Go Outside Portfolio Case Study

Take better breaks with some outside assistance.

Some of the core screens of our app

The Problem

Instead of traveling to the office, classroom, or coffee shop, students and newly remote workers roll out of their beds and into the chair in front of their desk. When work never needs to leave the desk, our participants found themselves struggling to leave their desks to take a break too.


Early Brainstorming

When discussing possible behaviors to influence for our project, we were all interested in exercising more, then we discovered that each of us were ashamed to answer a simpler question: “How much time have you spent outside this week?” Encouraging people to simply spend more time outside regardless of their activity felt like an accessible goal for a wide variety of people, and it wasn’t something that would take too much time out of anyone’s day.


Our recruitment process started by reaching out to people in our network, making an effort to contact as many non-students as students. We found a few participants this way, but our recruitment really took off once we reached out to larger groups of people. I ended up recruiting eight possible participants by messaging the Slack workspace for CS106A and 106B section leaders with the following message:

I wanted to play up the whimsy of our project, and I think I mostly succeeded.

Screening and Baseline Study

We set up short interviews to make sure each possible participant was interested in spending more time outside, and confirmed the participant was willing to go through a five-day tracking period.

The questions in our daily log form
The response distributions for outside satisfaction and opportunity.

The Solution

Our process for getting to a solution involved a substantial amount of backtracking. That’s to be expected for design projects, but in our case it was discouraging to have several rounds of prototypes that barely worked at all, even though we did learn from them.

First Prototype

Our first prototype was aimed at solving the “aimless” aspect of going outside. People felt like they didn’t have a reason, and we wanted to give them one. We decided to call the activities we would give people “tasks.”

The task ideas we came up with after maybe five minutes.

More prototyping

So we backtracked, and realized that we wanted to disrupt the breaks people took without thinking, what we decided to call “weak” breaks. More ideas and more prototyping later, we wanted our app to do two things: prompt users to take “strong” breaks, and give out tasks.

Key Results and Future Thoughts

Our prototype received a positive but constrained response in usability testing. Testers said they liked what the app could do, but had a lot of feedback about how it felt to use it. Our usability tests showed problems in three main areas, and I will suggest fixes for each area based on feedback.