Living Local

Grant Winning Mobile App
Project Overview
What do you want to do tonight? 

I bet this is something you’ve asked yourself and others a thousand times and with todays available apps it can be overwhelming trying to decide. That’s why we created Living Local
My Contributions
Design & Strategy
Business Development

Gannett Innovation Team Members:
Samantha McCully
Jenny Walker
Gina Ghigletti
Tom Chaffin
What is Living Local?

Living Local was an app that used smart algorithms based on user preferences and behavior to deliver exceptional experiences locally in a “take the guess work out for me” format. I chose to showcase this app as it was my introduction to design and strategy.

How did Living Local become a grant winning app?

Gannett, publisher for USA Today, controlled our local advertising magazine, Clipper Magazine, and challenged it’s employees nationwide to participate in building products around pre-determined subject matter, this time HYPERLOCAL. We established a specialized team and delivered a pitch. Our app idea that helped people find things to do in their town or town they were visiting originally called AroundTown.

The Gannett Innovation team then would pick 10 teams and award them $25K to develop the idea further with the Gannett Innovation team guiding each team through a 4 month process ending in all selected teams to pitch the idea to Gannett executives for a chance to add another $100K to keep developing the project and take it to market.


From concept to completion, Living Local went through many different looks and features. The original concept centered around engaging with local and visiting audiences alike by offering them a video tour of what’s happening in your city. Get a look inside the heart of a town by taking a tour of its best kept restaurants, unique business, markets and more. Beyond retail and dining, we incorporate the best local attractions to help you find live music, fairs and festivals, charity events and beyond.

First Iteration

Second Iteration

TAKEAWAY: While these iterations were helpful to the final design, I look back at them and realized we would have been better to find one, maybe two features to build upon. These mockups are busy and don’t allow for the user to follow and interact in a way that is natural. We could have done better with visual hierarchy as well to better find that solution for the user.

Essentially, we wanted users to be able to get a real-time look inside the heart of a town. Some features included taking a tour of the best kept restaurants, unique business, markets and more. Beyond retail and dining, we also incorporated the best local attractions to help find live music, fairs and festivals, charity events and beyond.

Through these different features, we wanted to allow the user to gain a local perspective on the environment through check-ins, video, social sharing, geolocation, user recommendations, and pictures.

During this conceptualizing phase, we found that having too many features made it harder for users to narrow down what they were looking for.
After interacting again, we spent 2 days with the Gannett Innovation team and our coach to refine the idea in a “product jam.”

A “Product Jam”, as the Gannett Innovation team called it, is where they invited all grant recipients to travel to Gannett HQ to work with their assigned coaches and work through the project using design thinking techniques, mini sprint sessions and critique groups.

Refining the Idea

After the “product jam”, we refocused on the products core benefits to model the experience on the user needs. How could we deliver a HYPER local experience? We quickly realized we needed some questions answered first through some discovery work.

Our discovery work was focused on answering the following questions:

What apps are users currently engaged with on a daily basis?

What do users like most about those apps?

What app do they use to find local information?

If they created an app of their town, what were the top 3 things they might use it for?

How might a map be used in the app? How would they rank its importance?

What level of trust do users have with recommendations and reviews on Yelp and Urbanspoon?

Would the user be more likely to check in at a location if they earned reward points to use within the app?


Users swap between a number of apps to find what they are looking for in their location. Facebook, Google, OpenTable, Yelp were mentioned most. Users reported that these apps informed them, but felt they were not specific to them.

When prompted what they might do if they were given the opportunity to create an app for this use case, most reported a filter would be useful. They also thought a map would be helpful to find different places either at home or on a trip. The users were split on customer reviews with some saying they would like to find out for themselves rather than a stranger.

70% said they would use the location check in feature to receive reward points in the app to use at local businesses.

The Last Stop

To find users who fit our target market, we looked for people who frequently used Open Table and Foursquare. We evaluated their current models of finding information through these workflows and identified gaps and needs to make an entirely new way of filling the users needs.

To make the app an enjoyable adventure and really engaging experience we:

1. Utilized a recommendation engine, similar to the music provider Pandora, to feed the app information based on the user’s preferences.

2. Incorporated the use of iBeacons that would populate relevant information to the user in real time. iBeacons are small, bluetooth devices that could be installed at local businesses and work directly with the app.  Giving businesses the ability to connect to users by location proximity. This allowed businesses the opportunity to offer a special discount or promotion at the time of delivery.

Both of these solutions took the guess work out of a night out, a day trip, or where to get together with friends for the users.

Use Case

-User came into the app and picked a theme based on what they wanted to do.
-User picked “romantic” evening. This could be dinner, dancing, and/or live music.
-The app would then provide three categories that fall under “romantic.” Businesses were     presented to the user through the UI.
-Users would be given the option to give a "thumbs up, or down" so that the smart algorithm could populate options that were tailored to the user's preferences.

Below is our actual pitch to the Gannett Executives. This was such a great (and nerve-racking) experience. I couldn’t have done it without my team. I will love these people because of this experience forever. Thank you Sam (our leader), Jenny (our lead designer), and Gina (our sales guru) for your love and care of Living Local.

Side note: The video, which we had technical difficulty showing at first, was something I took the lead in producing and directing. Thanks to my good friend John who provided the soundtrack.

Thoughts and Takeaways

Being part of this experience showed me that user experience is the field I want to commit the rest of my career to. I learned invaluable skills, what I love to do and be a part of. The collaboration, teamwork and positive impact I could make on the world changed me. The continuous learning in this field made me grow as a person and I look forward to not only learning more about each project I’m involved in, but more about myself in the process. It’s with a humble mind that I will fail only to succeed.