Women excited to engage in a Hip Circle bellydance class
Hip Circle Empowerment Center
Redefining the fitness center experience during COVID-19
Initial Overview
"Hip Circle is in the process of transitioning to a new website created on Wordpress, but is struggling with the mobile viewing experience, even for their most loyal clients. They have particular struggles with the workflows associated with scheduling / booking. In their words, “We would like to develop a Hip Circle app that provides for an optimal viewing experience on cell phones for browsing our schedule and quickly signing up for classes and workshops.” Ultimately their goal is to provide the best experience for customers who love them already and for people who want to learn more about them."
This paragraph is from the initial client brief as it was presented to my design team at the start of this project. During the first week of this project, the COVID-19 Shelter in Place order for Illinois went into effect. This caused a dramatic change in the needs of the client, the makeup of the design team, and necessitated a shift to a completely remote environment for the duration of the project.​​​​​​​
Image of the Hip Circle Empowerment Center website home page

Hip Circle Home Page Initial Wordpress Update - 2020

Hip Circle Empowerment Center
3-Week UX Design Sprint
Rick Courtney
Alejandro Sanchez (Portfolio)
Ravinia (Portfolio)
Research Methods
Online Survey & User Interviews
Competitive Analysis
Interview Synthesis & Affinity Mapping
Persona Development & User Journey Map
Concept Ideation & Strategy
Wordpress Concept Prototyping
Hip Circle needs to attract customers to their remote classes during an international health crisis and strengthen that community so customers continue to attend classes after the pandemic is resolved.
Three main strategy areas for Hip Circle to focus their efforts on. How Might We...
How might we entice customers to join Hip Circle classes (remotely)?
How might we help bolster a sense of community in a remote setting?
How might we retain customers once we are allowed back into our space?
Adapting to the Changing Needs of an Organization
Hip Circle Empowerment Center, an Evanston-based non-profit, is a vibrant belly dance and fitness studio that aims to make health and wellness accessible to all women – inclusive of all ages, weights, and shapes - through a variety of classes, workshops, and events led from a place of acceptance and celebration of uniqueness and strength. In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Hip Circle moved all of its classes to an online remote learning platform
Because of this, the organization realized a change in their needs for a design team. The initial brief focused on how to improve the experience of signing up for classes on the go. While elements of that experience still remained within the scope of the design team, it became quickly apparent that the rapid shift to online classes highlighted a need based on connecting to their community online for marketing, customer retention, and community engagement at a time where connections to the business and community members were fragile. 
This change happened fairly early in the project while the design team was still focused on early research so we found it fairly easy to adapt to our new situation. Besides the obvious shift to suddenly being a fully remote team, I was able to edit interview scripts to incorporate topics like remote life and staying engaged/feeling connected in the middle of shelter orders. At this stage, we also adapted competitive and comparative analysis to incorporate more remote focused gyms, online fitness services, and apps. The overall process became much more collaborative at every step as well. I think that we as a design team were also feeling the effects of those early weeks of being shut in and needed to feel that we were maintaining human connections with each other. As it turned out, this idea connected throughout Hip Circle's mission and our design solutions. 
A Defining Persona
With insights gained from multiple customer interviews, client stakeholder interviews, and even a pair of group interviews with the whole team having the opportunity to join two remote classes to speak with participants, a user persona was made that guided all of the concept and design decisions and ground them in the real needs of this community. 
Key Interview Points
I love and value shared experiences and connections
My fitness journey is about finding what fits me
I want flexible options and to easily find classes that matter to me
I have to make fitness decisions within my budget
I prefer digital options that are enjoyable, easy to use, and unobtrusive
Image of a User Persona describes a busy professional mother looking for fitness options to match her schedule

User Persona #1 - The Busy Professional

Understanding the User Journey
Graphing the emotions of users at different stages where they interact with Hip Circle highlighted where improvements would be most helpful throughout the process.
Some of the negative interaction points were specifically related to COVID-19 sheltering, but they were still areas worth researching to find potential improvements and improve the general experience during COVID-19 of both the organization and customers. 

User Journey Map for Hip Circle Customer during COVID-19 shelter orders

How Might We...
Instead of a singular Problem/Solution statement, the research and scope of Hip Circle's need guided broader strategy goals that I formatted as "How Might We..." statements. Each of these statements was the umbrella category for a wide range of strategy solutions. 
How Might We Entice Customers to Join Hip Circle Classes (Remotely)?
This first area focused on how to bring people to a business facing difficulties in the time of Coronavirus.
•Referral Program •Updating Website Organization •Improved Sign Up Flow •Recorded Sessions •Demo Videos

How Might We Help Bolster a Sense of Community in a Remote Setting?
The second strategy area focused on a large concern toward how the feeling of community was affected by social distancing.
•Remote "Slice of Life" Content •Expanding Blog Content •Community Content •Remote Community Events •Partnering with Local Schools

How Might We Retain New Customers Once we are Allowed Back Into our Space?
The third area of focus dealt with longer term strategy goals following the conclusion of Shelter in Place initiatives and retaining future new customers after they take their first class at Hip Circle.
•Expanded Referral Program/Rewards Program •New Scheduling Platform •Expanded Social Engagement •Increased Presence at Community Events 
Strategy Meeting
At this stage of the design process, our team met again with the main stakeholders at Hip Circle to share these broad recommendations. 
The intent of this meeting was to learn which strategies interested the organization and divide them by feasibility and impact.
Strategies that they could immediately take and begin implementing on their own.
Strategies our design team could further build out and expand upon to best help the organization. 
At the conclusion of this meeting there were three main strategy goals:
Expanding research on Rewards Programs
Content strategy for Video demos and marketing
Updating website organization and content strategy​​​​​​​
An Updated User Journey

User Journey Map for Hip Circle customers with new strategy recommendations

Rethinking How To find Classes online
The Hip Circle website was a newly launched wordpress based site that had transposed all of the pages and information from an older design without revisiting the order or structure of those pages. 
By looking at the existing information architecture and card sorting tests of the navigation, I identified multiple areas where the website could be updated to improve the visitor experience, access to information they wanted, and signing up for classes or events.
Hip Circle offers a wide range of fitness options, which multiple classes within each category of fitness. On their website, this was represented by a main navigation dropdown menu to find the fitness category you were interested in, and then page tabs within that category for descriptions of each specific class.

Original Hip Circle Website Dance Page

Designing a New Concept Within the Existing Theme
In the visual concept example, the Dance page now shows all of the class options with their description information on one page. 
Video and imagery are also supported in the concept layout to draw visitors in with rich visuals of the activity they would be looking to sign up for. 
An important addition to this concept was including direct sign up options on these information pages. The existing website required users to go to a separate embedded calendar page that directed customers away from the site to register.
For Hip Circle staff to keep the website updated, any website updates would need to work within an existing Wordpress theme. I first laid out a visual concept of how an updated site would look within their customized theme. Then, using a base version of the Wordpress theme, I built out a sample version of the same page in order to create a step by step guide on how Hip Circle technical staff would build and maintain these pages. 

Visual Concept Wireframe Based on Customized Wordpress Theme

Wordpress Prototype of Website Concept Page

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