Usability issues in hiking applications: how to improve user experience

Torresburriel Estudio
4 min readMay 1, 2024

Hiking apps such as Wikiloc, AllTrails, Strava and Outdooractive have become indispensable tools for nature lovers. They allow you to discover new routes, explore unknown trails and share experiences with other users. However, many of these applications have usability issues that can frustrate users and negatively affect their experience.

Photo by Erin O’Brien on Unsplash.

Usability issues to consider in mobile applications to share hiking routes

In this article, we will analyze some of the most common usability problems in hiking apps and offer practical tips to improve user experience.

For this, we can refer to some of Jakob Nielsen’s heuristic principles.

Error messages

The absence of clear and concise error messages can generate confusion and frustration among users. When a user encounters an error, they need to know what happened and how to fix it. Imagine finding yourself in the middle of a route and not being able to know why the map cannot be loaded correctly.

Be sure to include informative error messages that explain the cause of the problem and provide clear instructions on how to address it.

GPS inaccuracy

Additionally, inaccurate GPS can ruin any hiking app user’s experience. If the app does not display the user’s location accurately, the user can easily get lost or take an incorrect route, as well as the altitude can directly affect the user if the GPS used fails to give the coordinates, altitude or worse, give an incorrect route, when sharing your route with the community.

It is important to use reliable GPS technology and ensure that the application is updated regularly to maintain the accuracy of the location data.

Outdated maps

Outdated maps can be a big problem for hiking app users. If maps don’t display the latest information, users may encounter closed trails, inaccurately located signs, or even potential hazards.

Be sure to update your app’s maps regularly to ensure users have access to the most accurate information possible.

Source: Outdooractive App

Screen orientation

The ability to rotate the map horizontally is an essential feature for any hiking app. It allows users to better orient themselves in the terrain and easily follow the selected route.

If the application does not allow horizontal rotation, users will have to perform more actions than necessary during their hike to change the orientation of the map, which can make navigation difficult.

This will help users to modify and view maps more clearly when used for example on bike racks.

Lack of voice guidance

Voice guidance on maps can be a very useful feature for users who want to follow a route without having to constantly look at the mobile screen.

This feature can be especially useful for users who are hiking in difficult terrain or who need to have their hands free. Also, for users who are hiking and have a visual impairment.

Search filters

Search filters are essential for users to quickly find the routes they are looking for. If search filters are not flexible enough or do not work properly, users may become frustrated and abandon the application.

Offer a variety of search filters that allow users to find routes by various criteria, such as difficulty, distance, location, and points of interest.

Source: AllTrails App

App-community issues

Hiking apps such as those mentioned above rely on a community of users. If the community is not active or is difficult to use, users may lose interest in the application.

Make it easy to share their experiences, create new routes, and comment on others’ routes.

Overlooking aesthetics and user interface

An attractive and intuitive user interface (UI) can make the difference between the success and failure of an application.

Each operating system has specific elements, which users are used to seeing, it is necessary that the UI is according to each device and operating system.

The UI components must be displayed properly for all users of the application, so you must take into account text contrast, typographies, appropriate sizes of buttons and iconography.

Source: Wikiloc App

In brief, It is important to remember that usability is not only about functionality, but also about accessibility. Incorporating features that consider the needs of users with different abilities and physical conditions will allow everyone to enjoy the benefits of these tools and a positive user experience.

This is a translation of the following article from our corporate website:



Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance