Ruoxue (Astra) Zhang

UX & Interaction Designer

Wildfire Lookout

Jan 2019 - May 2019

Academic project 

An app for residents in wildfire hazard areas accessing up-to-date fire data and evacuation plans 

Click here to open interactive prototype

My Major Contributions:

  • Designed low/high fidelity & interactive mockups;

  • Designed promotional website and poster

  • Made promotional video

  • Iterated on designs based on feedback;

  • Led usability tests and evaluation sessions.


Team: Ruoxue Zhang, Mariam Moattari, James Heaton, Henri Smulders, Noah Sutter

UX Design Process


Our problem space rose from an interview between a teammate and a resident lived in California.

Problem Space

Wildfires are becoming more prevalent especially in California, and evacuation actions become very common. We want to provide a platform for residents living in these areas to access up-to-date wildfires data and evacuation plans and easy-to-understand information.


To understand the problem better and learn about the context, we conducted several research activities.

Research Activities

Documents Study

  • Study articles and online resources about CA wildfires.


  • 3 Interviews with CA residents;

  • 1 Interview with Napa County fire department captain.

Domain Research

  • Learn about the related services;

  • Compare and analyze 3 competitors.


After understanding the problem and the context, I summarizes our target users to personas and generated 3 use cases. My teammate came up with the system architecture.

3 Personas

3 Alternatives

Approach 1

Non-digital solution​


The first solution is simply asking a person to run down every street in the community, and shouting out information of wildfires. People may stop the person and ask for more details.

Approach 2

Digital solution with sensors


Creating a sensor grid that could be distributed throughout California to identify fires in real time and having an alarm in each home to notify people.

Approach 3

Digital solution (app)​


An app on iOS and Android that provides many layers of fire data overlaid on a map as well as notifications or texts when fire conditions change, and user reported data to supplement data available publicly.

Decision: We evaluated pros and corns of the three alternatives, and we found out Approach 3 was the best one for our case, since it's a relatively low cost and effective way of circulating information - people only need to download the app to learn about the wildfire data. The app also provides a platform to connect people with similar concerns.

3 Use Cases

System Architecture


I made wireframes and got feedback from users. Then, after modifying the design ideas, I made the high fidelity prototype and interactive one.


High Fidelity Prototype

Interactive Prototype


During the prototyping phase, I made two learning prototypes to prove the concepts and design solutions.

Usability Tests

Usability Test For Learning Prototype 1 

Fire Map Feature


Questions to be answered:

  • Is the way displaying fire info on the map intuitive?

  • What is the best balance between displaying information and minimizing data usage?

Design pivot:

Users wanted to see more than one type of information. Icons need to be differentiable and at the same time, familiar to users.

Fire Point


Regular Map


Alert Point Marker

Usability Test For Learning Prototype 2

Alert Feature


Questions to be answered:

  • Do users feel secure after setting up the alert feature?

  • What information does users expect to get after receiving an alert?

Design pivot:

The former alert feature was common pushing notifications for the direct users. However, based on the feedback, we shifted our focus to set up alerts for the direct users as well as secondary users.

​Common Notification Center

Alert For Both 1st & 2nd Users


After several rounds of prototyping and evaluations, developers in our team implemented the interfaces on both IOS and Android platforms.


Android Studio


Python Server

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