eXpoReality (XR) is an augmented reality (AR) app played by attendees at trade shows that increases engagement with exhibitors. It’s a digital treasure hunt where players go to participating booths to look for targets and collect 3D treasures they find from pointing at the targets. This was a new product that had been used for only a few demos and the full exhibitor website hadn’t been built out yet. Over the course of three weeks, my teammate and I examined the exhibitor-facing website and worked to improve the onboarding flow and the exhibitor dashboard to guide users through the exhibiting process.

I. Explore 

There were several buckets of users for XR, all with different roles and touchpoints. Attendees play the game to win a raffle prize, while the exhibitors use it to get more engagement and leads at their booths. Sponsors and hosts are in charge of selling the game and communicating with exhibitors about the details of the game. During our kick-off meeting, our clients walked us through a demo and showed us the current exhibitor website. Immediately, I noticed there was a lot of text, and the language was confusing. There were phrases that first-time users might not be aware of such as “augmented reality” and “3D token.” The most problematic part was that the landing site didn’t clearly state how eXpoReality helped the exhibitor.

XR product
This is a sample webpage where exhibitors would sign up to use eXpoReality at a trade show. The page describes the logistics but does not explain the value to the exhibitor.

eXpoReality identified their product as “an augmented reality mobile application that replaces the traditional expo passport game.” The passport game, played to increase engagement with exhibitors, asks attendees to go around to participating booths and get stamps. Once they have all stamps, they turn the passport booklets in to be entered into a raffle for a prize. Because this was a common game played at trade shows, the XR team transferred the language used for the passport game onto the XR product. XR terminology included:

passport: list of items that players had to capture
3D stamp:3D item players had to capture (by tapping on the screen) at different participating booths trigger: item at which players needed to point their camera to reveal the 3D stamp
Our clients recognized there was friction when exhibitors used the website. They wanted the focus of the project to be the main onboarding flow and learning about what data exhibitors wanted. To evaluate the existing product, I completed a heuristic evaluation of the existing sign-up flow for exhibitors on eXpoReality. Overall, it was difficult to gather what this product was about and who would use them and what value it brought to the user.

+ The instructions for setting up the game was confusing to follow. There was also no support available that users could contact for help.

1. Side navigation options:  The side navigation options were not built out yet. The distinctions between the Dashboard, Expos, Attendees, and Account were not clear.

2. Language: Terminology used to explain the game was difficult to understand. The following terms and phrases were unfamiliar: “Creating your token,” “Passport card,” “Trigger,” and “FBX file.”

3. Image placeholders: The placeholders took up a lot of space on the screen, and they were difficult to understand. The guidelines for image uploads were not communicated effectively. This page also didn’t explain where the images ended up and how they helped the exhibitor. 

4. Token instructions: The term “token” was difficult to understand, especially when it was mixed in with other unfamiliar words and phrases. The two options for uploading an unfamiliar file type (FBX file) complicated the process. XR assumed that users had an FBX file. Also, the extra cost for a token model request could pose a barrier for users to finish the signup process.

5. Call-to-action buttons: It was unclear which call-to-action button was the primary CTA, especially with the two “Clear selection” CTAs above. It was difficult to know if “Confirm and pay” would also save the token and if “Save token” would give the option to pay another time.

II. Learn

For our interviews, we wanted to learn about exhibitors’ needs and frustrations as well as conduct usability testing to get a better idea of how to improve eXpoReality. We also wanted to know what data exhibitors sought to get from attendees. So we spoke with exhibitors, attendees, and expo hosts.

We completed an affinity diagram to organize our data points and learned more about exhibitors.
We saw that the biggest challenge for an exhibitor was getting people to engage for the right reasons.

We learned from our interviews that the eXpoReality product was not aligned with exhibitor needs, both in its utility and the delivery of the value proposition. Exhibitors were used to but frustrated by people stopping by their booth just for the swag—they had goals of getting more leads and increasing sales or talking to potential investors. However, due to the overwhelming nature of trade shows, it was difficult to make these meaningful engagements. A couple of our interviewees, both familiar with expo culture and logistics, commented:

“Connecting with the right people is difficult; we normally exchange business cards and write notes on the back to continue the engagement beyond the expo.”
— Roxy, Director of Operations, ISTC
“The first thing I see [on the exhibitor landing website] is how much it’s going to cost me; instead of the value prop being highlighted, it’s the price. It’s about them and not about me.”
— Joe, CEO & Co-founder of Savvo Digital Sommelier Solutions

The value and priority of eXpoReality were missing from its website. We looked at other competitors that promised similar benefits—Eventbase provided exhibitors ways to increase engagement with their attendees, while Socialpoint offered specific games for exhibitors to use. We learned most expos and trade shows have an event app they already used, like Bizzabo, which allows exhibitors to see other attendees and potential leads and personal information.

