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With a community app, you give your followers the chance to interact – both with your brand and with each other. You give them a safe and private place to share what they love (and what they hate), to ask questions, to get answers, to get exclusive content, offers and opportunities.

The Problem

There’s been community outrage over the state of Portland’s public spaces. After a series of unfortunate events has resulted in media attention towards deteriorating and hazardous areas of the city.

The Solution

Project — an app designed to empower residents to contribute their diverse perspectives, and ideas for improving Portland’s public spaces.

Players create urban and natural environments using augmented reality. Building fantasy worlds to share with friends, or competing in challenges to level up and unlock content.

The challenges take an educational approach. With points awarded for sustainable solutions, and creations that have a positive social impact.

Running for six weeks during the summer months. The app coincides with community events designed to boost civic pride, and to engage all residents. The feedback collected through the app and at community events will help plan the future of spaces.

Information Architecture

The tab bar organises the app into three sections — Home, Map, and Profile.

The Home tab displays upcoming community events, announcements and personalised content such as recently visited places, challenges, and leaderboards.

Players start on the Map tab upon opening the app. So they can easily identify nearby challenges and rewards.

The Profile tab is split into four sections — Badges, Library, Creations, and Stats. named after neighborhoods and local areas in the city. Places and Challenges use residents pre existing knowledge to make navigation more intuitive. The app draws special attention to the neighborhoods users visit most. Creating a clear path to content that’s relevant to them.


The AR Challenges need to be a key driver of product adoption, retention and growth. Though early on I discovered problems relating to the general gameplay. Too many interconnecting elements made the challenges too complicated. I began to doubt if I would even find enjoyment as a player. I took a step back and began further research. This is when I discovered Regina Nelson and her work on Gamification Dynamics, Mechanics and Design Elements. Based on her research I ran a gamification workshop where I separated the core functionality into three parts.

Gamification Dynamics are the ideological constructs that together form the gameplay. Two key dynamics used are Narrative and Relationships. The Project Narrative refers to the storyline of sustainability and positive social impact that threads its way through the game. Players are aware that they’re contributing to the community and shaping the future of Portland’s public spaces.

Relationships are the social interactions that occur in both the digital and physical spaces. For example, friends can be hanging out together in real life and also in the augmented reality world. By teaming up to create public spaces, and competing in multiplayer challenges together. Gamification Mechanics are the challenges, goals, rewards, rules, competition, and randomness that engage players and motivate forward movement.

Created from the dynamics and mechanics are the Gamification Elements, these are the concepts players interact with.

Players receive Points during challenges. At certain point scores players are given a Star. Up to 3 stars are awarded per challenge.

Players use Coins to buy objects during challenges. Social Points are awarded for creations that have a positive social impact, and Eco Points are awarded for sustainable solutions.

Players accumulate Social and Eco Points to level up their Player Status. These are the ranks that players move up.

Badges are awarded for achievements.

Before the workshop I had vague ideas of gamification dynamics and mechanics. Defining these concepts during the workshop allowed me to create stronger and more meaningful connections between the gamification elements.

The major breakthrough was simplifying the scoring system. Challenge Points, Stars, Coins, Social Points, and Eco Points became distinguishable from one another. These elements now have a unique purpose and support different player interactions.

Community Feedback

To achieve success, Project needs to be an inclusive platform. To foster community spirit and empower participation from a diverse range of people. This is why it has been a conscious decision to exclude open forums and public comments from the app. The reality is that not everyone will use a product as expected. With feelings of angst towards public spaces already at a high. There is a strong chance comments filled with emotion will make their way onto the platform. Intentional or not, some of these comments will cause harm to other members of the community. Considering the campaign runs over a short period, the impact this could have on Project success is massive. Removing public comments also has cost benefits. Which include not having to hire content moderators or build reporting functionality. The money saved can fund more community meetups, or make greater improvements to public spaces.

The app is an important channel of communication between residents and The City. And with the exclusion of public comments, the app needed a new way to capture feedback from the community. This is why Question Cards are a key feature. Question Cards ask multiple choice or open ended questions. To collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback. Question Cards are on the Home tab, Place pages and Challenge popups. They update often so the city can experiment with the types of questions asked. Allowing them to pursue different topics of interest on the fly.

The barrier of entry to provide feedback through the app is low compared to attending community meetups. For this reason, it’s expected that most of the public feedback will come through this channel.

Social Features

Project’s social features build community spirit in both the physical and digital environment. This community spirit brings together a diverse group of residents to share a common goal. When seeing what others in the communities have created. Players become inspired to create their own public spaces. In the animation above, a user is reacting to another player’s creation. Reactions are another way The City will collect feedback from the community. Other social features include: Inviting friends through the app.

  • · Sharing creations.

  • · Competing together in multiplayer challenges.

  • · Gifting rewards to friends.

  • · Viewing leaderboards.

  • · Viewing other player profiles, including their badges and stats.

Inclusive Design

In her wonderful book Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, Kat Holmes states “Design shapes our ability to access, participate in, and contribute to the world.” It’s crucial the Project campaign implements principles of inclusive design. So all residents have equal opportunity to contribute their ideas and solutions. Failing to include all community groups’ results in public spaces that aren’t designed to accommodate the community’s diverse needs.

Augmented Reality for everyone

The reality is that not everyone has a device that supports AR. This is where community events play a role in inclusive design. Paid organizers are attending these events with devices residents can use for their own AR creations.

Organizers will be initiating and recording conversations with residents. This is another way The City will collect feedback from the community.

Removing potential harm

Open forums are daunting for some people. Being put on a public stage means they could be subject to negative comments or criticism. Removing this functionality creates a welcoming social platform for all community members.

Colour accessibility

Two ways the app achieves colour accessibility is by…

Not relying on colour to relay crucial information. Adding enough contrast between foreground and background UI elements.

These solutions are not enough to combat the unpredictability of Augmented Reality. To overcome this problem each player has ‘AR Colour Adjust’ settings. This allows players to alter the colours of their creations, and the physical world that appears on their screen. Configuring these settings next to a live preview guarantees all players can have an enjoyable AR experience.


Every community is defined by its members. In order for your community to become successful, you need to identify your niche and create the right content. It's also important to create a safe environment outside of social media, where your community members can feel at home. Disciple provides a number of moderation and analytical tools to keep your community safe secure and engaged.

T H A N K Y O U ! !

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