AccessAbility: Sensory-Friendly Event Finder

UX Design Case Study for Mobile App

Mobile app screen displaying the AccessAbility logo with a location pin and headphones, text “AccessAbility - Sensory-Friendly Events,” and a “Continue” button at the bottom. The screen is on an iPhone with a time of 9:41 displayed at the top.

What is This Project About?

AccessAbility is a mobile app aimed at helping individuals with sensory sensitivities and their caregivers find, review, and book sensory-friendly activities.

The project focuses on creating an inclusive, user-friendly event booking platform that offers detailed event and venue information, personalized recommendations, and tools and resources to help with sensory overwhelm to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience for all.

My Role and Responsibilities

UX Designer & Researcher

I conducted initial UX research, analyzing survey responses, establishing user personas and stories, running competitor analysis, and prioritizing design features. I designed storyboards, user journey maps, paper and digital wireframes, and both low- and high-fidelity prototypes. I interviewed usability study participants, empathized with users to anticipate their needs, and ensured an excellent experience. Additionally, I implemented accessibility features to make the app inclusive for all users.

Mobile app screen showing a map of Denver with sensory-friendly event locations. The top includes location settings, search, and filters. The bottom highlights a “Sensory-Friendly Rockies Game” at Coors Field on July 7, 1:00 - 4:00 PM.

The Problem

Users with sensory sensitivities, or their caregivers, don’t have a reliable way to find sensory-friendly events near them. They struggle with accessing accurate, up-to-date information, limiting their opportunities for enjoyable experiences without sensory overload.

The Goal

Design a mobile app that will let users perform customized searches, view interactive maps, read user reviews, take virtual tours, see real-time crowd information, and receive in-app support, making it easier to find and enjoy sensory-friendly events.

Project Phases

Understanding The User

  • User Research
  • User Personas
  • User Journey Map
  • User Flow
  • Big Picture Storyboard

Starting The Design

  • Paper Wireframes
  • Digital Wireframes
  • Low-Fidelity Prototype
  • Usability Study

Refining The Design

  • Improvements Based on Feedback
  • Style Guide
  • Mockups
  • High-Fidelity Design

Going Forward

  • Takeaways
  • Next Steps

Understanding The User

User Research
User Personas
Empathy Maps
User Journey Maps
User Flow
Big Picture Storyboard

User Research: Summary

To collect data for the User Personas and User Journey Maps, I conducted a survey of 16 individuals who either have sensory sensitivities or care for someone with sensory sensitivities. The survey was posted in relevant online communities, gathering vital information about their habits, pain points, and needs for sensory-friendly events. Key insights include:

100% of respondents have sensory sensitivities or care for someone who does.

75% find it difficult to locate accurate and updated information about sensory-friendly events.

56% rarely attend such events due to limited options and concerns about suitability.

This user feedback highlighted the need for features like customized search filters, user reviews, detailed sensory accommodations, and real-time updates. Additionally, demographic research indicated the importance of targeting both parents of children with sensory sensitivities and adults with sensory processing issues, ensuring an inclusive user base for the app.

User Research: Pain Points

One

Difficulty Finding Accurate Information

The app will provide detailed event descriptions, user reviews, and real-time updates, ensuring users can easily access trustworthy information.

Two

Limited Event Options

The app will feature a comprehensive, regularly updated database of sensory-friendly events, offering a wide range of options.

Three

Anxiety About Event Suitability

The app will include virtual tours, visual aids, and detailed sensory accommodations for each event, helping users assess suitability confidently.

Four

Overwhelming Event Environments

The app will provide real-time crowd information and sensory-friendly tips, helping users prepare and feel comfortable at events, reducing sensory overload risks.

User Personas 

Paulina, a 32-year-old mother from Denver, CO, needs a reliable and comprehensive way to find sensory-friendly events for her child because she struggles with finding accurate and updated information on such events, resulting in limited opportunities for her child to experience enjoyable activities without being overwhelmed.

