GramCity - Adventure is never far away

A Google Ventures Design Sprint

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Background: GramCity is a photo editing app that helps people make awesome photos before uploading and sharing them to Instagram or other social networks. In order to move beyond the current capability, GramCity wants to explore how they can help people find the most photo-worthy places (AKA "photo-ops") while traveling in any city.

Tool Used: Figma, Miro, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop

Role: UX Researcher, Product Designer, Interaction Designer, Information Architect, and Strategist.

The Problem

GramCity wants to help people find the best locations to take instagrammable photos as well as build an active online community for people to share their unique experiences and discoveries. They've brought me here to run a design sprint and quickly develop a solution.

My Solution

My solution is to design an app feature that can help people locate a photo-op at any time and anywhere as well as share their favorite locations with the GramCity community. As your location scout, GramCity will lead you to find the exact places and locations so you can focus your time creating insta-worthy moments.

Explore by category and sort the listings

Explore by category and sort the listings

Explore Photo-ops by Category

  • Explore nearby photo locations by categories or through personalized recommendations from community insiders to find the coolest and most secret photo locations

  • Filter or sort by specific criteria for a fast, relevant, reliable search experience 

See what's nearby and filter on the map view

See what's nearby and filter on the map view

See Photo-ops Nearby

  • No uncertainties, get exact coordinate to where the photo was taken and preview the distance on a map

  • Horizontal filter bars and coordinating map markers allow users to easily see what they’ve selected and filter the selections.

Get inspired by photos taken by the GramCity community

Get inspired by photos taken by the GramCity community

Bookmark and Navigate

  • Unique capability of saving photo-ops and adding to a trip, save all your bookmarks in one place, and adventure with ease

  • Get inspired by creative photos taken at every location by the GramCity community

  • Receive all instructions needed for when to go and how to get there

The Process Breakdown

I adopted the Google Ventures Design Sprint to create an MVP and test the feature before it launches. I did this through a 5-day solo design sprint which allows me to come up with a possible solution quickly.

Here is my process breakdown:

GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App
Day 1: Understand & Map

User Research Findings

Photo-ops that GramCity users are looking for

  • Visually stimulating, bold colors

  • Hidden gems, unique places

  • Touristy spots, the must-sees

  • Good places nearby

  • Movie scenes with historical values

The Problem Space

Taking photos is a great way to “capture” a memory, but you might leave a destination feeling a bit unsatisfied if you spend the majority of your time searching for the perfect instagrammable spots, and sometimes, they are not as good as you have imagined.


  • How Might We help users to find the best photo opportunities intuitively when traveling?

  • How Might We help users to find photo inspirations from other users who have stopped by?

  • How Might We engage users in sharing their favorite photo locations with the community?

    How Might We help users to find the balance between taking photos and enjoying and living the moment?



The Impromptu

"I don't have a strict plan or itinerary when comes to travel."


  • Miss out on the travel experience when he is constantly on his phone taking photos

  • Not knowing some good photo-ops nearby


  • Find great photo locations without spending too much time researching or traveling


The Planner

"I don't mind searching for locations and photo inspirations before traveling."


  • It can be a waste of time if the places didn't meet the expectations

  • A time-consuming process to scroll through other users' photos and find detailed information on the location


  • Find locations and examples of the best photo-ops in a city before planning out her trip

User Map

I have mapped out the possible end-to-end user experience for the new feature using two personas, Nick and Sarah. These journeys represent the heart of GramCity - Discovery, and Sharing.

Day 2 - Sketch Solution

Lightning Demo

I started my 2nd day by conducting a lightning Demo, which is an exercise the team gathers ideas and inspiration from other companies and industries that are solving.

I was looking for products with an intuitive map function and social component where users can share their photos. In the end, I narrowed it down to 3 competitors that solve similar problems as GramCity:

Explorest, Depalo, and Yelp.

GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App
GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App

Since GramCity roots in discovery and sharing, I looked into these two major functions of the competitors' products. The critical patterns I've uncovered are:

Search and Discovery Functions

  • Enable search for any desired city or use current location

  • Combine map view and list view intuitively

  • Able to filter or search by categories in a city

  • Recommendations help users make quick decisions

Location Details and Photos

  • Address information, transportation, best travel time can be provided

  • Easy access to other users' photos and add your own photos of this location

GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App

Crazy 8s

After analyzing the key functions that can make a difference, I moved onto Crazy 8s, which is a fast exercise that challenges me to sketch 8 ideas in 8 minutes.

