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Tech Open Air - Bringing people together through an event app 







Attendees of the festival need to be able to make their own schedule in order to feel in control of the experience.

The last in person edition of the festival was back in 2019, this affected their usual budget, so they were planning on saving paper by letting people have the program in their app. This also affected the 'community' aspect of the event and they wanted to reinforce networking for this year by introducing a 'matching' function, similar to that of a dating app where you matched with other profiles that you were interested in.



We integrated a scheduling function in the prototype that would allow people to organise their day. It also let's people set reminders before an event and know if they saved colliding events.


We created TOA Connect, a feature that shows you people of different profiles (investors, start-up owners...) depending on the tags you choose. You can swipe to send an invitation to connect, if they accept, they will be stored in your contacts page.


In order to differentiate this functionality from dating apps, we changed the direction of the swipe from right to up. You are also able to book meetings, chat with people and search others by name or by scanning other attendees digital IDs (a QR code in the homepage). 


The initial briefing from the client was to create a Tinder like feature in which you would swipe right or left to match with other attendees. Despite it being an original/fun idea, we learned that there could be room for abuse, especially for women.

The swipe right/left has an underlying connotation of Tinder (hook-ups). We received feedback during the interviews that people found this problematic.

Tech Open Air was born in Berlin in 2012 from the desire to bridge technology and community through a different kind of event. They take pride in the fact that they are a community based festival with the artsy Berlin vibes.

The concept has attracted thousands of people from all around the world and the festival has continued to grow stronger through the years. Unfortunately, the last -in person- edition of the festival took place in 2019 and they haven’t been able to organise a new edition due to the pandemic. However, they are preparing to make a comeback this summer of 2023 and they want the community to grow stronger.

The challenge

When we talked with their team members, they expressed that they wanted to encourage networking by implementing a Tinder-like feature that matches attendees with other attendees, depending on what they’re looking for/are interested in. On the other hand, they also wanted to incorporate a scheduling function to allow people to have a customised experience and more sponsor digital presence since they were going paper-free for this new edition.


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We analysed other tech festivals around the world in order to study their way of presenting themselves, visuals and event applications to do some benchmarking. Our main references were SXSWBits&Pretzels and 
Web Summit Lisbon, some of them gathering audiences of up until 70 thousand people per edition.

Now, we had to ask ourselves how to provide a complete

experience and how differentiate themselves from the rest.

Tech Open Air takes pride in their sense of community and collaboration, in fact, they were the first ever crowdfunded festival and with collaboration only they have managed to bring together 78 thousand attendees since 2012, more than 950 speakers and appeal to the younger audiences, the average age of the attendees in the last edition was from 25 to 35 according statistics, and the profiles are equally distributed between startups, corporate workers, investors, creatives, etc.


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We filtered our findings on what users need, see, feel, say, think and do. Now, at this point, we know that users place great importance in the program, knowing who is speaking at conferences, how to filter events, etc.

However, one of the key takeaways of the interviews was finding out that some people, particularly women, feared that the networking feature (being so similar to how dating apps work), might lead to abuse and misuse.


"Info about the program and speakers. As much information there as possible." / “Find the right tag to your interests"


"On the conference badge there was a QR Code where you could get the contact details of someone"


“Getting to know people in advance allows me to evaluate the relationships prior to coming in”


"She prefers to fill all information at least one week before the event, her preferences, etc."


 I’d feel more safe to engage if it was specified that this is specifically for exploring professional environments”  (about the matching functionality)


"Swiping might lead to abuse - people might use the app for hookups"

We interviewed 7 subjects who had experience in events related to technology, whether it’s been as attendees, organisers or speakers. These interviews shed clarity on what people would value the most in an event app of this kind. For example: having their own schedule at hand, setting reminders for the events and being able to book meetings with other attendees. On the other hand, we made a really interesting discovery on the client's idea for the networking feature.



Meet Dynamic Dominic, we created him to be able to think like an actual user may think. He’s a startup founder whose goals are to meet other attendees and better yet, other startup founders like him, in order to expand his network and learn from his peers, maybe even find a business opportunity or an interested investor. But how would he navigate this potential connections and opportunities? Many things could happen such as lack of communication, orientation and planning.

What you’ll see next is the user journey we created for him:

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The journey starts with him feeling excited about buying his ticket, he knows he could find big opportunities by attending an event like this, but it starts going downhill when he finds blockers related to orientation, information and timing*, all three could be taken as opportunities.

*One of the key opportunities that we wanted to remark is related to the new networking feature, people should have an established timeframe after the event to continue gathering information about other attendees they matched with, in order to continue networking outside of the app. on the other hand, people should also be notified with time when the event app will stop working.

TOA 2023 attendees need to find a way to be able to tailor their agendas and networking opportunities to their preferences because they have different goals and it is difficult to achieve them without help.


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What do we have to have? enough features to let people be informed on how the new networking and scheduling feature works, sections dedicated to the sponsors and speakers, personal profile and easily accessible digital ID, filter tags, the possibility to message other attendees and set reminders for yourself.

