Project Details

  • Client: Downtown Improvement District (DID)
  • Timeline: August 29, 2017 - September 18, 2017

Tidbit Overview

  • There is currently no way for pedestrians to effectively navigate within Nicollet Mall.
  • I helped the Downtown Improvement District (DID) create a strategy to deploy interactive digital kiosks within Nicollet Mall to improve wayfinding. 


  • Fly on the wall observation
  • Cognitive walkthrough
  • User interviews
  • Surveys
  • Competitive audit 
  • Secondary research 
  • Affinity diagramming
  • Personas
  • Feature cards
  • A/B testing
  • Critique
  • User path mapping
  • Wireframing 
  • Usability testing


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The Client

The client for this project was the Downtown Improvement District. Their mission is to make downtown Minneapolis a cleaner, safer, greener, and more vibrant space for businesses, employees, residents, and visitors. 


The Challenge

With the substantial completion of the new Nicollet Mall approaching in November 2017, DID is trying to figure out how to revitalize the newly renovated space. The new Nicollet Mall hopes to incorporate modern city strategies to engage and attract a diverse array of people and make it a bustling downtown destination. 

How do you revitalize a city center that has been under construction for over two years? We met with Lisa Middag (Director of Nicollet Activation) and Ben Shardlow (Director of Urban Design) who wanted us to tackle this project by focusing on one of the following:

  1. Determine if digital kiosks would help with wayfinding and propose  a local deployment strategy.

  2. Develop UX strategy for maximizing utilization of Nicollet by improving walkability for pedestrians.

  3. Develop strategy to maximize real and perceived activation of Nicollet public spaces.

I decided to tackle the first topic regarding digital kiosks. I thought it was a unique challenge to get the chance to think about user experience of a physical space. Also, being lost and not knowing how to get somewhere is not fun. I believe wayfinding is an unassuming but important element of an experience. Because of this, I liked the idea of improving the perception of Nicollet Mall through interactive digital kiosks.


Getting Organized

Even though this was a solo project, some of my classmates and I started each day with a standup. We tracked our progress on a scrum board where we could keep each other accountable. I wanted to ensure that I stayed on track and paced myself. I created a tentative to-do list and set major deadlines so I didn't fall behind. [1]


Overall, I broke up my process in the following way:

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I started off by writing down everything that I knew, didn't know, and had assumed based on the information presented by our clients. It was my way of kicking off the research portion of this project. 


Fly On The Wall Observations

I visited Nicollet Mall to get a sense of the current state. I also visited the Mall Of America (MOA) because they recently deployed digital kiosks to help with wayfinding. I conducted a fly on the all observation at both locations. [2]

Main findings from observing Nicollet Mall:

  • Existing directories at Nicollet Mall are large, clunky, and rarely used.
  • Pedestrians during the weekdays appear to have specific destinations.
  • The information center is hidden but has helpful visitor resources.

Main findings from observing the digital kiosks at the Mall of America:

  • Most people did not hesitate to approach them and usually spent 30-90 seconds there.
  • Most people did not appear frustrated or confused by the kiosks.
  • Kiosks are located at major entrances of department stores and the entry way of parking ramps.
  • No advertisements are present near the kiosks. 

Cognitive Walkthrough


While we were at the Mall of America, we wanted to test and evaluate the kiosks using a more standardized method. To accomplish this, we conducted a cognitive walkthrough on the kiosks. [3] The following were the main takeaways: 

  • The kiosk is designed for users on-the-go. 
  • The user is not presented with an overwhelming amount of categories. 
  • The search bar on the main screen allows for pinpointed searches while categories allow for general browsing.  
  • The animated map helps the user visualize the directions to their destination. 

User Interviews


I interviewed friends, family, acquaintances, and workers at Nicollet Mall to gain some insight on the problem space. [4] Main findings from observing Nicollet Mall:

  • People are unlikely to visit Nicollet Mall unless they have a specific destination in mind such as a restaurant or music venue.
  • Most individuals have had poor experiences wit h digital kiosks in the past, stating that they are "too complex" and "intimidating."
  • Per the Nicollet Mall information center workers, the most common question they get is "I have half a day to hang out in Nicollet, what should I do?"
  • Information center workers get a lot more wayfinding questions from passing visitors when they set up booths outside. 


I put together a survey to get a general understanding of what people were looking for when they visited downtown Minneapolis. I also wanted to get their impressions on different types of kiosks and Nicollet Mall. I posted the following survey on my social media as well as Prime Digital Academy's Slack channel. [5] The following are the results of 30 respondents:


People's plan when they are visiting downtown. 

Attractions people are interested in when they visit downtown. 

What people would do if they needed information and passed a kiosk on the sidewalk.


Secondary Research

I dove into secondary research of studies that have been conducted in the past regarding wayfinding, kiosks, and signage. [6] Overall, the most insightful information came from an article by Kara Pernice. [7] The following were the main points:

  • People are reluctant to touch large displays when they are unsure if they are interactable. 
  • Large and vertical screens “remind people of a TV and don’t imply that they are touch enabled."
  • They “engage the whole body” and can be more tiring to use. 

I used an online web application to keep track of my secondary research. 


Competitive Audit

To get an better understanding of how digital kiosk deployment has worked in other cities, I performed a competitive audit on the following cities and locations. [8] Click on the images below for a brief overview of the findings. 




Affinity Diagramming

To start synthesizing the data, I put items from some of my research methods on post-its and created an affinity diagram. Themes and specific issues started to emerge from this exercise.



