Parents Nearby

Mobile apps on Android and iOS

Parents Nearby is the first app to connect you to like-minded parents living nearby. It launched globally in 2014, starting with NYC and London.

The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” formed the core vision for the app by helping working parents find communal support in bringing up kids in an urban setting. The brief was to help them identify and connect with other parents near them, who share their professional and personal interests.

I worked on this project as a freelance UX designer for Nimble Mobile, the agency building the apps for the startup.

I was asked to expand the concept brief into features and and UX design for iOS and Android apps.

With the location emphasis in the brief, I honed in on contextual search as the core feature of the app. User profiles would provide additional detail for the search algorithm so it was important to hook into user’s social networks for maximum information.

At the same time parents also needed an ability to connect and communicate with other parents for which chat seemed ideal.

With no precedence or existing users, we worked with the client to define some proto personas spanning children ages from those due up to teenagers.

Parents with newborns and toddlers are likely be the most isolated – they’re unable to work and don’t get around to meet other parents through school groups. They’re also likely to be struggling with time and emotional stress. Along with expectant mothers, we felt these parents would be the core users of the app.

I therefore aimed for a simple, utilitarian experience, focussing on four primary features:

  • Discovery of similar parents
  • Communicate with parents
  • Build profile to enhance results
  • Privacy for safe profile sharing

In a sense this was shaping up to be similar to Tinder—without its inherent creepiness.

I grouped the various features and functions around the Profile, Search and Chat, making them the navigational lynchpins holding it all together.

The critical path for the user was to search, browse suggested parents and immediately start chatting with them.

Meanwhile granular profile details were hidden away to make the user’s profile elegantly presentable for viewing during a chat.

High-fidelity wireframes allowed me to reuse them in the prototype later, shown here as card-based search results with a supporting map.

To provide privacy, I added the ability to hide elements from the public profile so the user can control disclosure of details to other parents.

Amongst the growing chat platforms, this app differentiates itself by offering gradual disclosure to safely connect with new people.

“Eventually, every mobile app becomes a chat app.”
— John Lilly, Greylock Partners

The location-based discovery in the app was an interesting exercise in balancing transparency against user privacy, and providing a safe place to share sensitive yet useful information. Building communication inside the app felt like a natural extension to the discovery and enhanced the usefulness of potential results. It will hopefully also help build community as the network scales with additional features like group chat being introduced later.

Before development, we field tested a detailed prototype to ensure it kept to the original simplicity and ease of use. This was extremely useful in working out kinks before starting development. Since its launch, the app has been steadily growing by word of mouth, keeping the rollout focussed around dense urban areas to continue providing parents with local and relevant results. The app has also won a MOMA award for ‘Best use of Location Services’ beating out Dewar’s, Nike and Ordnance Survey.

DELIVERABLES

  • Personas
  • Wireframes
  • Prototype
  • Usability testing
  • Functional specifications