AJ, a 26-year-old non-binary individual from Phoenix, AZ, needs a detailed and accessible way to find sensory-friendly events that accommodate their sensory sensitivities because they often experience overstimulation and discomfort at events not designed for their needs, leading to feelings of isolation and frustration.
User persona profile for Paulina, a 32-year-old mother from Phoenix, AZ, with a child who has sensory sensitivities. The profile includes her personality traits, goals, pain points, and behavior. Paulina is nurturing, organized, social, and resourceful. Her goals are to find reliable sensory-friendly events for her child, connect with other parents, and ensure her child has joyful experiences. Pain points include difficulty finding accurate event information, limited local options, and concerns about overwhelming experiences for her child. She uses social media and local groups for information and attends events when possible.
User persona profile for AJ, a 26-year-old non-binary individual from Phoenix, AZ, who enjoys cultural activities but faces sensory sensitivity challenges. The profile includes personality traits, goals, pain points, and behavior. AJ is spontaneous, efficient, social, and analytical. Their goals are to find sensory-friendly events, enjoy cultural activities without discomfort, and connect with understanding communities. Pain points include overstimulation, difficulty finding reliable information, and feeling isolated. AJ participates in online neurodivergent communities and occasionally tries different events to find what works best.

User Empathy Maps

Empathy map for Paulina, a mother of a neurodivergent child, highlighting her thoughts, feelings, actions, pains, and gains in finding sensory-friendly events for her child.
Empathy map for a neurodivergent adult featuring sections labeled “Thinks,” “Says,” “Does,” “Feels,” “Pain,” and “Gain.” The central image shows a person pointing towards the camera in a field. Thinks: • “Why aren’t there more events designed for neurodivergent adults?” • “I wish there were more social opportunities that accommodate my sensory sensitivities.” Says: • “I need to know exactly what to expect before I go to an event.” • “There aren’t enough events that consider adult sensory needs.” • “I want events where I don’t feel overwhelmed.” Does: • Searches online for sensory-friendly events. • Participates in online neurodivergent communities to get recommendations. • Occasionally tries out different events to find what works best for them. Feels: • Anxious about attending new events due to potential sensory overload. • Relieved when finding events that cater to their sensory needs. • Frustrated by the lack of detailed event information. Pain: 1. Overstimulation and discomfort at events not designed for sensory sensitivities. 2. Difficulty in finding reliable information about sensory-friendly events. 3. Feeling isolated due to the lack of suitable social opportunities. Gain: 1. Attends events that are enjoyable and not overwhelming. 2. Connects with a community that understands and respects their needs. 3. Experiences more social opportunities in inclusive environments.

User Journey Maps

User journey map for Paulina, a mother of a neurodivergent child. Actions: Searching for Events, Selecting an Event, Preparing for the Event, Attending the Event, Providing Feedback. Task List includes using the app, reading details, planning visits, attending, and giving feedback. Feelings range from hopeful to satisfied. Improvement opportunities: search recommendations, sensory info, checklists, reminders, and community features.
User journey map for AJ, a nonbinary individual with autism. Actions: Searching for Events, Selecting an Event, Preparing for the Event, Attending the Event, Providing Feedback. Task List includes using the app, reading details, planning visits, attending, and giving feedback. Feelings range from curious to excited. Improvement opportunities: onboarding, filters, reminders, in-app support, and easy feedback.

User Flow

User task: Enable users to find, check venue details, add events to their watchlist or calendar, share events, see more similar events, and book sensory-friendly events effortlessly through the app.

User flow diagram for a sensory-friendly event finder app. The flow starts at the home screen, progresses through searching for events, applying filters, viewing event and venue details, booking tickets, adding events to the calendar, and using sensory tools or resources. It includes decisions like applying filters and booking tickets, leading to different screens based on user actions. The flow ends with sensory tools and resources.

Storyboard: Big Picture

Scenario:

Carlos, a child with ADHD, is feeling dysregulated at home during a rainy day. His mother, Paulina, has an idea. She decides to use the AccessAbility app to find an event nearby that accommodates her child’s needs. She filters events by accommodations required, views venue details, selects an event that day, enjoys the event with Carlos, and then leaves a positive review.

