Mobile Design

Soundclash App Design

Navigating a large festival can be challenging, for everyone from veteran attendees to first timers, finding facility locations and showtimes is a never ending challenge.

April 2016
Soundclash music festival
Ian Weick
My Role
User Research, Development


The Brief

How might we improve the experience of navigating the Soundclash festival?

Our team was given the challenge to build a mobile app to assist with navigating the Soundclash Music Festival. Soundclash is an annual music festival held in downtown Toronto, featuring local bands and big names alike. The festival draws attendees from across Ontario and is an opportunity for people to expand their music horizons.

My partner and I worked on the project for 4 months from ideation to development. Conducting an ethnographic study and interviewing frequent festival goers to understand what types of challenges they often faced at festivals. We prototyped with paper models developing high fidelity mockups & a working technical prototype.

The Problem

The problem area we identified was Navigation. Music festivals can be gigantic, with some hosting 300,000+ attendees per day. The festival grounds for a event this large are too big to be quickly memorized and physical maps are easily lost. This was especially worrisome for quickly finding amenities such as bathrooms and first aid stations. For attendees with children or other special needs it is extremely important for them to have quick, easy access to these facilities.

My partner for this project had attended two smaller music festivals in previous years and confirmed from personal experience just how difficult it could be to find a bathroom or water station quickly.

How might we improve the experience of navigating the Soundclash festival?

User Study

To get a better understanding of the people that attended festivals and would be using our app we conducted an ethnographic study with 8 participants from our program who had attended festivals before. We used the information gathered from this initial exploration to determine the affordances of our application.

Understanding what our potential users are looking for in the application was the first step towards filling the gap between technology and navigation at the festival. The ethnographic study gave us new information about festivals and the unique challenges that they present, from pickpockets to losing your group of friends.

Primary Persona

Our primary persona was based on a classmate of ours that had attended a number of festivals before. Kelli often went to festivals on her own and sometimes with a group of friends. She talked to us about often missing the start of shows because of losing the schedule or not knowing there the stage was.

Finding your friends after getting seperated at a festival can be extremely challenging.


After the ethnographic study and our initial research, we asked some of our subjects to come back in for one-on-one interviews to get a better understanding of what they were looking for in a potential app. We also explored other festivals across the world. We learned that many festivals have physical signage but also provide an app that includes wayfinding as well as other perks like artist schedules and free music downloads.

We also reached out to festival organisers for two of Toronto's larger festivals, Digital Dreams & the Toronto Jazz Festival, to get information from both sides of the experience. On the organizers side we saw the potential for a app that could reduce wait times and improve traffic flow in the festival.


We spoke with a three students who had attended multiple music festivals across Canada. They gave us insight into how scheduling, layout and facilities are structured at outdoor festivals and what they thought were areas for improvement. Some of the areas for possible improvement where:

  • Washroom & food stand wait time tracking
  • Interactive map with showtimes & artist locations
  • A easy and fast way to contact security
  • Finding friends when they were seperated from the group
  • Physical signage was erected sparsely around the grounds

If I'm going somewhere that offers an app, I'll always give it a shot.

All of the interviewees told us that they had their phone on or near them at all times during a festival. They mainly used their phone to coordinate with other friends at the festival, take photos & video and to give themselves a sense of security. With this in mind, we were confident that an app improving navigation would be a welcome addition that many attendees would use.

Pre-existing systems

Looking at pre-existing mobile apps for festivals and conferences gave us an idea of what we would potentially be competing with. The company Eventbase specialises in conference and festival apps and has developed the apps for a number of festivals in the past few years including South by Southwest and the Sundance festival. Their apps included features like artist schedules & area navigation, setting the bar high for us.

Bring your brand to life and helping fans navigate

Most of the festival apps that have become popular in the last 2-3 years are all provide a similar functionality. Our goal in this project was to focus on navigation and make it as intuitive as possible instead of going for the big picture.


Our goal with the prototype was to create a closed loop where users are able to access all festival resources without needing to leave the app. To encourage users to stay inside our application we incorporated the 6 most popular festival amenities from our research with interview subjects.

  • Food Trucks & Tents
  • Washroom locations & wait times
  • Security Location & Contact Information
  • First Aid stations & location
  • Tickets & Showtimes
  • ATM Locations

During an in-class activity we were introduced to paper prototyping. The goal of the exercise is to conduct quick users tests, improving and design design between each test while receiving continuous feedback. We went through 3 iterations of our design, eliminating & tweaking elements after each test.

Transitioning from our sketched paper prototypes into graybox models let us conduct more user testing, which solidified our direction and moved us towards building a working prototype.

Working through these phases was a great learning opportunity and showed the importance of iterative design. Without paper prototyping and other user feedback our final product would have been very different.

This was also my first time working with Phonegap & the Google Maps API. In the first phases of development we focused on getting a MVP that could be presented while then improving the visual design. The final design became much simpler as we focused on improving the user experience.

Looking Back

The Soundclash app was my first real experience with UX & UI design and I was introduced to processes that I still use today.Asking for user feedback is extremely important and something that should never stop during any part of the design process.

Constantly iterating and asking questions is instrumental to human centred design and is by far the most important technique I learned working on Soundclash.

Our largest blunder was in our initial research. We spoke to a relatively large group of students and festival goers that looking back now still did not fully represent the demographic we were researching. Because of this we made a number of assumptions while developing our personas that could have steered us off course

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