Adobe PS / AE
As a young child, I've personally faced similar struggles when moving from another country to the United States, as well as moving to and from different cities throughout my life.
for international students to get the information they need?
How might we design an equipment borrowing system that is intuitive and efficient for students, technicians and the administration?
Understanding the user needs
In my initial research, I interviewed several students, conducted online surveys and observations to examine the life of international students. This helped to identify their needs and the things that influenced their academic, social and cultural transition in the United States.
To fully understand the target audience, I interviewed 10 international students from a variety of ethnicities studying diverse fields at Virginia Commonwealth University. The interviews were semi-structured and lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Identify major challenges faced by newly enrolled international students
- Analyze how students are finding information for their day to day needs
- Identify what kind of activities students engage in to overcome their problems
- Discover how students cope with stress and loneliness when they feel homesick
Listing Affinity notes according to issues
Categorizing Affinity notes into different themes
Key findings from mapping interview notes
Classroom learning struggles from lack of English proficiency and time for completing assignments.
Getting accommodations, technology, driving, insurances, transportation, credit cards, bank accounts etc.
Feeling of isolation, homesickness, boredom, and stress from various problems & challenges.
Making friends, understanding local culture & slang, going out for events, restaurants, food, festivals etc.
The insights and information gathered from my research allowed me to develop user personas that helped condense my findings from the surveys and interviews.
I created two personas that represented a user group who faced similar problems. My design decisions that followed were based on these user goals, needs and pain points. They gave a clear picture of the users expectations as I developed Oasis and its features.
I used the insights from the survey and interviews with the users to establish functional design requirements that would guide the concept ideation process. Some of the main requirements for the MVP included:
- A mobile app for both iOS & Android
- Gamify new environment and culture to educate students
- Allow students to connect with each other and complete initial steps
- Use the concept of AI & machine learning to collect personalized information
- Function as both voice assistant and a chatbot to fulfill all use case scenarios
One of my favorite parts of the process, I created sketches for three sets of storyboards that demonstrated that satisfied the most number of design requirements, and were exciting features for the Oasis app.
This helped me to understand how the story will flow, as well as how it fulfilled the user needs and possible user flows.
Mapping out the user experience
Next, I started to design for the user experience with the user flow for the app which helped identify what people using the product would need to do based on the accomplishment of specific tasks within the app. Once the user journey had been set, I moved onto the design flow for general and specific use cases.
Conceptualization and Sketching
After finding out the basic requirements of the user, the key features were identified and ideated. Sketching helped me as I followed an agile method to quickly get an idea of how the product is going to shape and give a rough idea of the concepts.
Once I decided the visual direction of the layout I want to go for, I started to produce a digitized, low-fi version of wireframes based on my sketches. It allowed me to apply the product requirements, ensure elements were in place with the guidance of correct hierarchy, all while avoiding to spend too much time on the design details.
VISUAL DESIGN PHASE
Defining Style Guidelines
Before I moved into high-fidelity wireframes, I developed the visual style guide to show the colors, fonts, icons and other elements of the product I wanted to stay consistent and on-brand.
I chose blue as my main color because of its association with stability, trust, intelligence, and truth. The mood board here helped to visually translate the feelings, and emotions to be created for Oasis as it symbolized a subtle reference to the theme of journey and the feeling of lightness.
Finalizing the Solution
Due to time constraints, I was only able to conduct one round of usability testing to make sure the experience worked well for the users. I conducted the usability testing with 6 different international students from different nationalities to check if the flow made sense.
I conducted task based testing for the four most important tasks that satisfied the MVP design requirements. The participants were asked to think aloud when performing these tasks to express their joy or frustrations about any of the features the prototype presented them with. Given below are the results:
Onboarding & Personalization
Users have the ability to choose tasks they want to complete from an existing list, or they can add their own tasks. Users can also select their interests for more personalized suggestions and notifications.
Creating your Groups
After a user selects the groups fitting to their tasks or interests, they can start connecting with the people in that group. Creating new public or private groups is also an option if they want to connect with other people in their contact list.
Creating or Sharing Events
Users can create events in any group and share with its members. The events are synced with their calendars and will receive notifications and reminders. Users can see details like date, time, people going etc. and RSVP.
Gamifying the Learning Experience
The users are also asked if they want to play a game based on the information provided and probes a small quiz in the form of a game to earn rewards. Future plans of this include providing coupons of different stores, restaurants and events.
More usability testing
Conduct several rounds of cognitive walkthroughs and usability tests with participants from different age & ethnic groups.
Add “Phase 2” features
Add an Interactive Campus Map, that helps users navigate to classrooms or other accommodations & Ai learning with features like a companion / AI assistant.
- Confirming my hypothesis through user research
Through previous encounters and being a first-generation college student myself, I suspected that finding resources was a common issue across the United States and that international students could benefit from this app. Despite that, I only became completely confident in my hypothesis after I interviewed international students who expressed the same concerns that I had heard and experienced before.
- Empathy for the users
Even though we may be experts on smartphone usage, many international students, especially ones who are less educated, may not be. Not only that, some of them may not be very fluent in English which was shown through many user interviews. Therefore, having empathy for the users was very important. I had to keep these constraints in mind while designing and avoided complex design patterns for the sake of the user.