Posted in ISS Detector - redesign, UX Practice

Let’s Get this Party Started!

I’m jumping into it.  I have been studying UXD – and surrounding domains – for about 6 months now, and I have yet to take on a personal project.  I’ve read and read and read, and I need to put in some practice to take it to the next level.  I have a system for my UX studying in the first half of 2017, and part of that is 1 personal UX project each quarter.  Without further ado . . .


ISS Detector mobile app

Why this app?

Anyone who knows me knows I am a space fanatic.  I watch the sky and I devour space news.  I am a fan-grrl of SpaceX, Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell, ULA, Tory Bruno, the James Webb telescope, NASA and the ESA.  Jupiter is my favorite planet, and Juno is my favorite probe right now.

A friend at work introduced me to the ISS Detector mobile app.  I was so excited!  I signed up for the emailed NASA ISS alerts, but it’s not the same thing as tracking the ISS across the sky with an app in my hand.  So much more interactive and exciting!

So when the app notifies me for the first time that there is an ISS sighting within the next 5 minutes, I am so excited!  I grab my daughter, and we run outside to the early Summer dusk.  It starts pinging at me that the ISS is overhead.  A graphic half-sphere map shows up on my screen with a blinking dot.  I look up to the sky, look down at my phone.  I’m lost.  I just don’t get it.  Am I headed in the right direction?  How do I read this graphic that looks like a sky-map?  There’s an arrow, is it pointing north like a compass, or what?  I don’t see anything.  Both me and my daughter are disappointed.

Of course, a moment later, the dusk fades into night and stars actually start poking out.  I think it wasn’t dark enough for it to show up yet.  We go back into the house disappointed.

I am determined to figure out this UI.  I start playing around with it, pushing buttons, tilting my phone which makes a mysterious dot move up and down.  What does that mean?  Its not for another few days that I think about going into the help articles.  I didn’t know I needed to study before I could jump in and use the thing.

So, I know, I am not my user. But that bad experience is why I wanted the ISS Detector app to be my first stab at a UX re-design.

Getting Started

I have been using Milanote, a visual notebook web-based application, currently in its beta testing phase.


I set up a board just for the ISS Detector app redesign, and included sub-boards for the different phases in the redesign project.

Company Analysis

There was not a whole lot available on the company behind ISS Detector.  According to Google Play, the developer is listed as RunaR.


According to AppBrain, Runar is a lone applications developer from The Netherlands.  There is wild success with the free ISS Detector app with over 1 million downloads, but there is only just over 10 thousand downloads of the add-on application that only costs $1.99.  From this, I was guessing that the goal would be to convert more users to paying customers.

Some preliminary questions I asked myself:

  • What interests these users?
  • What would delight them?
  • What would lead them to purchase the additional filters?


My company analysis board is looking sparse, but I have made an educated guess that the goal of the company would be to convert users to paying customers by purchasing the additional filters available for ISS Detector.

My next blog will be on the competitive analysis I completed.  I was surprised by those results.  I am currently working on user research.  I find I don’t know as much about user research as I thought!


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