A six-panel storyboard showing Paulina and her son Carlos using the AccessAbility app:  	1.	Paulina’s son, Carlos, is feeling dysregulated and bored. Paulina tries to think of something they could do together. 	2.	Paulina remembers she downloaded AccessAbility App. She opens it on her smartphone. 	3.	She filters her event search to include only events that offer the accommodations Carlos needs to enjoy an event. 	4.	Paulina views the map and list of events near her. She chooses a sensory-friendly art museum event. 	5.	Paulina takes Carlos to the art museum. They provide him with noise-cancelling headphones and dim the lights. Carlos has fun! 	6.	When they get home, Paulina leaves a 5-star review on the art museum’s sensory-friendly event and shares it in her FB group.

Starting The Design

Paper Wireframes
Digital Wireframes
Low-Fidelity Prototype
Usability Studies

Paper Wireframes

I began the design process with paper wireframes to quickly iterate and explore different layouts and features. This method allowed me to visualize the app’s structure and user flow early on, ensuring a user-centered design. The wireframes included screens for the Splash, Onboarding, Home, Interactive Map, Events Calendar, Filter, Event Details, Organizer or Venue Details & Ratings, Digital Ticket with Accessibility Request, Cue Cards & Other Tools, User Story Walkthroughs, and Rating Events, Venues, and Organizers.

A collection of paper wireframes for a mobile app design, showing various screens including a homepage, search results, event details, calendar, filters, venue details, ticket booking, and feedback forms. Each screen is hand-drawn with placeholders for images, text, buttons, and navigation elements.

Digital Wireframes

  • Consistent Hero Sections: Utilized across key screens like the Home, Map, and Event Details to capture attention.

  • Intuitive Navigation: Ensures easy access to all features with consistent menus.

  • Event Cards and Listings: Featured prominently on the Home and Map screens with essential event details.

  • Filter and Sort Options: Simplified filters on the Explore page to quickly find events.

  • Calendar Integration: Seamless event management with an integrated calendar view.

  • Detailed Event Pages: Comprehensive event information, including sensory-friendly features.

  • E-Tickets: Digital tickets with accessibility requests for easy access and management.

    A collection of eight mobile app wireframes displaying different screens with placeholders for text and images. The screens include search results, event map, event details, calendar, user profile, event reviews, and ticket information. Each screen is shown on an iPhone mockup.

    Low-Fidelity Prototype

    Usability Studies: Summary

    Project background:

    The need to improve the discovery and management of sensory-friendly events led to the development of the AccessAbility App.

    Research Goals:

    To identify usability issues within the AccessAbility App, understand user needs regarding event navigation and accessibility tools, and determine how the app can better facilitate these experiences. Results will guide redesign efforts to improve user satisfaction and engagement.

    Research Questions:

    1. How do users navigate the app when searching for and managing events
    2. What challenges do users face when using sensory tools?
    3. How effective are the map and filter features in enhancing the event discovery experience?
    4. What additional features do users desire for better accessibility and usability?
    5. How do users perceive the app’s overall design and usability?

    Participants:

    • 10 Participants
    • 25 – 45 years old
    • various degrees of technological skills
    • 4 female, 4 male, and 2 non-binary participants
    • 10 participants identified as having sensory-sensitivities or having a child who does.

    Methodology:

    • Moderated Usability Study
    • 45 minutes
    • Virtual – via Zoom
    • Users were asked to interact with a low-fidelity prototype of the AccessAbility app and follow several prompts while speaking aloud their thoughts and feelings.

    Prompts:

    1. Sign in or sign up
    2. Search for a sensory-friendly event
    3. Filter events by category
    4. Add an event to the calendar
    5. Use a sensory tool (e.g., cue cards)
    6. View and manage an RSVP

    Usability Study – Insights

    One

    Ease of Event Search and Navigation

    Users found the event search and navigation straightforward, but the integration of map and filter features could be improved for a smoother experience.

    Two

    Value of Sensory Tools

    The sensory tools were highly valued, with users appreciating the accessibility and ease of use, though some suggested additional customization options.

    Three

    Intuitive Calendar Management

    Participants desired more intuitive calendar management, with clear distinctions between attending, saved, and archived events.

    Four

    Simplified RSVP Management

    Users found the RSVP management process easy to use but desired additional options for modifying their RSVPs, such as rescheduling or transferring to another user.

