Virtual time travel at your fingertips
Cross the barriers of time and space with the AstroCompass mobile app
Moi! Team of Me!
Project Concept Selection, Research, Usability Study, Ideation, Information Architecture, User Flows, Business Model, Usability Study/Interviews, Identity and Design System, Final Deliverable
Figma, Figjam, Miro, Google Docs, Storyboardthat, Zoom
Astrology has been experiencing a renaissance over the past five years in popular culture, with an expanding presence in the marketplace. There are endless options for consultations, readings, education online and increasingly on mobile apps. The field of astrology is no stranger to change and it's not necessary to believe in astrology for it to provide interest and value. There’s a generational and technological evolution and shift in the astrological “tradition”. Creating a ripe area of need in the current culture for astrology to be optimized as a wellness tool, while preserving much of the academic rigor and continuum of the astrological profession.
Many of the apps on the market are based on zodiac “sun” signs with assumptions that can mislead the public about who they are and can result in poorly informed decision-making. Astrology is so much more than a zodiac sun sign. In fact, The sun sign only comprises one aspect of the chart analysis. In this sense, astrology is mislabeled and misused as a tool for marketing and entertainment. This is nothing new, it has just been on pause since the 1970s when astrology and the zodiacs were last in vogue. Further back, R.H. Naylor introduced the first newspaper horoscope columns in the first half of the 20th century.
The ephemeral nature of horoscopes probably results in no harm to the reader. Yet, just like the media in our current era, there is much fake news and misinformation that includes mass market horoscopic astrology too. The consumer is often left feeling adrift in a sea of confusing and contradictory information. However, astrology is less about validation in the scientific sense and more about the practice of self-validation, known in psychology as the Forer Effect.
Nicholas Campion, the author of “Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West,” has argued, “the number of people who know their sun sign, consult their horoscope, or read about the sign of their romantic partner is much higher.”
Dr. Chris French, a professor of psychology at London’s Goldsmith College who studies belief in the paranormal, sometimes asks students on exams: “Does astrology work?” “Basically, the good answers would be the ones that took part in the word ‘work,’” he says. On the one hand, the straightforward answer is that, according to a host of scientific studies, astrology does not work. “But you’ve then got the other question… ‘Does astrology provide any psychological benefit, does it have any psychological function?’” he said. “The answer to that is, sometimes, yes.”
The rising number of products and services related to astrology indicates that this is a ripe area of need for the current culture that can be optimized for wellness—while still preserving much of the academic rigor and nature of the astrological profession. Understanding the user’s needs and motivations — whether that’s reducing anxiety, uncertainty, validation or just for entertainment, etc. will help to customize a tool that will feel like a reliable and friendly advocate on life’s journey. In a nutshell, putting value before vanity, while preserving and creating a culture of sustainable astrology.
There are more than 200 astrology apps in the App Store that claim to do everything from tell you if your date is a love match to show what you and your date’s baby would look like.According to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, almost 29% of Americans believe in astrology.
Goal + Vision
The vision for AstroCompass came from my personal interest in the subject of Astrology, Astronomy and Wellness. I have been an avid student and practitioner of these topics for 20 years and have witnessed the evolution of astrology in terms of technology, audience, professionals and cultural acceptance, revival and interest. The goal for this concept product is to provide users and enthusiasts with a reliable tool to navigate their lives and make better decisions, while providing astrological professionals with a platform that connects with a relevant audience to promote mentorship and community.
In the initial discovery for this product, I planned to include aspects of learning Astrology with Wellness tools like meditation, mindset and hypnotherapy recordings. These tools were intended to help people of all ages in life transition to navigate decisions with greater ease according to their life path as indicated in the astrological natal chart supported by reflective understanding of personal needs and values.
After conducting a comprehensive competitive analysis, I decided to look deeper into how to distinguish this product in a more unique way that encouraged more interactivity and also more exploration beyond the screen. The concept for the AstroAdventure that I call Astrocaching was born. This concept embraces the structure of the activity called Geocaching. This is a digital product that uses geolocation to map local and regional areas of interest that can be explored to discover hidden treasures.
AstroCaching takes this concept and applies similar criteria, but the treasures become the person, place or event on earth or in the sky—past, present, and future. Rewards are gained with each search to encourage the user to learn and earn, as well as share and engage in the integrated community of experts. This offers a win-win solution for enthusiasts and experts to see services and make more meaningful connections with a more relevant audience.
The users who will benefit the most from this product are those who have an interest or preexisting knowledge in Astrology. It will be suitable for beginners to advanced hobbyists and practitioners.
Generation Z (ages 9 to 24) is ripe for this type of product. These true digital natives have been brought up with awareness of global trends and traditions with Astrology being one. Generation Z also appears to be much more driven by core values and sensible saving and spending habits on products or services that are evaluated and curated via research and comparison on tech and mobile devices. In my user research, it revealed that 13 is the average age that most people were first introduced to Astrology.
The secondary audiences could include Millennials (ages 24 to 40) who are in the midst of active adulthood with career and family matters. As well as, Generation X ( ages 41 to 56) who are reidentifying with themselves in midlife.
