Launched in 2004, findacrew.net became the most popular crew- and boat-finding service within 12 months of its’ beginning. Now, people from 200 countries utilize the service to connect with who they need.
I was first introduced to findacrew.net while I was traveling full time. I was speaking with a friend about her experiences working on board and she was able to speak highly about having gone through with working on a boat. Interested in the experience myself, I made my way to their website and was surprised to discover that they didn’t have an app. It seemed to me that an app would be useful for this kind of location-based service, as it would better allow for services such as push notifications and updates. As a design exercise, I endeavored to create a mobile application myself.
First, in order to better understand the most relevant information to include in the app, I looked to competitors. Cotton Crews is the most popular comparable app available, and I registered for an account. Unfortunately, Cotton Crews is underutilized, and listed only three available jobs when I registered for the account. The app functioned more as a job board than a way to connect with people who were likely to be compatible with the user.
The beauty of findacrew is that it emphasizes the percentage of compatibility between the boat owners and potential crew. Therefore, we can infer the following user goals: create a profile, find a good match based on their profile, message with them, decide to meet up and take off on your journey.
I mapped a traditional user journey based on steps condensed from the methodologies used in the desktop website. I then walked through the process with volunteers and identified potential pain points and places that specifically needed to be called out. There were three universal complaints:
Onboarding process was too long, some people didn't have relevant experience so many questions were irrelevant
Perusing profiles is unnecessarily complex and difficult to interpret due to lack of hierarchy
Users lack a visual way to connect with people based on location
A survey submitted to 20 solo travelers showed that most people thought that the prospect of the position being paid or unpaid was the most important factor in their decision, followed by compatibility with the boat owner, so I reorganized the automatic sorting of matches to be first
Research indicates that survey information must be gathered in roughly 7-8 minutes in bouts of 16-25 questions before completion rates drop 5-10% per question. Findacrew currently presents 33 questions as their onboarding process, with each question often having subsections which require additional time. I reduced the number and streamlined this process to 13 questions with the possibility of contributing additional information later in order to increase user retention.
Drawing from these understandings, I sketched some very low-fidelity prototypes to better understand user flow and how we might separate relevant information and how it related to the needs of the user in each step.
Upon testing the mid-fidelity prototype with users, it became apparent that some of the UI elements were incompatible with the function of the app. I reduced the size of the main navigation bar, in addition to the profile sizes in order to allow for more results to appear per page and reduce time scrolling through the application. I also changed the location of the boat’s departure from numbers of kilometers away to show an actual country, which allowed people a clearer idea of where they might be going.
In the future, I would like to incorporate a map feature into the profile selection process to better indicate where users could potentially depart from rather than listing countries and showing a smaller map.