    Refining The Design

    Design System
    Mockups
    High-fidelity prototype
    Accessibility

    Design System

    Design system for AccessAbility - Sensory-Friendly Events. Includes main logo and variations, fonts (Montserrat for headers, Open Sans for body), color palette (primary and secondary) and icon credits .

    Mockups

    Splash & Onboarding

    I designed the Onboarding screens to guide new users through the app’s essential features, incorporating insights from usability studies to ensure a user-centered experience:

    • Splash Screen: Clean, welcoming interface with clear branding.
    • Explore Page: Filter and sort events, bookmark favorites for easy event discovery.
    • Map View: Navigate events by category on an interactive map for intuitive exploration.
    • My Calendar: View and manage RSVP’d and saved events, ensuring clear calendar management.
    • Cue Cards: Access sensory tools to manage and regulate during events, addressing high user value on these tools.

    Onboarding and sign-in demonstration

    Sign up process demonstration

    Explore Events & Organizers

    I designed the Explore pages to help users efficiently find and manage sensory-friendly events, using insights from usability studies:

    • Filter and Sort Events: Accessible in both list and map views for easy event discovery.
    • Event Details: Includes sensory-friendly features, maps, parking, transportation, and social stories.
    • Pre-event Checklist: Ensures users are prepared before attending events.
    • Organizer Info: Provides details about organizers, allows users to message questions, and read reviews.

    Explore screens with list or map view, filters, and search demonstration

    Event details and organizer details demonstration

    Calendar & Tickets

    I designed the Calendar and Ticket screens to allow users to efficiently manage their event schedules and RSVPs, including:

    • Calendar: Toggle between attending, saved, and archived events.
    • E-Tickets: View and access e-tickets for events (unless booked on an external ticketing site).
    • Manage RSVPs: Easily cancel or modify attendance.
    • Accessibility: Ensures correct accommodations by allowing organizers to plan in advance.
    Lisa's Hot Sauce Shop Page Mockup

    Hover over image to scroll

    Calendar demonstration

    E-ticket for the Sensory-Friendly Rockies Game

    Mockup of e-Ticket

    Sensory Tools

    The Sensory Toolkit is designed to assist individuals with sensory processing disorders and their caregivers by providing tools to help regulate during new experiences or events. Features include:

    • Breathing Exercise: Visualize the box breathing technique to help manage stress and anxiety.
    • Cue Cards: Visual aids that help individuals communicate needs and preferences, especially useful if someone is unable to speak.
    • Fidget Tools: Interactive games and calming visuals to help manage restlessness and stay focused during events.

    Sensory Tools demonstration

    High-Fidelity Prototype

    Accessibility Considerations

    One

    Annotations

    Using the Figma app Stark, I added annotations to the high-fidelity prototype to ensure intuitive navigation. These annotations help users, including those using screen readers, understand the sequence of elements on the site.

    Two

    Accessible Color Contrast

    I adhered to WCAG guidelines to select a color scheme that meets both AA and AAA standards for normal and large text, as well as for graphical objects and UI components. This ensures that the content is easily readable for users with visual impairments.

    Three

    Hierarchal Headings

    I utilized the Stark app to mark H1-H4 headings on the app, which is crucial for screen readers to navigate and interpret the content efficiently.

    Going Forward

    Takeaways
    Next Steps

    Takeaways

    Impact

    The design of the AccessAbility App significantly enhances user experience and satisfaction by simplifying the discovery and management of sensory-friendly events through intuitive navigation and personalized tools. A study participant stated, “This app is a game-changer for finding events that accommodate my sensory needs. It would make me feel more confident about attending new things.”

    What I Learned

    I was constantly amazed by the reactions of the participants in the user study when they realized sensory-friendly events even existed! I learned a lot about designing for accessibility on Figma, how to build and use components and variants, and how to use Design Systems.

    Next Steps

    One

    Enhance Personalization: Implement user preferences and recommendations to better tailor event suggestions.

    Two

    Expand Sensory Tools: Develop additional sensory tools and customization options based on user feedback.

    Three

    Beta Testing: Conduct a larger beta test to gather more insights and refine the app before moving on to development and possibly a full launch.

    AccessAbility App UX Design Case Study by Catherine Hahn

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