This project was conducted over an eight-week timeline for fulfilling my Master’s Capstone Thesis Graduation requirements in User Experience from Maryland Institute College of Art. I was the sole creator and contributor of this project. The project plan below highlights some of the deadlines and timelines that I mapped out to stay on schedule and on track.
The Butterfly Effect (in chaos theory) the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
Life transitions can be overwhelming and confusing for many people at different stages of life. Fear and lack of control are common emotional responses that can lead to disabling effects such as procrastination and poor life planning and decisions.
The period of early adulthood is a time of significant change and self exploration. Teens and young adults are one particular group who are vulnerable to this situation. Specifically, in regards to choosing a career path and subject of study. It’s estimated that 50–70% of college students will change their major at some point during their education.
There are many other people outside the education realm that face these same existential challenges. The path of least resistance is often the route most taken, but those small decisions can have far reaching consequences on positioning oneself for growth and success. Astrological counseling and wellness tools can provide a springboard to be better equipped at knowing oneself, others and the best time to make a change.
Individuals between the ages of 18 to 52 changed jobs 12.3 times. Almost half of these jobs were held during the ages of 18 to 24.
THE PROBLEM STATEMENT
How might we help teens, young adults and adults with Astrology and Wellness tools that promote self-awareness and better decision-making skills to navigate life transitions with greater ease?
Turning points and pivots are trigger moments in life that offer a potent opportunity for evolution, growth and clarification. Yet, often there appears to be more confusion and chaos, rather than clarity when individuals are in the process of this dynamic metamorphosis. Time and money are wasted through external and internal pressures to force a decision, rather than taking time to better understand oneself and life purpose or direction. This often results in procrastination and poor decisions. Not to mention the mental anguish and anxiety associated with feeling lack of control or not in the driver’s seat of one’s life.
The main challenge that I encountered during the ideation phase was the saturated marketplace and finding a route to creating a niche within the marketplace. There are over 200 astrology apps in the App Store alone and many offer a wellness component. Others offer more technical professional astrological chart calculations. I pushed the concept further based on responses from users that they are interested in learning more about astrology, but they are often unsure of where to start or overwhelmed by the encrypted language of the stars.
Overcoming certain personal biases was one challenge, due to the fact that I have studied astrology for the past 20 years. I had to step back and be open to the process of discovery and what information and patterns were rising to the surface that are relevant to the time and cultural needs. Also, understanding new technologies and how to integrate accurate geolocation applications like Google Earth and NASA APIs.
Hence, the creation of the gamified version of learning astrology that I call Astrocaching. Astrocaching is based on the activity of Geocaching — a contemporary version of the treasure hunt in digital form. My early idea of focusing on Astrocartography and Astrolocation combined with learning and consultations became the focal point for this product evolution.
As the concept for the app took shape in examining user flows and the site map, it became apparent that the product was becoming very comprehensive and almost a metaverse of its own. Many portals of entry offered themselves to exploration. The challenge came in the process of editing and distilling the components down into one continuous stream of interaction.
Factoring in a business model and options for revenue production became a challenge as well. When and where to offer options to subscribe. How much free content to offer and where to direct the user. A token exchange in the form of what I call AstroCash became infused into the business model. Encouraging rewards and participation in the activity of AstroCaching that promotes astrological experts and provides users with quality learning material and access to accomplished mentors.
Pre-GPS during World War II, an Astro Compass was a non-magnetic and non-electric mechanical navigation tool used for determining the direction of true north in aviation. It was used in aviation over far polar regions and based on the positions of various stars like Polaris.
The concept for the AstroCompass is based on a similar principle. The planets and other celestial bodies in astrology are used as navigation to steer decisions in life. Like a virtual time travel portal to adventure for learning about astrology and yourself in a unique new way.
The name says it all. “Astro” for the astrology and astronomy aspects of the product and “Compass” for the global and historical travel features. “Compass” also relates to the use of astrology as a map for making better life decisions.
The product has built in features to better match professional astrologers with Enthusiasts through community engagement and the activity Astrocaching. The term Astrocaching is a word I compounded based on a popular activity called Geocaching. Geocaching is a contemporary form of a treasure hunt with the aid of geolocation technology. Astrocaching is allows individuals or groups to find and learn about a person, place or thing on earth or in space. An astrological chart is cast for each topic with the use of NASA and Google Earth calculations. This is virtual time travel in the palm of your hand that engages users and allows them to step away from the screen and visit local, regional and global sites to see and learn about astrology in action.
There are wellness tools selected based on an individual’s profile onboarding information. The user also has access to their natal chart and personal calendar that offers alerts for customized astrological weather forecast at-a-glance.
User surveys were created via Google forms fro two user groups. The first was for Enthusiasts and the second for Consulting Astrologers. The forms included questions about demographics, career, age, lifestyle and experience with astrology. The survey was distributed to various outlets that included Facebook, Reddit, UX Groups, as well as personal and professional contacts.
Comments from Enthusiasts:
“I feel astrology has helped me grow deeper with myself and has given me a lot of understanding of who I am and how I interact with the world.”
“Astrology, wellbeing, and spirituality are my biggest passions in life.”