The most critical screen from this round of sketching is to provide a map view of attractions using the user's current location, which caters to both Nick and Sarah's major goal: find the best photo-ops in a city.

Later on, I expanded this screen into a thoughtful 4-panel story sequence.

Search a City / Use Current Location -> View Nearby Photo-ops -> Select a Photo-op -> Browse Photo Gallery

Day 3 - Create a Storyboard
GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App


As the solo designer on the project, instead of discussing the design concepts with my teammates, I evaluated my sketches from yesterday and fleshed out a storyboard for the final solution. The story starts from launching the app, searching nearby photo locations to bookmarking the desired photo-op in a form of a lightweight wireframe.

In order to align with the product goals and answer the problem statements, here are some features I've taken into consideration:

  • Bookmark photo-ops to a trip: users can collect photo-ops in a systematic way and view them later once they arrive in the city

  • Maps preview: a 3D map imagery help users gain a better idea of the distance

  • Upload photo to the community: help others by sharing your own creative perspective

Day 4 - Prototyping
GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App

By applying a human-centered design approach, I aimed to create a realistic facade that I can put in front of the users and gauge their reactions.

Below are some main features I want to incorporate in the prototype:

  • Use visual language to attract user's attention but not in an overwhelming way

  • Strategically present nearby top-rated recommendations to save user's time from researching and traveling far

  • Easily sort the map pins for travel planning

  • An intuitive map view for users to explore nearby photo locations like a local expert

  • Easy access to photo gallery of popular photo-ops and bookmark for future visits

Day 5 - Testing

Usability Testing Insights

Testing Duration: 20~30 minutes Number of Participants: 5

After prototyping, now it is time to put the design solution to the test. I've recruited 5 active Instagram users to complete a series of tasks below:

  1. Explore "must-see" photo locations in new york city

  2. Find the nearest artistic photo-op on the map view

  3. Bookmark this photo-op to an existing trip

  4. Get direction to this location

Usability Testing Findings

  • 100% were able to successfully navigate and complete the tasks given

  • 100% mentioned they loved the simplicity, aesthetic, and overall design of the app

  • 80% would love to explore the "hidden gems" first from the discover home screen since these places are usually harder to find and less crowded

  • 60% expressed their needs for written comments and reviews of the photo-ops besides the photo gallery so that they can know more about the locations

  • 40% didn't know what the "add new location on map" icon means. This button allows users to discover a new location on the map view and create a new photo-op entry. However, lacking tool tip instruction, participants are not sure how to interact with it

  • 40% appreciated the "# of people visited" information on each location card which encouraged them to find trending places

GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App
Final Thoughts

Lesson Learned

Best work might happen in a short burst!

This design sprint project taught me how to answer problems of practicing UX in an agile environment where I have to take all of the existing research, unpack its essence to a diverse group, and then ideate in a rapid manner. The strict time frame challenges me to focus on solving the essential problems (MVP) quickly and leave pixel perfection behind.

More importantly, I've learned to have fun, stop chasing perfection, and enjoy the journey. Just like the spirit I want to convey through GramCity, there is indeed great joy to be found in the process of discovery — not just in the outcome.

In the end, I was surprised at how much I am able to pull off within such a short amount of time. And seeing the world through new eyes, and observing "the way people do things" from arriving in a city to finding the ultimate photo spot was truly memorable.

Overall, it was an exciting and rewarding experience where I am able to answer critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with target customers. I'm looking forward to the next design sprint project!

Next Steps

If I had more time, I would like to expand on these features below:

Comments and Reviews: I thought about adding comments and reviews to each photo from the gallery. Since this has been brought up by few participants, I would like to combine the photos and comments intuitively

Itinerary Planning: allow users to view bookmarks on the map view and plan an upcoming itinerary with optimized travel route.

Social Impact: embed Instagram accounts within the app to boost your presence on all social media platforms and grow your Instagram following

Click the top right corner to expand window.

Clickable Prototype

Enjoy the prototype and visit New York City, we have the coolest photo-worthy locations!

Let me know what are your favorite photo-ops :)

GramCity - Travel Photo Inspiration App