Proximity, a location based, privacy first, social network.

  • Wenzel Massag

Proximity is a university project. It is a privacy-first social network designed to connect people, local businesses, and the city. The app concept provides a fourth dimension, a meta-layer for our world, but does so with an elementary medium: a map on your phone. You can discover groups of friends (crowds) around you, browse digital storefronts, and see information for areas marked by your municipality.

Proximity addresses the experience-gap a business or city official may encounter when trying to connect with a local or tourist, and the experience-gap, a local or a tourist may experience when searching for information about their surroundings. Cities need to communicate information to their local population, often limited to a district or a street; sometimes, they also need to disseminate real-time updates to tourists and communicate maintenance works for the subway system. Besides these needs, local businesses often fail to advertise to the local population in a digital format – or even just in letting them know they exist.

I was inspired to start this project when a city official visiting our university said: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach and motivate young people!". This sentence was part of a more extensive rant she let loose after watching a presentation about a redesigned city council website. She made it clear the city and other smaller cities lacked the budget and know-how to build solutions to connect with their local population.

To get started with this project, I surveyed both users and local businesses online and in-person to identify key needs I could address in an app.
The spread above shows three screens, from left to right: map, explore, and update. These are the three items in the navigation on the bottom of the screen.

The Map provides an overview with local information. I identified the need for a city to mark areas on a map and attach information to them. Marked areas can provide information for construction projects, announce events, and notify locals living in a specified area. The left screen shows a geo-fenced area on the map for which the city has uploaded information and announced a panel discussion for a construction site.

Other features of the app are digital shop windows, chat-groups pinned to a GPS location, and the ability to detect a crowd of people forming. As privacy is essential, all location-based features for private users are opt-in and limited to a user's contacts or invited members of a group.

The Explore tab shows local businesses sorted by distance. On this screen, the first item is an advertisement, as the app needs to make money somehow. Below are differently sized squares showing the hero image, name, and distance of each business or point of interest. The further you scroll down, the greater the distance. To open the business' page, you tap on the square. This page can be a standard layout with essential information or a digital shop window managed by the shop.

The Updates tab summarises changes to the map and lists your chats. Notifications are listed here if you ignore them while scrolling the map or browsing the Explore tab.
I loved how this project required skills from UX research, to MVP scoping, to UX design such as wireframing and icon design and UI design. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this project – a long form documentation is available as printable PDF in German.