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  • ​​Setting up preferences from the onboarding with different tags as well as the possibility to choose the profile of the attendee (e.g. attendee, investor, founder etc.).

  • Connect profile with LinkedIn + digital ID (QR code) that people can scan in order to take them to other attendees’ profiles.

  • Interactive schedule with the option to filter by tags and to save your favorite sessions into a “My Schedule Page”.

  • TOA Connect, a feature with functions similar to dating apps, through which attendees can safely meet other attendees based on their profile and interests.

  • Interactive Ads with sponsor pages that show you the people that are present from the respective company.



Our site map contains a navigation bar with options to go to the homepage, program page, networking page and private messages and a hamburger menu where you could access your profile, satellite events page, speakers and sponsors page, privacy settings, a pdf downloadable of the floor plan and a hyperlink to the website (most of our interviewees expressed that they usually opted for downloading the map of the festival in their phones for easy accessibility) and the preference of having a link to the website just in case the app presented technical difficulties.

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Having worked through the information architecture and feature prioritisation, we started to sketch out our ideas for the app:

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This was enough to allow us to do some testing and learn what people thought about the concept. We asked people what they thought about an event app that would let them match with other attendees and have control on their schedule organisation:



✳ “I think the scheduling will be really useful.”

✳ Love the idea of the networking.”

✳ “I want to go to an event that has this app.”

✳ She likes all the features, finds it useful “I always get lost… I always lose so much time

✳ “It will be very helpful for people looking for investors and other networking people.”

✳ “You don’t want the creepy old men thinking they can flirt with women

✳ Swiping might lead to abusepeople might use the app for hookups (Tinder connotations)*

✳ There were some issues with the name of the sections
(e.g: inbox instead of messages)


✳ People expressed concern on what would happen if there were 2 colliding events in the schedule

✳ Some people were confused as to where to find their own schedule

👉 * By knowing this, we learned that we had to be really careful about how to handle this matching functionality and distance people from the underlying Tinder connotations.


After testing, we incorporated the feedback to our mid-fis. It included changes in the wording, position of elements, icons, and adjustments in some sections.

For example, we incorporated the bell icon in all session cards for people to click directly on to set an alarm. We also changed the word ‘Inbox’ for ‘Messages’ in the navigation bar because it was misleading for the users, as well as the private messages icon in the Networking page (TOA Connect), people weren’t sure about what it meant so we decided to remove it. We also decided to divide the scheduling page into 2 (All sessions and My schedule) for people to manage their events in one page.

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We also asked people to test out mid-fidelity wireframes for usability and these were the key insights:



✳ It’s really helpful” She knows where to go to add the session to her schedule (she noticed it right away).

✳ I didn’t have a lot of experience before with events app, but they are usually quite boring. Never really as engaging as the one you just showed me.

✳ Homepage feels like her profile page — everything is personalised towards her.

✳ “I’m under the impression that this is a bit unclear.” (about the onboarding explanation for the networking feature)

✳ Make it more clear that you have two options there.” (Networking page)

✳ She would proceed with horizontal scrolling after swiping up

✳ Doesn’t like the idea of scrolling down and losing a potential contact forever*

👉 * For the networking feature, we initially ideated that people would scroll horizontally through the profiles, swipe up to send an invitation to connect and swipe down to skip the contact forever (as opposed to swiping left and right like in Tinder to distance ourselves from the “hook up” connotation.


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In order to jump into the high-fidelity wireframes, we needed to analyse the competition first. We gathered that some of the tech festivals presented themselves in a more corporate manner (with dim colors and corporate illustrations, like the Web Summit Lisbon) and others like SXSW were more “out of the box” in the use of color and graphic elements. Bits&Pretzels appeared to be somewhere in the middle, with a bright yellow in contrast with black and big bold call to actions.

The look and feel for this year’s event had already been established by TOA Berlin. They had the colors, typography and icons but, they just had a sketch of the hero section for the new desktop homepage and no brand guidelines or anything else in place. That’s why we condensed everything into a style tile.

What they provided:

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Our style tile

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After gathering all of the above, (usability feedback, visual competitive analysis and visual elements) we were able to implement everything into our hi-fis. Here’s a quick video demonstration of the flow:



Last step of the process was to test for desirability (to see whether the interface is appealing enough for users).

Here are some of the key insights we gathered:


“Feels young, fresh and original”

“It doesn’t look like other apps”

“I love the retro look”

“It’s visual and interactive”

“It’s dynamic, intuitive and modern”

“It has a retro and fun vibe”


For this project, we learned that:

  • Even good ideas need to be approached with caution (e.g.: the Tinder like feature).

  • You definitely cannot build an entire event app with networking and scheduling functionalities in two weeks (but you can build an MVP version of it ;) ).

  • A good flow of communication with the stakeholder is crucial.

  • You have to give yourself the space to fail and try.

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