Designing an app for Grad Students at UCA

During the class on Interaction Design at UCA, I had the exciting opportunity to work alongside my classmate Carlos Brillembourg. We had the challenge of designing a mobile app to keep grad students informed with news about the university while also providing them with information and support services. As part of our project, we followed Alan Cooper's Goal-Directed Design methodology.

Desk research

We set out to understand what grad students might want out of a digital experience. As part of our research, we chose to analyze what other successful platforms in this space have done through several competitive analyses, have interviews with the Office of Graduate Studies staff to know their needs and conduct surveys to take an in-depth look at how students would be benefited by being users of this app.

Ideation

We started off collecting our thoughts and previous research using a Mural whiteboard and sticky notes. To launch our brainstorm, we followed some Design Sprint methods like Crazy 8’s and a cost-impact matrix. Having organized our thoughts, we were able to extract the main insights across all our research besides envisioning the desired outcome, current state and constraints of the actual product. 

Some screenshots of our brainstorming session.
Prototyping

Based on our key insights, we went off on our own to start wireframing different potential solutions to meet students’ needs. After a couple brainstorming sessions, we converged together as a team to share out our ideas and identify individual and team preferences for our project.

These are some of the screens we first drafted on paper.
After we had our first idea, we moved onto Whimsical to do a more detailed wireframing.

As for the visual style, we were told to strictly follow Google’s Material Design guidelines. This gave us the structure we needed and the freedom to be liberal with content. The more we could stick to material design, the more native the content would feel. This was very important for fluidity, including simple things like micro-interactions, transitions, and spacing.

Testing

After creating our prototypes, we felt it was time to conduct some concept testing on our app on users and see how they would respond to the design we ideated. We reached out to four students to test our prototypes on, and recorded their feedback.

This is one of the four user tests we conducted.
Reflection

As a designer, we are often lured by attractive, trendy and out of the box designs. But we must always remember the ‘why’ of our main problem. By sticking to Material Design guidelines and not focusing on aesthetics, our main goal was to understand the user, their problems and then come up with a design that solves it.