“I like to use astrology to help myself gauge my energy for the day, or if I’m feeling a shift in energy, I’ll look up different information about the planets and read about it.”
“Not much of a believer in Astrology, but I watch out of hope.”
The largest group of respondents to the Enthusiasts survey were Millennials ages 25 to 34. The next age group with most replies were ages 35 to 44. Sagittarius Sun signs were the largest group to respond from Enthusiasts.
In contrast, the Astrologer survey were mainly comprised of individuals ages 45 to 64 and all reported being self-taught.
Comments from Astrologers:
“I feel strongly that astrology can be a useful adjunct to a wellness protocol with caveats on how it is used
I gathered data on sticky notes and started card sorting with Affinity Maps in FigJam. Patterns and preferences emerged and evolved into the Mindset map below.
After the ideation phase of researching and sketching possible directions for arranging flows, I created a mid-fidelity prototype in Figma.
Astrology Charts and Horoscopes feature:
- Personal natal chart with AstroWeather calendar in profile.
- Create and add a new chart.
- Daily Horoscopes with audio feature.
- Monthly Horoscopes with paid feature.
- Join relevant groups
- Connect with Astrology enthusiasts
- Connect with Expert Astrologers for mentorship or personal consultations
- Astrology gamification based on geocaching concept
- Learn Astrology and Earn AstroCash/Coins
- Meet new Astrologers
- Astrological Gamification based on Geocaching concept
- Learn Astrology and Earn AstroCash/Coins
- Meet new Astrologers
- Monthly Horoscopes with paid
- Choose free blog entries to learn Astrology
- Unlock advanced modules with paid subscription
- Find Workshops on relevant topics
Onboarding, Learning Features
Next, I conducted three usability tests that included three different user flows with five participants via Zoom. The first test was focused on the Onboarding and Learning feature. Four out of five users preferred to clip on the “Skip and continue as guest” option. This response opened up conversation about how they felt in terms of privacy and freedom to explore versus committing to creating an account or signing in via social app.
No users reported having concerns with navigating through the onboarding screens. When they arrived at the Intro Welcome dashboard, users were asked to choose an activity to explore. They navigated next to the Learn feature and successfully explored all the options on that dashboard. One comment that emerged was in terms of premium paid content that was locked on some categories. The preference expressed in 3/5 users was to have access to the premium content with a call to action at the bottom of each entry. This way the user felt they would have more exposure to content and be able to assess the value of the overall product to make a decision in regards to a paid subscription.
Paid subscription and MentorMatch Features
The next test focused on the paid subscription, AstroCache and MentorMatch features. The subscription business model opened up a rich conversation in regards to value and incentives to pay for a subscription. One user referenced the Pandora music app, stating, “I had to use Pandora for a couple of months with sponsored ads before I was convinced that it was a valuable product to pay for each month.” The keyword that I heard amongst many participants was Value. They repeatedly commented when I probed further that they would prefer to use the full version of an app or product with paid sponsor ads versus a limited product that has premium content locked behind paywalls. From what I gathered, the longer the user was able to examine the content and value of the product, the more of a loyal consumer they would become. Thus, securing against possibly deleting the app after initial curiosity waned. Only one user preferred to pay more readily, stating that they don’t like any ad sponsorship intrusion in the experience.
AstroCache and Community Features
Moving on towards the last test, that included the AstroCache feature along with community, profile and horoscopes. Three out of five users commented that they wanted more information provided in regards to the industry terminology. Those same three users suggested a resource section or Glossary, in addition to an Information icon for immediate reference in text. The Subscription section was updated and a Welcome screen was added after the paid subscription to encourage users to participate with an AstroCash incentive.
One user indicated that a responsive navigation would be easier to interact with by increasing the navigation icon according to the active feature.
what went well
Users understand and the product concept, thought it was a unique approach to the marketplace and needed little explanation.
Users were able to navigate through the prototype with little prompting
Users really liked the branding and design system.
The search for a brand identity started with the development of a moodboard to gather images and extract colors. Generating the direction that I wanted the product to evolve and what emotion to evoke.
I developed a design system to appeal to a broad audience. The logo was a starting point in this process that brought in the compass icon as an anchor for visual and branding. The color palette evolved from exploration into other visuals and illustrations. The initial palette of blues, purples and teal evolved to include an active melon orange. This addition to the palette brings a vibrant and actively alert uplift that communicates the adventure feature.
What went well
- The gamification concept of Astrocaching.
- Information gathered during preliminary research, user feedback and competitive analysis.
- A user flow that is now more connected and streamlined.
- Astrocaching successfully carves a niche in the marketplace that will gain attention and interest.
What would I do differently?
- I would test earlier and more frequently to gain more pointed insights into features and usability.
- Develop the user flows and iterate early based on user feedback.
- Document work process and create case study in tandem with the project.
Ways to improve
- Google Earth API integration
- NASA API planetary positions and database
- Chatbot Assistant (concierge) for onboarding
- Research compliance rules for voice assistance
- Innovate the static astrology wheel with interactive chart features touch screen
- Error and edge states
- Create a feature or resource for Newbies and Beginners