We saw that the current state of eXpoReality was limited in providing value to exhibitors, so we explored other opportunities and directions, such as incorporating XR into an existing app or evolving the XR game. We tried to understand exhibitors who weren’t necessarily aware of XR and to see if the product could be molded to fit their most pressing need of having meaningful engagements. Essentially, we wanted to know if there was room for XR to change. However, when presented with our ideas, our clients were unwilling to change the existing product.

Using the Bizzabo app, users can look up information on other attendees.

They also revealed that their users were exhibitors already committed to using the product, which didn’t align with who we needed to design for. I felt we connected with the wrong people so our data might not be as useful. But, with our foundation still in research, we rethought the scope of our project and our problem statement:

First-time exhibitors need a way to learn how eXpoReality works in order to better direct their efforts and resources so they can create meaningful relationships and further maximize the value they get from trade shows.

We believed addressing the onboarding friction would also address the greater exhibitor need for meaningful engagements. The exhibitor desires and needs we found became our guidelines to ensure that we kept our user in mind for the rest of the design process.

Show me where I am.

“ I want to know where I am in the process, break things into steps and show me my progress.”

Exhibitors will have an easier time completing XR setup if they know where they are and can navigate their way through the process.  

Tell me what I need to know.

“ Trade shows can be an intense environment. Provide only relevant information to help me through the process.”

Exhibitors often have many logistics to worry about when they have to exhibit. This guideline will ensure users only see the important information they need to know.

Show me the value.

“ Tell me what and why it matters, show me how I will benefit and what value is provided through the XR passport game.”

Users had limited time and resources so they needed to see the value of the product and its features to buy into it. We had to clearly communicate the value upfront.
We realized there was more to the onboarding flow than just setting up the XR game. The communication of XR value and attracting exhibitors began way earlier in the process—specifically with the initial email to sponsors from eXpoReality. Onboarding onto the product also meant onboarding onto expo culture, expo best practices, and customer engagement. Exhibitors, especially first-time exhibitors, wanted to be handheld throughout this whole process. 

III. Concepts

We narrowed our scope to the game setup onboarding flow, specifically language and visual styling. We also experimented with the dashboard and data sections. The new scope led us to the following concepts that fell into four categories:


Popup concept
A modal prompted the user to the account page or to a walkthrough of the exhibitor website.

Account signup concept
The user created an account on a separate page on the website.
Exhibitor landing website

The website displayed the value of XR and made the product easy to understand.

Separate pages
Users set up the XR game through instructions and forms in steps on separate pages.

Continuous scroll
Users set up the XR game through instructions and forms on one page that scrolled.

Foot traffic graphs
Exhibitors saw the amount of foot traffic their booth received on the day of the expo.

ROI calculator
Users were presented with a tool to calculate ROI from using XR.

We tested the concepts with a mix of expo attendees and exhibitors to see their responses to the initial concepts and to gauge feasibility and desirability. One of the main things we wanted to learn was which concept users preferred when setting up the eXpoReality game: continuous scroll or separate pages.

01. Continuous scroll (my concept)

This concept was similar to the existing XR onboarding screen (see heuristic evaluation), but we tweaked it to make the language and layout more clear. Users still found this iteration unclear and hard to follow especially for Step 3: 3D-Stamp. The equal weight of both upload options confused users because it assumed most companies had 3D assets when they didn’t.
02. Separate pages (teammate’s concept)

Each step had its own page that presented information in smaller chunks, which allowed users to be focused on one task at a time. This concept performed better than the continuous scroll concept. Users liked how the steps were presented but wanted more handholding and support, such as examples of images they could upload.
Key takeaways
1. Users felt more prepared to use eXpoReality when it broke the process into steps and guided them through it.
Our concepts
  • Account sign-up
  • Separate steps
  • Continuous scroll
2. Screens should not add more work for the user.
  • Walkthrough popup
3. Users saw they made the right decision to be a part of the game when XR provided a value proposition at the beginning and created a sense of exclusivity and urgency.
  • Exhibitor landing website with clarified value and language
4. Others’ foot traffic data was useful, but users felt uncomfortable sharing their own.
  • Foot traffic graphs
5. The ROI calculator was not a feasible tool.
  • ROI calculator
Our takeaways helped us determine which concepts to explore and which concepts to toss. Users liked simple and guided steps without superfluous information or tasks, but we still needed to provide more handholding to users by making the language more approachable and clear. Users also wanted to see data that was feasible, realistic, and helpful. We made a list of all the screens and discussed how we could improve upon them, and I explored some additional features in another round of sketching, which led to the next iteration.

IV. Final design and testing

Our final product became an exhibitor-facing website with an onboarding process that educates exhibitors on the value and setup of the eXpoReality game through guided steps. Once exhibitors log into their account, the site displays valuable data so they can follow up on leads to create or keep track of meaningful engagements. We iterated on the onboarding pages and the exhibitor landing website to include more visuals and revised copy to make the content easier to understand. We workshopped the language and decided to follow the treasure hunt terminology.

