For our Immersion Studio challenge, we designed an app and a wearable device that helps students to connect and form communities based on shared interest, as well as create and attend events together.
The Design Challenge
Our team was given a 1- week design challenge to explore the key facets of HCI: Computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) and use technology as a medium for community collaboration.
We developed a design response to address new international students to settle in the country and the university they were going to. We felt our design response resonated with all 3 members of the team to solve our own problem of settling overseas as international students.
Formative Research and Insights
For our secondary research, we began collating existing data to increase the overall effectiveness of our research. Where:
- We did literature readings of academic papers to familiarize and better understand — Computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) with the focus of building trust and sharing knowledge.
- Looked for concerns raised by students and prospective students on the subreddits — r/UWgrad and r/udub.
- Looked at the FAQ’s sections on Facebook Communities.
For our primary research, we decided to interview 5 students. In search of a broader perspective, we decided to recruit international graduate students from U. of Washington as our participants.
These interviews with some vital secondary research helped us mold our key insights, hence shaping the final problem statement.
- A shared identity can create a sense of community.
- Trust within a community is built upon a shared level of importance placed on a community, a base level of trust between members, and a shared expectation of what can be gained through cooperation.
- New users to a platform may feel daunted and/or unwelcomed by long-time users; as a result, they may be unwilling to contribute.
With these insights, we were able to form our ‘How Might We’ (HMW) Problem Statement.
How might we use the knowledge of current international grad students to help incoming students settle in?
In response to our problem statement, our group sketched a collection of 30 different design concepts.
Through team discussions, critique, and grouping together similar themes among our concepts, we narrowed to 3 ideas that we felt aligned best with our research insights and time constraints.
- Concept 1 - Gradvice Maps: A crowdsourced map of recommended dining, shops, and services (banking, housing, etc.).
- Concept 2 - Gradvice Compass: A digitized compass that helps international students navigate in their university district with nearby recommendations.
- Concept 3 - U-Bud: A wearable band that allows students to connect with others via — Story page, Favorite Places and Events.
Based on the critique we received, we started the down-selection process. This process involved rating each concept under:
- Relevance (Utility & Longevity)
For relevance, we broke it down further and decided to split this into utility and longevity, as many of the criticisms received during the critique sessions were related to longevity.
In terms of both utility and longevity, both the Gradvice Maps and Gradvice Compass scored well in utility, but very poorly in longevity. As students would no longer have a need to use either product after a couple of weeks moving in.
The U-Bud however, scored the most as an exciting concept and had long-term relevance. It was also the most useful concept that addressed the social aspect of moving to a new place. However, we were concerned about achievability.
After much deliberation, we decided to go ahead with the U-Bud concept.
However, it was at this point that we had to pivot and alter our problem statement that had flaws addressing short-term content driven community.
How might we make it easier for students to ‘find their tribe’?
Although this problem statement best addressed our finalized concept we received quite a lot:
- Critique that touched on the potential security issues of having a band that continuously allows you to connect with other people in your proximity, for example, “what if someone with bad intentions stands near you to get your information without you knowing”.
- Critique based on how would the wearable band connect with each other?
During the prototyping phase we decided to address the security issues and functionality of the U-Bud from our critique sessions.
So, we came up with two versions of U-Bud wearable and an app concept that would allow users to take control of their privacy, connect with users around and use the platform to find shared interests and contribute to various events, organizations, activities, etc.
Here’s a video that explains the features and the functionality through low-fidelity prototypes. In this video, we also try to showcase seamless user interaction from the wearable device to the app level interactions.
User Journey and User Interface Design
Sahil is on his way to college. He recognizes that he met this girl at the student orientation and finds her wearing the same U-Bud band. He decides to stop by and talk to the girl he met on the first day. Nina finds Sahil is also wearing the same U-Bud band.
Sahil and Nina decide to press the U-Bud button on their bands. This lights up the signal to pairs the devices.
Once the device are paired, a notification is sent to Nina that “she’s met Sahil”. She decides to view his profile and tries to connect with him.
Once Sahil is connected, Nina can view the entire profile and look at Sahil’s interests and events he is attending. Nina can decide to attend one of the events or add an event in the interest category.
The above story conveys how someone might use a U-Bud wearable and U-Bud app to get connections, exchange contact information, find shared interest and create new events.
- Develop a high-fidelity prototype and perform usability testing with the users.
- Design a fully functioning app with all possible scenario outcomes.
- Solve connectivity issues when multiple people meet at the same time at an event or at a gathering.
- Carry out user research as early as possible and always be aware of assumptions being made.
- Stay focused on the main objective — although you might deviate while solving a problem space.
- Be open to any ideas even if you think and feel it’s not feasible to develop in the real world.
I would like to thank the entire MHCI+D faculty team — Michael, Matt, Mary and Emily. I am grateful for the positive learning environment you provided me with.
Finally, I would also like to thank all my readers for scrolling all the way down and having a read into my case study.✌🏻