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  • Led usability testing of medium fidelity prototype

  • Created and followed a strong narrative throughout multiple progress presentations to industry professionals

UBelong is a chat and resource mobile app for students entering university. It empowers students to meet classmates, find resources, and build community from the moment they are accepted.

My Role

Process

Process

Overview

Myself and a team of 5 students completed this course project over 4 sets of 2 week sprints for our Fundamentals of User Experience class at the University of Toronto, Fall 2020.

Project Type: UX Design, Mobile UI Design, Testing & Evaluation

UBelong

Discover the Problem

We performed secondary and primary research to learn more about students' problems and needs  meeting friends at the University of Toronto. 

Define the User

Create a Solution

Evaluate Our Prototype

Using our primary research, we created a persona, exploring his needs and habits. 

We came up with ideas and prioritized them based on impact and feasibility, then decided on what features would exist in our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 

We created a low fidelity prototype using whiteboards, and then a clickable medium-fidelity prototype on Balsamiq. We evaluated our prototype with representative users and determined next steps for design iteration.

Discover

Discover the Problem

Secondary Research

We closely studied the University's Presidential and Provostial Taskforce on Student Mental Health , as well as media and student response to this report. Students with little or no support system were more likely to experience loneliness, isolation, or even mental health crisis. Our research found that international students were even more heavily affected.

“We want to learn how to help international students who may feel isolated in the University of Toronto find community before they arrive on campus, and long before a crisis.”

— UBelong research goal

Primary Research

Hoping to serve all users by focusing on those with a dire need, we focused our primary research on international students at the University of Toronto. Combined, our group conducted 11 interviews and received data from

38 questionnaires.

"Moving to a country without having connections to people definitely affected my state of mind."

— Participant quote

Define

Define the User

Our primary research was able to give us a great picture of how international students felt and what they worried about in the months before the first day of school.

We used these valuable insights to create a Proto-Persona using Mural. It was during this process that we decided that while many of our participants were studying from other countries due to the pandemic, in order to ensure the longevity of the solution, we would design with a post-COVID world in mind. In our subsequent scenarios, students would be able to travel to Canada in order to start school in person. 

We created our polished Persona in Microsoft Powerpoint. Wei Shen, a Chinese international student, is just starting his first hear at the University of Toronto. We charted his pain points through his first semester, and used this as a guide for improvements. 

“Knowing people is better than knowing knowledge”

— Guiding user quote

Create

Create a Solution

We spent some time individually ideating on potential solutions based on user needs so that we could gather unique concepts. No idea was too big, too small, too mundane, or too absurd. We focused on how important each idea could be to Wei, and voted on how feasible each one was for the university to implement.

 

Patterns emerged of university resources and online social communities in our ideation process. We used Balsamiq to create a clickable prototype of our mobile app. ​

Evaluate
5 screenshots of the UBelong App. Clockwise starting from top right: Online platforms, Chat view, Log in page, Saved chats. Center: Select a chat

Evaluate the Prototype

Our 39-screen medium fidelity prototype focused on four scenarios: log in and set up profile; join a new chat; access U of T resources; join a saved chat. 

We ran usability testing with 3 representative users in the form of a talk-aloud observation and semi-structured interview that served as a debrief of the exercise. 

Takeaways

  • Reinforce early and first time user experience

  • Consider behavioural changes of student users when professors are present; more clearly denote who is present in each chat

  • Simplify Home Screen

Lessons Learned

Lessons

This was my first full iteration of a User Experience project. I was able to use design thinking and the activation journey to guide myself and my team from a research goal to a testable product. here are some ways that I grew:

Research-based storytelling

The experience we try to craft as designers must always be rooted in what we know to be true. When in doubt, look to the research: what was actually said?

Treat every idea objectively

Approach every idea with thoughtfulness, but to never become attached to one. 
 

Listen to all feedback, especially when they conflict

With an online progress presentation to industry professionals, I was able to learn how to implement conflicting opinions on what's missing from the project. 

Lead from behind

I practiced the rhythm of collaboration: when to listen, when to critique, and how to disagree productively. 

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