XR terminology
Our recommended
List of items that players had to capture
3D stamp
3D treasure
The 3D item players had to capture (by tapping on the screen) at different participating booths
The item players had to point their camera to in order to reveal the 3D stamp

Onboarding pages
XR original steps

XR final recommended steps

The new terminology included landmark, target, and 3D treasure with definitions for each. There were images and previews of how the image would appear on the XR game. Toward the bottom of the page were clarifying answers as well as video clips.

Exhibitor landing website
The exhibitor landing page changed over the course of this project. I took XR’s original landing page and redesigned it to include value propositions and images:

Original landing page
The value wasn’t communicated, it was text-heavy,
and the language was unclear.

Concept landing page
Users liked that the value propositions were highlighted and explained. They said they felt more connected to the product when they saw how it benefitted them. However, users felt the page was still text-heavy.

For inspiration, I looked at other marketing landing pages and tried to incorporate simplicity, easy-to-read text lengths, and value proposition statements into my final design.

Muzzle’s landing page title used larger text, followed by a brief explanation. There was a clear call-to-action button that led quickly to the product. On the right, there were examples of embarrassing notifications which showed why muzzle was useful and valuable.

Webprofits had a noticeable message because of the size and placement of the text. There was also a clear call-to-action button emphasized by the contrast in color. In the lower part of the screen, users could clearly read how Webprofits benefitted them.

The review of these landing pages helped me arrive at my final iteration. I included a hero image with the most important value proposition and a call-to-action button. The other value propositions were simplified, and I added more images. This was the final recommended exhibitor landing site:

The rest of the page explained how XR worked from both the exhibitor and attendee sides,
displayed testimonials from past users, and listed details of the specific expo.

For usability testing, we tested two flows: the signup and setup process and dashboard exploration. 

This site map shows how our designs fit together. The expo hosts would send an email link to the exhibitor landing website to the exhibitor.
From there, the exhibitor can set up the XR game and access the dashboard.

We put screens in front of five users and got the following feedback: 

1. Language
Users understood the treasure hunt terminology (landmarks, target, 3D treasure). However, we couldn’t get a definitive preference between the passport game language and the treasure hunt language due to the small sample size.

2. Support
Although users were able to navigate through the steps, they wanted to see even more handholding, resources, and support.

3. Onboarding tools
Users wanted the process to be foolproof. They wanted examples of tweets, templates, and pre-made social media posts to use on their company’s feeds.

4. More functionality
Users also expressed a desire to use the eXpoReality app to scan badges of those who were not playing the game, so they could get data on other attendees.

Users wanted more guidance and more accessible resources. We also saw a desire for more relevant data and analytics. After talking to users, we made another list of improvements we could make based on our insights.

I decided to change the structure of the dashboard and data. Instead of separating information by type—checklist, foot traffic, leads—we gave each expo a homepage that included all data specific to that expo. The data was organized and easier to view, and users could get more meaningful insights from different data being presented together. 

Expo homepage
Expo information
Any information and logistics pertaining to the specific event

eXpoReality assets
Assets used at this expo

Expo to-do lists
Lists are organized in tab structures and are interactive

Foot traffic
Foot traffic information is available so users can track when their booth was busy. This could help exhibitors strategize for the next expo. Exhibitors can also compare their traffic with other booths that used XR; the average of the others’ is indicated by the dot above each bar.

Lead information
Exhibitors have access to attendees’ names and email address as well as when they interacted with the booth.

Foot traffic + leads
When the user clicks on a bar from the foot traffic graph, the attendees who interacted with the booth during that hour are highlighted below.

Our clients found our research findings and design recommendations valuable. They pointed out parts they wanted to integrate into their product. We handed over final deliverables including research notes, the final prototype, and annotated wireframes.

V. Future considerations

We recognized the different directions that this project could take, and we handed the following recommendations off to our client.

  1. Continue to test language and mental models to determine the best terminology to implement.

  2. Experiment with ways to handhold exhibitors through other steps in the exhibitor timeline.

  3. Continue to add support on every part of the XR website, such as relevant FAQs on each page.

  4. To further quantify the value of eXpoReality, find ways to help exhibitors calculate ROI.

“I like companies who give 
almost too much support.”
— Roxy, Director of Operations, ISTC

Improving the language will make the use of the product more seamless while the ROI calculation will address exhibitors’ desire to concretely see the value. Users will feel prepared and confident exhibiting at expos if they have more handholding and help from all points of the exhibitor timeline. Addressing these areas will allow eXpoReality to be an invaluable tool that will improve exhibitors’ experiences.

VI. Learning Opportunities

In the design process, I usually most enjoy research and synthesis. However, on this project, I spent a lot of time executing designs, and I fell in love with ideating, sketching, and wireframing. I tried out new ideas, and the feedback I got from my concepts, even if (and especially when) they were not successful, helped me iterate on my designs. I leaned on the users for feedback and made my designs better each round, and I was really proud of how my final designs came out.

I also learned how to communicate with clients. We regularly corresponded with the product manager, the business manager, and the head of marketing. Each member had a different perspective, and I learned how to work with them to address their individual concerns. And when we were not aligned with our clients, we found creative ways to bridge client and user needs.

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