Hey Roomie! — an app for busy roommates that helps in sharing tasks, organizing events and managing finances.

anuja.upadhye
Hey Roomie- an app for roommates

How it all started
The idea for this app came to me from my experience of living with roommates for over 6 years while I was studying my undergrad and grad. During that time no apps existed which would make communication easier. We would have to communicate with each other in person, that is whenever the other person was around. At times, I personally found that certain conversations such as sharing chores or managing finances can get awkward and I always wished that there was a better way of discussing things.

I enrolled for The UC San Diego Certificate in Interaction Design Specialization on Coursera in February 2016. After a rigorous journey of completing the first 7 courses, I managed to begin with the final and 8th course of the certification — The Interaction Design Capstone Project. This Capstone took us through the different phases of design in a span of 10 weeks. This experience was very enriching as it gave me an insight into what it takes to design an app.

In this post I will take you through each week and the progress made during those weeks.

Week 1 — Design Brief
Change is hard. Sometimes we lack information. Other times, our routines and habits are really persistent, even if we wish they weren’t. Can technology help people and communities change their behavior to meet their goals? Electronic devices (computers, phones, tablets…) can help by providing information. By reminding us. And by connecting us with others. Change might mean exercising more, eating healthier, helping make a more sustainable planet, or participating in local government. Or it might be becoming a better chess player, carving out time to read, or remembering to see the world from a new perspective. How can we recognize when change needs to occur and determine appropriate goals? What methods can be effective in triggering and maintaining change?

Based on this design brief I decided to come up with the problem statement - “How might we change the way roommates assign tasks/share chores, manage events and finances without making conversations too awkward”.

Week 2- Needfinding
To test my problem statement, I interviewed three college students who currently shared an apartment or a room with another person. I aimed to find out about what activities needed roommate approval and how they communicated those activities with each other. I had prepared a questionnaire that would help me uncover user needs and any additional information. During the interview I found out that roommates generally communicated shared activities through post-it notes, text messages or just talk, when needed. However, they did admitted that sometimes it was hard to get the other roommates to share the household chores or to plan an event together.
The findings from the interview helped me shape my idea better.

Week 3&4 - Ideation — Storyboards, Paper Prototypes, Wireframes and Interactive Prototypes
Storyboarding, in my opinion, is a very useful tool as it helps in defining use case scenarios. Once the storyboards were made, we were asked to create rough sketches of our app, then paper prototypes and ultimately interactive prototypes.

Paper Prototypes
Wireframes for the first iteration of the app

This exercise helped me in truly fleshing out the user experience for the app. I have to admit that it was quite hard than I had assumed it would be. I had to make sure that the interface was not too overcrowded, icons were recognizable and the app flow was intuitive and user friendly.

Week 5- Heuristics
With in-person/user evaluations and detailed heuristic evaluations with the help of my fellow Coursera IxD Specialization peers I was able to fine-tune the app, and make a better experience overall. One of the main learnings from this exercise was that it made me realize that the things that were obvious to me were not obvious to my peers. There were also certain functions that my peers were able to suggest that I hadn’t even thought about. This was important as it made me realize that:
1) one cannot assume that users will always understand what you are designing.
2) testing initial iterations can save you time and help fix problems in the very beginning

This exercise also gave me a taste of how heuristics are done and how important they are in making the app.

Week 6,7,8 & 9- It’s all about testing!

User Testing — users were asked to think aloud and explain what they saw on the screen and narrate what they understood.

After making changes to the app from the heuristic evaluation. The app was ready for it’s first testing. In this exercise we were to test the app with two users and observe them. While the heuristics evaluation helped in improving the app, there was still room for improvement. During this testing I found out that certain functions in the app fatigued the user mentally. I also found out that certain terms used in the app were very confusing to the user. This open my eyes to the fact that content editing comprises a good chunk of user experience.

In the second round of testing, we were asked to pick a certain feature of the app and use it for A/B testing on usertesting.com . I redesigned the importing contacts experience for the app and successfully found out that importing contacts to make a guest list for an event was faster than manually typing in names and reduced the user’s fatigue.
I got good feedback from the users from usertesting.com. I learnt few more things that needed to be changed. At the end of these 2 weeks of testing, I have to say — testing is the bomb! The more you test, the more you learn about the user needs and the more you iterate and make the app better.
A/B testing links: https://invis.io/Y5BENFZKW#/230321523_Events_Manager_SA
https://invis.io/HDB4NUNJY#/228638132_Events_Manager_SA

A/B Testing on usertesting.com

Week 10-The Final Product
While I would like to add more features to the app, I decided to stick with just the “event managing” feature. The final week of this certificate helped me learn about Google’s Material Design Principles. This was not required by the assignment, but I took this opportunity to make my app look closer to what an Android app may look like.

Final Prototype link : https://invis.io/KJBHTBJ74#/

Prototype Video Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UbMinn6p0E

My Learnings:
1.
Each step of the design process is equally important. You cannot skip a step and expect rest of the phases to go well. Your research must be done right if you want the end product to be at least an MVP.

2. Don’t go after color and typography right in beginning. Your app is no good if it just looks pretty and gives your user a miserable time when they use it. The old pencil and paper technique is great. It makes your thought process organic.

3. Listen to your users. Observe them, ask them questions about your app and take their feedback seriously. This will help you immensely in producing a great UX for your app.

4. Plan, plan, plan: while this certificate was not about time management, it helped me in planning and taking into account the unforeseen circumstances that can hinder your project progress.

This has been a great experience and I hope this will help me in advancing my career.

Acknowledgement:
I want to thank Coursera, Professor Elizabeth Gerber, Professor Jacob Wobbrock, and most especially to Professor Scott Klemmer and the UCSD Design Lab for putting this IxD Specialization together and making it accessible to everyone.
I also want to thank the creators of Adobe Illustrator, Balsamiq and Invision for making designing easier and empowering designers with the ability to bring their visions to life.

Here’s my certificate of completion

https://www.coursera.org/account/accomplishments/certificate/4XLBY5MLLQDG

anuja.upadhye

Written by

UX Designer, always eager to learn and makes great avocado cupcakes! http://www.anujaupadhye.com/

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