This past year for the Google Design Exercise I was given the prompt to:
Design an experience that allows students to report building or equipment issues on campus.
I was given a week to do this challenge, but for circumstances out of my control I was only able to work for the last few days. The final designs are directly below, and I describe process after the designs. :~)
Maintenance Management at Penn
Above is the landing screen for students. The choice of copy “What problem can we fix today?” is to hopefully prompt students towards the feeling of solution and collaboration — without students, technicians will have a hard time fixing problems.
The first functionality of the app is crucial — my research found that there are some issues, such as leaks or bodily fluid on the floor that would be classified as emergencies and would be reported by calling a number. I wanted to make this number clear to students.
The primary function is adding new requests. When students add new requests, they are led through a series of questions, first figuring out where they are, then asking what the issue is, and finally how to contact the student if the issue might be in their room.
On the technician side, the submitted requests are surfaced and the manager can then assign tasks and add details to the request. This screen mirrors the student app in style and similarly as tasks are created or assigned, they move into different categories.
Once the tasks are completed, the technician can check off the task and it is moved to the completed tab!
And finally, the student is notified!
You can find my process below.
Part 1: Research
My initial reaction the prompt was recalling the state of many bathrooms that I have used in my dorm. Many of the lights and toilets in Hill College House have been broken for nearly 2 months.The main reason for the continued dysfunction of these bathrooms is that the Service Request website is hidden on an obscure Penn site.
To find out more about the system of reporting repairs, I tested the site out myself. I found that it was filled with codified descriptions and information that makes uncovering details about the repair through walking back to the issue and then returning to the computer a necessary chore.
I noted that this kind of coded system would not work for students trying to report an issue when they see one and overall would decrease the reporting of issues.
From there, I reached out to the building manager to continue my research and better understand the issue from the point of view of someone who is fixing these reported issues.
Stephen walked me through the whole process of an issue being reported and fixed, described what the most important data points were when reporting an issue, and explained why the codes were important for reporting.
“The more information that Facilities receives beforehand, the better. Providing details our trades workers a lot of time in investigating a problem with the building.” — Stephen, Building Manager
I also reached out to various people who lived in the dorms and asked for their insights as to why they have or haven’t used the issue reporting system.
“Honestly, I had no idea there was a way to report these issues. If I knew I definitely would use it more” — Marco
“It’s really frustrating to send a request and not be sure of when it will be fulfilled.” — Michelle
From my interviews I chose three guiding words to set the tone for my designs: easy, accessible, timely.
Part 2: Strategy
The choice I made prior to design work was shifting the function away from the desktop. Students want to be able to respond quickly and immediately to issues they see, so a mobile app would serve this desire better. To aid with that process, the Penn Mobile app is widely used and serves as a great destination for a functionality like maintenance requesting.
On the other hand, there also needs to be an app for the technicians to assign and complete work. I decided to design both the student facing app and the technician one.
I formulated a mission statement for the design process to better describe the design and guide me as I made decisions:
To create an experience that is simple and straightforward so that students may report issues as the appear in their lives and not feel weighed down by the process.
Part 3: Design
I started my ideation for the student app on paper, because I knew understanding the logic of the process would be more important the the look, as I wanted to create a less designed and ‘unbranded’ feel to the interface anyway. The flow started to take form of three main steps, What, Where, and Contact Info.
This process lead to a lo-fi design that was primarily concerned with minimizing the work and amount of screens necessary for submitting a request.
After sketching, I moved on to medium fidelity. However, I found that the less colored feel actually fit the ethos of the functionality — straightforward, easy… Thus the medium fidelity started to occupy the same space that a high fidelity mockup would.