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How might we learn about the past through a modern lens?

This project is inspired by images of old photographs, juxtaposed with modern times. Named after the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, the idea of "DOTUS" (pronounced dot-tus) is to give the user a glimpse of what older times looked like at a famous landmark, or even just an ordinary street. There are many directions this project could have gone in. In the end, it became a simple 360-camera view, where you visit a spot, look around through the app and see old images superimposed (where they happened in history) as you move your device around. Though another option I came up with during conceptualization, was a photo-diary app, where the old image is on the screen, and users align the old photo to modern day.

My end goal for this project was to find a use case for such an app, and create a demo of how it would work.


Tags App Concept, AR/VR, UX Design
Duration 3 Weeks (Part Time)
Role Designer (Solo project)
Tools XD, Photoshop, Premiere Pro


User Interviews

To start this project, I conducted user interviews to learn about people's perspectives on traveling, history, and why they download apps. My goal with these interviews was to gauge people's interest in the past, what they do when they travel, and understand the value of the niche apps they use regularly, if any. In total, I conducted four interviews.


1. What apps do you use most often? Why those apps?
2. Are there any niche apps (specifically non-social; singular function/purpose) you enjoy using? What do you enjoy about that app?
3. What are your thoughts/feelings on travel?
4. (If you’ve been on vacation in the past few years) Talk me through your last vacation or trip outside your home city.
5. Are there any apps you use related to travel? If so, what are they and what do you like about them?
6. What are your thoughts/feelings on history?
7. Are there any apps you use related to history? If so, what are they and what do you like about them?
8. Do you wonder about what your surroundings were like 10/20/50+ years ago? Do you go out of your way to find out? Why or why not?

Persona + User Flow Scenario

DOTUS Persona

DOTUS Persona: Astrid

Through my interview findings, I created a persona: Astrid, a free-spirited traveler who aims to contribute to the planet. I used this persona as a base user to design for. To keep the scope manageable, I thought up the simplest scheme in which Astrid would find herself in and would have a use for the app. In the scenario, Astrid is on a walking tour with friends in Bogota and sees a nifty monument. The user flow below illustrates how Astrid would go about using the app, and learning more about the monument's history.

The key interactions between Astrid and the app are the map screen, and the AR screen. On the map screen are "viewpoints" which the user needs to be within a three meter radius in order to access the AR screen. Then from this AR (camera) screen, the user can view the old photos and read more information regarding the photo.

DOTUS Userflow

DOTUS Userflow


DOTUS Wireframes

DOTUS Wireframes

I created the wireframes with the user flow in mind. As I was just aiming for a single use case (as I only had so much time to complete the project), I didn't consider every feature that would be required to build out the app. I designed the wireframes around what screens Astrid would require to use when out on her walking tour.

Once completed, I turned them into would-be mockups to make them feel more real and provide more context in the demo video. Like the user flow, the main interactions are the map screen and the AR screen.


DOTUS Mockups 1
DOTUS Mockups 2
DOTUS Mockups 3
DOTUS Mockups 4

App Demo

Creating the demo was what excited me the most about this project. Before I started this project, the idea of mapping a photo in 3D space through the lens of a smartphone didn't seem plausible (yet), so I assumed this idea wouldn't have been possible to develop. Or at least, would require a numerous amount of resources. The idea that it wasn't possible was what excited me about creating the demo because to my knowledge, it hadn't been done before. Maybe it had been done already, and I just didn't know about it, but I had fun making it.

The demo video below shows the user interaction of the camera AR screen. On this screen (when in the radius of a viewpoint), the user can look around and see the old photo juxtaposed with its modern environment. The user can tap the photo to toggle its visibility, and long press to toggle the photo's information.

Tap Photo Area: Toggle photo visibility
Long Press Photo Area: Toggle photo information

What I Learned

This project taught me a lot about UX design, and has helped me explore my own design process. Prior to this project, I never quite understood the usefulness of personas and user journeys, as well as how to properly leverage user interviews and asking the right questions. Because of the project's timeline, I had minimal time to properly test my ideas (with real people) so the foundation of the project is based on my persona generated from my interview findings. This persona - Astrid - would act as my lens for the duration of the project. With this in mind, I understood (finally) how to utilize personas in my design process. After creating the persona, I realized it wasn't fleshed out as well as it could be - I realized this was due to the quality of my interview questions. As the project progressed, I realized there were questions I should have asked but by then it was too late to do another round of interviews. I knew the value of user interviews beforehand, but this further solidified their importance in the UX process.

I could have designed this project for myself, but I wanted to take the time to practice creating these types of deliverables, and understand how to properly work them into my design process (and not just do them for the sake of doing them).

Future Directions

There are many ways to progress this project. These include, but are not limited to: conduct better user interviews, expand on app features, creating prototypes and user testing.

It was only after the fact that I knew my interview questions didn't provide the necessary information in order to properly flesh out my persona. Having gone through this project, I now know what I need to know to not just build out better personas, but lay a good foundation of findings for the rest of the project.

As I was just building out one use case for this idea, I did not consider other features of the app. There are many other features I realized would be necessary as I completed this project. Some features include: search functionality, saving locations, and creating accompanying notes for photos. To realize a full list of features, in the future, I plan to conduct card sorting activities with potential users of the app.

Once more features are explored, I can begin to build out a working prototype of DOTUS. I wanted to build a prototype once I finished the mockups but it wasn't necessary as there were only a few screens, and all the screens follow a linear user flow. As well, I intend to create paper prototypes to test with users before progressing to a digital prototype. Again, since the screens followed a linear flow, I didn't feel it was necessary to conduct user tests. The end goal was to simply find a use case and demonstrate it, whether the use case was tested or not, didn't matter much as I only had three weeks to complete the project. However, I know if I want to build this product out, I will need to test my ideas and prototypes often.

Thank you for reading!