The Go Climbing Project: Research

I find this ‘ideas’ process really tricky, always have, it is so hard to sit down and just ‘think up’ a valid enquiry that will create inroads in to solving the big bad real issues of today. It’s hard to justify a simple enquiry also; plenty of everyday problems already have an app or website that tackles the issue elegantly.  After several hours of head scratching I kept reflecting on a piece of advice that was given to us in class: as a maker with choice, choose something you like. Since I was going indoor rock climbing Friday evening,  I started to think that perhaps there was a potential pocket of climbing problems that some ‘users’ face. My initial thought was:

  • I find it hard to work out personal progress if I visit more than one climbing centre, the routes are made by different people even though they follow similar grading patterns.

I  nervously tested the above idea off a bemused member of staff at the gym.  I asked whether there was a universal system for grading climbing routes, as this seemed like an easy opening question: yup the V’s however he quickly volunteered his opinion that over grading can put people off and stops rock climbing being fun.  So I was back to square one.  I did some more (this time metaphorical) head scratching during a few climbs.  I wasn’t ready to let this one drop!


climbing joke


Some other issues I came up with:
  • No outdoor climbing friends
  • Not sure where to go climbing outdoors
  • Not sure about outdoor climbing rules/ regulations
  • Not sure what the best climbing clubs are, or if it is worth joining one

I mustered the courage and went to talk to Mr Bemused again.  Luckily his colleague seemed to understand what I was getting at a bit better, he volunteered an opinion that there is a definitely lack of organised and accessible outdoor climbing groups, an app/ website to support this would be real cool!  His opinon was that climbing forums like UKC are full of trolls which can make them annoying to use at times.  I recorded his responses to a few basic questions that I could think up off the top of my head.  He pointed out that boxing forums were much more useful for some reason.

I was also able to record a chat that I had with a fellow Arch goer 10 minutes later.  I was painfully aware that I needed to collect my thoughts some more and follow up the online materials that had just been shared with me however I was keen to validate my enquiry and get something started, perhaps to my detriment.  In retrospect I definitely needed to have at least written a discussion/ topic guide before conducting any further interviews.  As I wasn’t sure which ‘bit’ of climbing I wanted to investigate.  None the less he helped explain some issues he has had climbing in big groups.  Shockingly :

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of 10 people that didn’t go wrong.  Severe disagreements often lead to friendships breaking down.

He offered a few solutions to this problem.  Such as making sure that a climbing group always have the same agenda for a day spent outdoors.  He also admitted that if he didn’t like a group decision he would just go off to wild camp and climb for a few days on his own. He was definitely the adventurous sort choosing to get around by hitching in places like Spain to save money and keep flexibility.  I imagine that these slightly more intrepid choices are not options for most people who would either just ‘suck it up’ and be unsatisfied. Or, voice their opinion which could result in arguments, either way this could easily put them off climbing in the future which I think is a real shame.  Perhaps this problem could be nipped in the bud at an earlier stage somehow?

I interviewed a further 8 people and I tried to focus on the ‘pre-climb’ area, tactics included hanging out with climbers at the Arch and asking to interview them after chatting/ working on a route for a bit, this proved quite time consuming but it did mean that the people I spoke with were comfortable with me and often volunteered information before I had even asked a question, it was also really fun, if exhausting!  I also asked an existing climbing friend some key questions over a pint, he again volunteered some interesting insights about his experiences and observations.  To save time and to try and gather data over a more standardised set of questions I spammed as many friends that were interested in the idea or had been climbing on facebook messenger.  This method proved really useful as I was able to quickly write down key responses on posit notes to see how they compared person to person.  On the whole I was pretty upfront about why I was asking such bizzar questions, however I forgot in one instance and have since heard that she was really confused about what I was doing even though she was so helpful and willing to speak with me, so a lesson there!

I recorded all responses on post-it notes and grouped key components per interview in to:  Places, Motivations, Needs, ‘how often’ and pulled out key quotes and potential ‘insights’ (something Paddy Long mentioned as useful in his workshop).  It looked a bit like this:

2015-05-13 11.20.444

I then had a stab at affinity mapping because I was getting confused trying to hold everything in my head at once.  Satisfyingly a sense of order stated to take shape, I stated to organise the post-its in to ‘routes in’, ‘motivations’, ‘issues’ and ‘current solutions’.  Two extreme groups began to appear, the ‘beginners’ and the ‘experienced’.  Both groups shared a few of the same ‘issues’ a big insight being social anxiety.  Both groups also shared nearly all of the same ‘motivations’, however the ‘experienced’ group had a few extra ‘motivations’ that the beginner group did not.

beginners affinity

It is clear to see that the many motivations to climb currently outweigh the quantity of issues, however the routes in are quite small, a big insight is that it is really hard to get in to climbing properly unless you have a friend or a family member willing to mentor you one on one which is quite rare.  The issues for beginners can be grouped in to these topics:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Motivation
  • Knowledge
  • Transport
  • Social Circle

Issues for current solutions, i.e. clubs, courses, ‘mentorship’, facebook/forums, self learning. Follow the same categorisation as the more general issues above.  Biggest weight falling on ‘knowledge’, ‘social circle’ and ‘motivation’.

The ‘extra’ issues for experienced climbers include, I have put in brackets their broad categories:

  • Not being able to be independent (social circle, transport, money)
  • Not being able to climb last minute (social circle, transport, money)
  • Not having peace and quiet when completing goals (transport, money, ‘beginners’)
  • Loosing climbing fitness (time)

However for now I am going to just focus on the beginner group.  Specifically the issues categorised by ‘social circle’ and ‘knowledge’ as there were the most post-its for these categories, my big insights about shyness and ‘routes in’ also fall in to these categories, however I believe that the act of climbing its self can help with social anxiety as it is such a collaborative non competitive activity.

There for my problem statement reads:

I have lived in London for most of my life and I would like to become a confident enough to rock climb outside, I think with a bit of practice that I could be good at it.  However, I am scared of making mistakes and looking stupid/ injuring myself on real rocks as I know it can be really dangerous, I also don’t want to ‘get in the way’.

Nobody in my immediate social circle is experienced enough to introduce me to it properly or give me tips about places to go.  I have considered joining a club but find the idea a bit intimidating.  I am aware that there is a lot of information online, but I find this a bit overwhelming, I know that I learn best ‘doing’ something at my own pace.

After re-visiting my notes on interview techniques and persona creation.  I decided that I need to revisit my beginner interviewees to decide how many different personas there were.  I created a fresh capture sheets with this in mind so that I could more easily compare the new key areas from each interview.  It was satisfying to design! I can see that with more experience I will be able to jump to this stage straight away rather than the more time consuming process of ‘refinement’ that I have followed on this project so far.  I also narrowed down my topic guide as I had been asking too may questions before but hadn’t perhaps been going in to enough depth.  All lessons to be learnt!

2015-05-19 08.20.47 HDR


3 thoughts on “The Go Climbing Project: Research

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