Soundsonder is a wayfinding service that introduces tourists to the people and places of Pittsburgh’s music scene based on their personal preferences. This project centered around bringing a service to life through designing how multiple user experiences can fit together while generating tangible and intangible value.
Our primary users were domestic tourists staying in Pittsburgh for a weekend visit who arrive through the Pittsburgh airport. Local artists, musical venue owners, and celebrity artists were also important users for Soundsonder.
I worked with Matt Prindible and Devika Singh, two masters students in design, on this project.
Our service blueprint outlines a user's weekend trip to Pittsburgh from arrival to departure. Our biggest challenges were designing how to bring users into the service itself and retain user engagement across multiple changes in location.
Soundsonder enhances the experience of first seeing Pittsburgh from the Fort Pitt Tunnel by syncing the reveal of the city with music. This moment will ideally keep a user engaged with Soundsonder and encourage them to use the app once inside the city.
Make it a night
When using Soundsonder to select a choice of entertainment, for example, a restaurant, a user can use the “Make it a night” feature. This free feature will automatically add several attractions nearby the restaurant to the user’s itinerary.
Designing a service which generates tangible value was much harder than we expected. In short, Soundsonder’s tangible value is produced through users paying for premium content.
A service’s backbone is made up of touchpoints, distinct moments where users exchange value. Understanding how to bridge the interaction gap between digital and physical elements was a primary challenge within each touchpoint.
We speed-dated a handful of different concepts, many of them focusing on traveling. These concepts included an international music walking tour, but we decided to pursue a concept we felt had more monetary value: chatbots.
Slight Detour: Chatbots
While initially it seemed there would be clearer monetary value in social media data, we soon found ourselves lost. None of us had enough experience in big data analytics, so we decided to move away from this concept.
After some reflection and discussion, we came back to the idea of a music walking tour, but based it in Pittsburgh. With a Pittsburgh walking tour, it became much easier to build a realistic service experience based on research.
We expanded our initial storyboard into a full user journey, the highlighted row on the left, then began building out columns. Each column included back stage processes, service touchpoints, interaction channels, and more.
Research: Visit Pittsburgh
Scott Hershberger is the director of tourism services for Visit Pittsburgh. We were able to build more nuance and specificity into Soundsonder through interviewing Scott about the demographics of Pittsburgh tourists and their desires.
The Visit Pittsburgh airport desk engages about 4,000 people/month (person to person interactions)
Tourists don’t want to just eat dinner at a restaurant, they want to “make a night of it”
Domestic tourism and boomerangs have been rising (boomerangs are people who grew up in Pittsburgh, left for several years for education/work, then return)
Researching and leaning on current music and tourism infrastructure was a necessity in order to ground Soundsonder’s functionality in the real world.
While speed-dating concepts, we saw opportunities to engage users while they were waiting. The opportunities we saw were at the baggage claim, during a trip from the airport to the city, or at their AirBnB or hotel.
With more time, I believe we all would’ve liked to undergo more thorough testing of the different user interactions we designed for. I gained experience working at a high level of design while also diving into the exact user interactions within a service, an interesting challenge.