After the affinity diagram, it was clear that there were three different types of users: workers, residents, and visitors. However, I soon realized workers and residents don't benefit the most from a navigation-based kiosk. They don't need help wayfinding as much as visitors. For the scope of this project, I decided to focus on the visitor persona who would be most impacted by the interactive kiosks. I also determined that there are two distinct visitor personas. I decided to call them "The Total Tourist" and "The Visitor With A Purpose." "The Total Tourist" would be a visitor that is not familiar with the Twin Cities, possibly visiting from out of state, and would want to hit up all the major landmarks. "The Visitor With A Purpose" would be a person that lives close to the Twin Cities, is somewhat familiar with downtown, but may not visit unless they have a specific event or destination (e.g. show or dinner with friends).

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Feature Cards

To get a better understanding of the two persona's potential experiences, I created feature cards based on scenarios that they may encounter when they visit Nicollet Mall. 


User Path Mapping

From these feature cards, I mapped out touch points within Nicollet Mall that should be considered when determining kiosk placement. This exercise helped me visualize popular destination locations at a glance. I drew the two persona's potential  user paths based on the available attractions (e.g. dining, music venues, shopping, etc.) 



Synthesis of my data helped me determine my strategy and approach for prototyping.  I broke down my approach in the following way: 

A kiosk should be...

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Prototyping and Evaluation

Interactive Walkthrough Prototype and Evaluation

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Due to the time constraint, it was difficult to test the user path in the physical space. I worked around this by creating an interactive walkthrough of the user's journey in Axure. [9] For each persona, I created a "happy path" that the user would ideally take. The idea was to test how users would react in each environment when presented with a specific scenario and a kiosk. Although I couldn't account for all situations, I could still get the participant's comments when they were presented with each scenario. I tested three individuals remotely by reading them the instructions from the usability script and providing them the link to Axure. I also described the characteristics of each persona to the three participants so they could get into the mindset of "The Total Tourist" and "The Visitor With A Purpose."  [10]


Main takeaways for "The Total Tourist" usability test: 

  • All participants opted to get directions to the information center if they were presented with a kiosk in the south end of Nicollet.
  • All participants went inside the information center and not the kiosk outside of it when they had a question. 
  • Participants appreciated the kiosks within the information center for more leisurely browsing. 

Main takeaways for "The Visitor With A Purpose" usability test: 

  • All participants opted to go to the kiosk right outside of the information center and not inside of the information center. The scenario for this persona indicated that the visitor would be in a hurry to get to their destination. 
  • After exiting the first destination (the restaurant Barrio) all participants visited the kiosk right outside of the restaurant and used it to choose their next activity (i.e. go to the Pourhouse to get drinks and listen to live music). 
This is an example of how I tested my interactive walkthrough. I had my participants click through this prototype as I recorded their decisions and comments. This walkthrough is an example of how a usability test for the persona "Visitor With A Purpose" may have gone.

Kiosk Placement Prototype and Evaluation

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To determine the optimal kiosk placement on the sidewalk, I showed the following image to 15 individuals. The answers were not decisive. However, it appeared that more people preferred the center kiosk that stood between the sidewalk and flex space. The following were the main takeaways: 

  • People did not want to stand by other people when looking at the kiosk.
  • People preferred to go to a kiosk that was close to the path they were already on (e.g. they don't want to walk through the flex space to reach the kiosk by the street). 
  • The store front position was the least favorite place to have the kiosk. People thought they would be in the way.
  • The middle position was great because it was convenient to approach but not extremely in the way.

Kiosk Type Prototype and Evaluation 

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Many digital kiosks come in various shapes and sizes. Secondary research and initial survey results indicated that users may find smaller and slanted kiosk screens preferable over large kiosk screens. However, many cities have recently incorporated large vertical screen kiosks into their cities. Also, initial survey results may have been skewed due to inconsistent pictures that were used for reference. I retested the preferred kiosk types and reduce bias by standardizing the overall design. I asked 15 people about which kiosk they would prefer. Overall, the small screen kiosks with slanted screens were more popular. Click on the bottom two images for additional details on the results. 


Kiosk Content Prototype and Evaluation 

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Part of my interactive walkthrough I conducted with three participants looked at their interaction with the kiosk interface. I observed which features and categories were helpful while which ones were not.


After the usability test, I redesign the home screen using the feedback I received from my three participants. 


Final Presentation

I gave a final presentation to our clients and fellow Prime classmates at the end of the two weeks. It was a great learning experience to figure out how to give a concise presentation after doing so much research. [11]


Next Steps

The following outlines the next steps I would like to take: 

  • Perform more surveys and usability tests to further validate the current findings. 
  • Pinpoint what companies would support small display outdoor kiosks. 
  • Determine how the real-time event list in the kiosk would be updated. 
  • Create a stronger partnership between the kiosk initiative and the information center. 


This project was an exciting challenge. I enjoyed thinking about what UX methods and techniques could be applied to dig into the problem space. In addition, I liked the unique challenge of creating a solution for a physical space, physical product, and a digital interface. Finally, I learned the difficulties of taking on a large project by myself; I have a renewed appreciation of having a team. 


Documentation & deliverables


[1] ^ design brief and project schedule [open pdf]

[2] ^ fly on the wall observation overview - Nicollet Mall and MOA [open pdf]

[3] ^  cognitive walkthrough of MOA kiosk [open pdf] 

[4] ^ user interview overview [open pdf]

[5] ^ survey questions [open Survey Monkey link]

[6] ^ secondary research notes compilation [open MindMeister link]

[7] ^ Pernice, Karen. (August 23, 2015). "Very Large Touchscreens: UX Design Differs From Mobile Screens". The Nielsen Norman Group. [open article link] 

[8] ^ competitive audit [open pdf]

[9] ^ interactive walkthrough prototype [open Axure link]

[10] ^ usability test script [open pdf]

[11] ^ final presentation deck [open pdf]