The design concept of a citizen-centric smart campus application to bridge the gap between people and places
Place is a mobile app that allows students to find a site on campus that matches their current needs at a particular point in time. I have created this project within my Thesis Project for the Master of Interaction design program at the University of Queensland.
Ideation & Design
Driven by the movement of smart cities, University campuses recently implement solutions to enhance students' experiences. The major issue with modern smart city solutions is that they are mostly focused on technologies rather than people's needs and values. A similar trend occurs within the University of Queensland where some existing solutions were not successfully integrated into students' campus life.
My project aims to develop a citizen-centric smart city. The high-level goals were to explore the needs and expectations of students from life on campus and to propose a smart-campus application.
Discover - Contextual Inquiry
As the problem space was quite broad, it was a core for me to understand people's needs and expectations from smart city technologies first and then get deeper insights from the chosen problem area. That is why I conducted 2 rounds of interviews and the poster session. The research methods were supported with additional images of existing solutions that provided some level of scaffolding for participants. After each step, the information was processed by means of affinity diagram where key insights were identified and grouped into themes.
The initial research allowed me to identify the problem area to focus on - the problem of stress. Further research led to the definition of core insights:
The connection between individual mental state and environmental settings - students have a strong need to be in an environment that fits their need for study or having rest;
overcrowded places impact negatively on the mental state
social behavior impact on the activities of individuals
The insights from contextual inquiry formed a foundation for the concept ideation. Rather than trying to solve internal feelings and conflicts of individuals, the idea was to provide students with a solution that will make them possible to be in control of their environment on campus. Place included several important features that were established based on student's needs identified from the interviews:
The insights from contextual inquiry formed a foundation for the concept ideation. Rather than trying to solve the mental issues of individuals, the idea was to provide students with a solution that allows them to explore the campus and find a perfect site. The app included the following features that were established based on the user research:
Distribution of people
Show real-time and forecasted distribution of people on the campus as a heatmap
Show real-time and predicted environmental data (noise, light, humidity, temperature) of the study spaces
Match the needs
Provide a possibility to find comfortable spots on campus according to the student's preferences
Provide a possibility to rate and comment on specific locations and share it to others
Provide comprehensive availability status of study places and computers
Provide a possibility to save favorite locations for quick access in future
Based on the core functionality, I identified user flows and sketched out every screen for key interactions and built a wireframe. After basic user tests, I designed a medium-fidelity prototype in Figma.
Once the interface was ready, I ran a validation stage. My goals here were to get a deeper understanding of the problem space, ensuring if my solution truly meets students' needs and evaluate user interface and interaction flow. To do so, I've conducted 12 interviews with students from different backgrounds. I grouped the results into 2 parts, one part identified themes with insights into student's needs and another part provided feedback on the interaction.
Concluding this round:
students appreciated the visibility of real-time and forecasted campus status as it allowed them to plan their time and location accordingly
too many options and details of the locations were overwhelming for some students. As potential solutions: personalization and recommendation features
Landing page and sign-in page in the final design. The home page slider provides a short tutorial about the main functions.
Home page with a recommendation of sites based on the user's preferences. It allows to apply filters, open comments and check the heat map.
The heat map reflects the distribution of people on the campus. The slider allows to set the time and check current, historical and forecasted data.
Place profile reflects detailed information regarding a particular site on the campus with real-time data about available space and computers.
The floor plan page visualizes environmental and contextual information on the map.
Although the project has not been released in production, it allowed me to pass all the phases of the human-centered design project and allowed me to form my personal takeaways:
it is impossible to solve all the problems. It is crucial to be specific with the problem space and research it;
conduct as much user evaluation sessions as possible especially at the initial stages before making high-fidelity prototyping, where the cost of a mistake is lower;
establish the design system at the early stages to reduce the time for UI design and make the interface more consistent.