UX / UI Case Study: SyrianHaven

SyrianHaven is an Android app that I designed and developed. It was for Android Study Jam, a Udacity and Google based bootcamp hosted by local Google Developer’s Groups (GDG). In this case study, you’ll learn about my process in making it.

Start by defining the problem.

“What is your purpose?” This isn’t just a question that some millennials obsess over, but also one that designers need to answer when designing a new product. The purpose of your app should be to provide an amazing value to your users in way that is so clear, no one will wonder why is this app exists. A solution without a problem is a life without meaning.

I started to define the problem by brainstorming different ideas. It started out as an app for refugees to use to learn English (stemmed from my childhood exposure to East Asian immigrants), then evolved into focusing on Syrian refugees. This led to realizing that I didn’t know much about Syrian refugees as people, only as victims of a suppressing government. Did they need language help at all? Is that even important to them?

Research helps you discover what you don’t know.

I set out to Google, Reddit, Youtube, and Quora to find refugee groups and read, watch, and learn more about displaced Syrians. Reddit was especially useful because displaced refugees would host AMA (Ask Me Anything) threads, which are like Q&A sessions. There were also many sub-reddits on immigration, refugees, and the Syrian war.

Sometimes an idea is just not feasible.

In my research, I read that countries have different criteria for who they’ll accept. For example, Canada rejects anyone who has a criminal background. I wanted to build something that will tell refugees their chances of being accepted into a country, but there was no quick or easy way to get that information, even when I tried to crowdsource the question by asking it on Quora.

Answers help you define the problem & solution.

Did they need language help at all? No. Most Syrian refugees are well educated (e.g. doctors, business people, and university professors).

What is important to them? Finding countries that are welcoming and will give their family a chance at a new beginning. In short, they’re looking for a haven.

A haven to them is a country they can relocate to and escape from war. Many look for countries that are accepting a high number of immigrants (so Syrians can maximize their chances of getting approved). Their problem is that governments will change that number.

SyrianHaven was then conceived to provide information on countries that are accepting the most refugees.

Development

The scope of the project was minimized into a minimal viable product prototype to fit GDG bootcamp schedule.

You can view the source code on Github. I created it in Android Studio using Java. Here is the App Idea Document with technical details on how things were implemented in the backend:

[…] This app is set up to be pretty easy to add different language support in the future, or for a non-English speaker to continue the development because most, if not every one, of the strings live in the strings resource folder. Also, I’ve used the official country codes in naming the IDs and variables.
[…] The app shows how much each country has given Syria in financial aid, the number of refugees they’re accepting right now, how many have resettled in that country, and other information.
There are two activities in this app: the dashboard (which consists of 5 buttons that open up the next activity) and the country page. Based on which button is pushed, the app will populate the country activity layout with the appropriate content for that country since all the strings that are required lies in the strings resource file, it’s just a matter of calling them in.
The country activity layout is a ScrollView with nested linear and relative layouts so that it can scroll when the text is very long. The saved (or bookmarked) button is labeled “star” or “unstar” because right now it only toggles the star on the upper right via if-statements.

Conclusion

I received some technical praise and an Android Study Jam certificate from GDG and Google for the bootcamp, so the ultimate purpose of the app (to learn Android Development) was fulfilled. Maybe one day (with enough interest and a monetization strategy), I will develop the full app, but right now, it is no longer being developed.

A screenshot of the app.

That’s all, folks!

Thanks for viewing this project. If you have thoughts and opinions (which I know you do), let me know what you think on Twitter (@isabe11eg).