CASE STUDY | NATIVE LAND & STRAVA
Native Land &
the Outdoor Industry
UX Research, UX Design, & Usability Testing
All outdoor recreation takes place on Native land, yet there is little acknowledgment of this fact. As a popular mapping application for athletes who recreate in the outdoors, Strava is well-positioned to challenge users within their community to change the way they think about land.
By recognizing past injustices and encouraging users to connect with the land and their understanding of its history, present stewardship, and future relationships, Strava can help to shift the way its users think about land.
Role, Timeline, and Thanks
I participated in all aspects of UX research, sketching, design, prototyping, and usability studies. This work took place over six weeks.
This project was made a success through the generosity of many. I want to thank Executive Director Christine McRae and Research Director Micheli Oliver of the Native Land Digital team for their consultation during key points of the project. A big thank you to Owen Oliver, American Indian Student Commission Director at the University of Washington and Secretary of Youth Advisory Board at the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, for his time and valuable insights. Also thanks to my mentor Alex Fromm, Senior Design Manager at Microsoft, who advised the design aspects of the work. Thank you to all other participants who participated in interviews and usability studies.
How might we recognize, acknowledge, and honor Indigenous land?
Learning how to ask the right questions
Stepping into an unfamiliar space, I knew I had to do extensive work to ensure I was asking the right questions. During this phase, I watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, read articles and books, conducted interviews, and put together a survey. My goal was to ask questions and expand my knowledge of Native land mapping, knowledge gaps, and respectful land acknowledgments as much as possible. There is still so much information to know. My goal is to continue learning about present-day Native culture, history, and how to be an ally to present and future Native-led initiatives even after this project is complete.
Acknowledging my limitations as a non-Native UX designer, I sought to rely on Indigenous sources of knowledge as best I could. This project challenged me to show up as an ally and support Native-led agendas, rather than pushing my own vision for how the work should go. I continue to be open to feedback about this work.
See footer for sources cited. Research also included interviews with Native Land executive director Christine McRae, Native Land research director Micheli Oliver, and American Indian Student Commission Director at the University of Washington and Secretary of Youth Advisory Board at the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institue Owen Oliver.
Visit Waaseyaa Consulting to hire Christine McRae for a variety of consulting services centered in Omàmìwininì (Algonquin) history and knowledge systems.
Themes from the survey, reading, and interviews
Importance of relationship (between Native & settler people and between humans and earth)
Importance of meaningful action that follows land acknowledgments
Importance of Indigenous-led narratives & Native sovereignty
Complexity and sensitivity of trauma resulting from settler colonialism
The education in many American school systems about Indigenous history is insufficient, damaging, or at times non-existent.
Must encourage further action and relational connection.
Must center Indigenous narratives and support Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty.
Narratives must acknowledge past, present, and future Indigenous people groups and land stewardship.
Work with a spirit of co-design.
Understanding the User
Research-Driven User Understanding
Personas are a tool to keep the user in front of mind during the design process. I created two personas, Eric and Gabrielle, to help me to imagine my users. These personas are not meant to generalize to all users, but rather are examples of specific potential users who may engage with the Native land feature on Strava. I created these personas to be intentionally similar in some ways in order to show the differences in how they engage with ideas of environmental justice, Native land recognition, and issues of racial equity.
My goal is to base these users in the research I have done for this project rather than basing them on my own assumptions.
After framing the design problem and the users, I began sketching. I did two rounds of "Crazy Eights" sketching to tease out my initial ideas. This fast sketching helped me to get beyond my initial most obvious ideas.
As a note: after learning more about the tension in the BIPOC climbing community (and many others) about Mountain Project's decision-making regarding racist, sexist, and offensive route names, I pivoted away from the platform. Mountain Project initial sketches are included below to show my working process.
Choosing a Platform
After Crazy Eights, I chose three of my favorite ideas and continued to explore these ideas with more in-depth sketching.
While Instagram had the potential to reach the greatest number of people, I also felt that it carried the greatest risk for virtue-signaling. While I could see an interesting integration with the Instagram stories geolocation stickers, I ultimately decided not to pursue this idea any further.
Given the app's relationship with land and maps, I initially thought it could be a good place for a Native Land feature. However, as mentioned above, the more I learned about the app's history with BIPOC climbers and others I decided it wouldn't be a good fit for this project.
I am excited to show this work on the Strava platform. The rich community existing on Strava provides the environment for meaningful, relational change in the way its users think about land. Given that the app is already centered on land and data about land, it is a natural fit for a Native Land integration.
Evaluating Ideas from the Personas' Perspective
Looking at my initial sketches, I wanted to ensure that I was keeping my users, Morgan and Gabrielle, at the front of my mind. I created a storyboard to show how the users might engage with the potential solutions I was considering.
