Making snow safer

Think Outsides mobile radar and AI allows a totally new way of gathering data and insights about snow conditions and properties. Sknow is based in western Norway where snow dictates a big part of our lives. 

The west coast is also where most of the Norwegian offshore energy technology lives and  Sknow was heavily inspired by the technology and methods used in oil exploration. 

My role

I joined the team to work on the design of the physical product. Being a small startup team I quickly became a part of the core team defining the product vision and brand strategy.  I led efforts to discover the multiple layers of user needs and to define the experience towards different stakeholders.

The challenge

The core of Sknow revolves around the idea of using radar technology to scan the snow under a skiers track to estimate snow stability. How we would present the resulting data to the user was an unanswered question.  

We also found that we would have to be careful to not present any false sense of security to the user as there was a strong scepticism towards the technology within the expert community.

Meeting the skier

We were lucky enough to have access to a diverse group of backcountry skiers, snow experts and guides, and spent some time getting to understand their motivations, concerns and wants.   Activities ranged from interviews to shadowing on multi-day tours. 

experts & noobs

Through our interviews and observations we found that we needed to take care of two very different groups of users; the snow safety experts and guides that deliver avalanche information as well as the bulk of relatively inexperienced skiers. 

We established a strategy where Sknow would act to support and connect the two groups by giving the experts a tool to collect and share their information in a simple way and at the same time give the less experienced skiers a tool to learn and access information while at the same time giving back valuable information to the expert.

 

User journey.

After the initial phase of getting to know the user group and determining the key personas, we dove into mapping out several scenarios where users might interact with the products. We took care to understand the level of interaction at each stage from the planning of a ski trip to the return home.

 

Trying it out.

We played out those scenarios with our different user groups using simple hardware and software prototypes doing quick iterations to refine and validate the progress. 

The product evolved a lot during this period and we found that a lot of what people expected from the product in the first introduction got old fast and we got to distill the feature set through constant feedback. 

The takeaways:

  • I learned a great deal about juggling different stakeholders in this project. It was absolutely paramount to engage the expert users and at the same time convince different stakeholders that the product would bring value to more novice skiers.
  • Strategically rolling out features and building from a simple M*P is great but sometimes stakeholders need help to see the potential up front. 
  •  Each user acts very differently throughout the different parts of the journey. Dont expect the same reaction when the external context changes.
  •  Dig for the answer…. 
  • What works in the lab might not fly in the wild.

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