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Waze is a community-driven map app that aggregates data input from users to provide quicker navigation routes. 

Using research, UX, visual design, and prototyping, we worked on a team of four designers to target seemingly small pain points that ultimately had a big impact on the app's usability.

Timeline: 3 weeks

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The nature of driving with Waze

Navigating with Waze is different from other driving apps because it relies on users to provide the most updated information regarding traffic, construction, accidents, and even police presence, in real time.

Most drivers hate traffic, so they would like to be made aware of any issues that would disrupt their commute. Ideally, app users are reporting traffic issues they encounter as they travel, but often, people aren't contributing to Waze's data collection. 


Our goal was to identify why users aren't using Waze in the way it was intended, and to come up with solutions to increase usership, thereby resulting in a less stressful and more enjoyable commute for everyone.

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The original navigation experience on mobile was cumbersome

Aside from the steep learning curve of how to find and use Waze's multiple features, we identified several pain points in three scenarios in the mobile experience by conducting initial user tests on the original app.

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1. When trying to go

  • No way to immediately start trip

  • Confusing "go" "go now" and "go later" options

2. When trying to stop

  • No "stop" or "cancel" option immediately available mid-trip

  • Hidden, complicated steps to find the stop feature

  • No way to re-route mid-trip


3. When trying to use turn-by-turn navigation

  • Hidden turn-by-turn navigation feature

  • No way see map + turn-by-turn

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If the functionality were more streamlined and intuitive, the user could navigate with minimal effort, increasing app use, and could therefore help to resolve densely congested areas, resulting in quicker, safer commutes. 


We broke the problem down into three key objectives and began to work on them in parallel. These "how might we" questions drove our exploration and experimentation for whiteboarding concepts.


How might we make the "go" feature less complex?

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Feature Placement

How might we allow users to directly stop, cancel, or re-route themselves mid-trip?


How might we illuminate the turn-by-turn feature to be more discoverable and accessible mid-trip?

Understanding the market + our competitors

We wanted to know how other apps were addressing the objectives we had identified and what opportunities we might capitalize on.

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Understanding target users

Defining who we're designing for helped us understand the needs of commuters who want to be contributors, taking advantage of all the features the app has to offer.


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Understanding the design system

While sketching for design solutions, we studied Waze's design system to find existing patterns and UI components to ensure consistency and clarity. We worked with some existing patterns and worked on new ones where there was nothing pre-established.

Exploring design treatments

Since there were few pre-established patterns from Waze’s design system, we explored a variety of design treatments to find opportunities to make navigation easier. We looked at button placement, copy, and flows, knowing that we'd need to make adjustments to them all.

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Iterating and Validating Assumptions

Validating our design solutions through user testing helped us to become confident in our design decisions.

We used the same testers the second time around in order to get their feedback on the iteration through the lens of having already tested the original version.

The results are in...

Our test results gave us the validation we were looking for. We were heading in the right direction, but had some more iterating to do.

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Next Steps
  • Iterate based on the previous user test and then to test that iteration.

  • Move on to developing the hi-fi prototype based off of the Waze design system.

  • Turn attention toward other features which initial user tests showed were difficult to discover and use mid-trip, such as reporting traffic, police, and road closures.


Just as I am not the user, I am also not the business

Because this was an unsolicited project, we made assumptions about Waze's needs based on our market research. Focusing only on the user in this scenario limited our ability to fully understand both sides of the problem, affecting our overall outcome.

  • It is equally as important to understand an agency's needs as it is to understand the user's needs.

  • Ultimately, this is a symbiotic relationship - users cannot exist without the agency and the agency could not exist without its users. Both need to be considered.​

Test ideas first before launching into a new feature

When iterating on existing products, it’s easy to become over-invested in building a grandiose feature. Coming up with practical solutions that don’t require much is a good way to start testing the idea before building an entirely new feature.

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