Medium Fidelity Prototypes
We developed two prospective prototypes in order to find the best placement for the Misinformation Alert we wanted to implement. We ran this A/B during our usability testing. Both prototypes assume capacity within WhatsApp/Facebook to identify rapidly spreading misinformation in their family of apps, but test differing means of delivering these warnings.
Medium Fidelity Prototypes
Prototype & Learn
The mid-fidelity prototype allowed me to begin putting the design together and begin collecting data from users. I did 3 usability tests, taking notes on the participants' feedback, and noticing where the participants got stuck or experienced confusion. After all three usability tests were complete, I compiled the findings into a table with themes, recommendations, and priority ratings. The usability tests were critical in helping me to confront my assumptions about the design and the user.
Creating a Color-Coded Map
I also added the ability to zoom on the maps, which will give users context for the map. I also moved all external links to a browser within Strava. This will keep users on the app and help to mitigate the fear that users will lose their workout data by clicking on external links.
With the user feedback, I knew I needed to spend more time on the map design. My mid-fidelity map design was too close to the original map and didn't appear to be interactive. I needed to make the Native Land feature brighter and more noticeable, reducing the amount of other information on the map (names of Buttes, lakes, etc.)
I created a color-coded system to make it more clear how multiple tribes exist in the same territory. Using Ben Day Process dots, I assigned each nation a color and overlapped the colors on the map according to the Native Land Digital mapped borders. To help the user understand the overlapping system, I also created an "isolation" view when the user clicks on a nation name. The density of dots corresponds to the density of tribes in the territory.
I used texture in addition to color to increase accessibility. When the user clicks on the name of the tribe, the isolation mode shows the texture over just the tribe selected.
Users will encounter the Native Land map feature when they have completed their workout and are saving the activity.
Once users toggle the map overlay on, the map displays Native Land information using the Native Land Digital API.
Plus and Minus buttons on the map shown for prototyping effects only. The final execution would continue with Strava's pinch-to-zoom interaction.
About Native Land Maps
Navigate to this page by clicking "Learn More" on the Save Activity page
Explains the importance of Native Land mapping
Call to action for the user
Disclaimer text from Native Land Digital. "Many tribes exist in the same territory" added. Full copy below.
Feed & Map Details
Once the activity is saved, it can be viewed by the users' friends on Strava with the Native Land overlay.
Click on the names on the map at any time to learn more about the nations using information from tribe websites and from Native Land Digital.
Clicking on the names on the map opens "Isolation Mode" which displays map data for that nation only.
Dot Pattern Detail (Below)
Map options will now feature Native Land overlay alongside Standard, Satellite, and Hybrid map views
This example is from the segments and achievements page
All links will be displayed within Strava
Azarenko, Anita, et al. “Creating Connections through Land Acknowledgements.” Oregon State University, blogs.oregonstate.edu/engage/2020/02/03/creating-connections-through-land-acknowledgements/?fbclid=IwAR3Zs9CKbN9LJg-2A0J_J7NT7BtR5XUIg_8pKA26mRbLeIAmulK-26mFcnk. Accessed 10 Nov. 2020.
Brooks, Spirit, and Leilani Sabzalian. “Critical Orientations: Indigenous Studies and Outdoor Education.” OSU Professional and Continuing Education. 2020.
Cain, Eric. Broken Treaties, An Oregon Experience, OPB, 19 Mar. 2017, watch.opb.org/video/oregon-experience-broken-treaties-oregon-experience/
Clontz, Carolyn, et al. “Advocacy for Warm Springs.” KPOV.org, kpov.org/monday-point-podcast/2018/5/30/advocacy-for-warm-springs. Accessed 10 Nov. 2020.
Farrell-Smith, Ka'ila. “Opinion: Why I Refuse to Hang My Paintings in Gov. Brown's Office.” Oregon Live, 22 Sept. 2019,
“Native Land Map & Resources.” Native-Land.ca, native-land.ca/.
“Recognizing Land and Staying Healthy during COVID-19 — Center for Native American Youth.” Medium, Center for Native American Youth, 8 Apr. 2020, ololiver.medium.com/recognizing-land-and-staying-healthy-during-covid-19-center-for-native-american-youth-c508ef20a577.
“The Red Nation Podcast.” Episode Land Back w/ Nickita Longman, Emily Riddle, & Lindsay Nixon.
Trier, Cassidy, and Christine McRae. “Interview.” 23 Nov. 2020.
Trier, Cassidy, and Micheli Oliver. “Interview.” 4 Dec. 2020.
Trier, Cassidy, and Owen Oliver. “Interview.” 17 Dec. 2020.
Redbird, Dr. Duke. “Dish with One Spoon.” Indigenous Digital Delegation. MIT Open Documentary Lab, 10 Nov. 2020.