Hackweek Case Study â€”

5 Minute read

Virtual Community Platform

Reimagining the first-year student experience.

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At a glance

Due to the current climate everything is becoming virtual. I participated in a hackweek project that addresses the first-year experience for virtual students by connecting them with other students over shared interests and communities remotely.

The problem

Students are missing out on building organic and spontaneous connections because of COVID-19 related campus closures.

What I Did

Created concept sketches, medium to high fidelity wireframes, and presentation deck.

The Solution

Empowering students to connect with others through interest based communities via chats, and video calls.

What I learned

The ability to discern priority and value between steps and artifacts in the design process.

Day 1

Our target users were mature students who were over the age of 25+, and have had some work experience. We sourced 5 participants collectively through our personal network who met this criteria. We individually conducted our interviews over video calls. After our interviews, we returned together as a team to synthesize our findings into key insights. 

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"It's easier to grab a drink after class in person. The virtual alternative is to schedule a Zoom meeting which is too formal and it just isn't organic or genuine."

QUOTE FROM INTERVIEWEE.

Interview insights

CONNECTIONS

Students felt that the available technology (i.e. Zoom, Google Meets, etc) is a barrier to building organic and genuine connections. Students often interrupt, speak over each other, or simply do not participate in video calls.

COMMUNITY

Students felt robbed of the traditional first-year student experience since many of the social events were cancelled and the virtual offerings felt forced, awkward and/or too formal.

DEFINING THE PROBLEM

How might we help mature students create spontaneous remote connections with their peers so that they feel less isolated from the community?

Day 2

MARKET AND COMPETITOR RESEARCH

Before we began the ideation process we did a competitor audit and analysis to see what solutions already exist. We looked at both negative and positive reviews to gather more insights on how users interacted with these products. We looked at products that currently exist in the market and products from other industries. These are just a few of the competitors we looked at Houseparty, Facebook Live, Zoom, Google Meet, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, and a few others.

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HOUSEPARTY

Group video chats
Group games

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BUMBLE

Conversation starters
Profiles with user interests

Concept Sketches

Day 3

I worked on creating the wireframes for the app along with another teammate, the others concentrated on collecting assets, creating copy, and pieced the screens together for the final prototype. We used this prototype for our usability tests. 

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Dashboard

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Communities

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CHAT

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GROUP VIDEO CALL

Usability testing

We conducted 5 user tests to identify where we could improve the user experience. Although we didn’t have time to implement all of these changes, it was important for us to present our testing results and next steps to the panel from EY.

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ACCESSIBILITY

Low contrast elements that didn't pass accessibility.
Small text that didn't pass Apple's Human Interface Guidelines.

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Onboarding

Users need clarity on how to use the app.
Users needed context for the purpose of the app.

Before we began the ideation process we did a competitor audit and analysis to see what solutions already exist. We looked at both negative and positive reviews to gather more insights on how users interacted with these products. We looked at products that currently exist in the market and products from other industries. These are just a few of the competitors we looked at Houseparty, Facebook Live, Zoom, Google Meet, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, and a few others.

Day 4

Proposed Solution

An interest based community platform that encourages students to interact with thier peers and build connections and a sense of community.

On our final day of the sprint, we pitched our design decisions to stakeholders from EY. In under 8 minutes, we brought them through our research and target demographic, introduced them to Sam (primary persona), her journey, and highlighted the human value of our solution. 

Our presentation to the EY and BrainStation panel went really well! We received some high compliments from Steve (Executive Strategy Director), Waleed (Executive Creative Director) and Jennifer (Manager of Business Transformation) from EY on the visual design and the application of brand guidelines.

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Jonathan Lee (Educator at BrainStation), Shin, Eric, myself and Steve Meggit (Executive Strategy Director at EY) pictured left to right.

Key learnings and takeaways

I learned about the importance of process and the ability to discern the priority and value between steps and artifacts needed to create a well designed end product.

USABILITY TESTING

Although a task is completed successfully when user testing it doesn't mean it's perfect. There is always opportunity to simplify, reduce users' cognitive load, and improve the overall user experience.

FEEDBACK VS VALIDATION

When seeking feedback it's easy to seek only validation. Innovative thinking and solutions happen through feedback, criticism, and truly addressing user needs.

Full case study available on request.

© 2016 — 2022 SAGANA MAHALINGAM

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