations or people.

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