Research + Prototyping + Design
Spring 2019

‘My Campus’: An App Idea for Aimless Undergrads


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College can be tricky. On top of trying not to fail classes or get bullied by the cool kids, students have to navigate the cluttered assortment of extracurricular offerings. This can be nearly impossible, especially at a college like Harvard that has around 500 student groups. In this design exercise, I tried to streamline this process and make life easier for students, through research, thoughtful design, and personal experience.

Pictured Above: A final mockup for the app, “My Campus”.

Ideation and Sketches


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Before any serious research, I wanted to jot down my initial thoughts. Firstly, groups are too difficult to browse and there needs to be an easier way to do so. Secondly, groups are inherently social; even the best group is nothing without its members. From these initial thoughts, I jotted down some notes.

Pictured Above: Initial sketches.

Existing Tools


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I also wanted to look at existing directories for student groups at Harvard. Currently, Harvard has a campus group directory which allows for some limited functions, such as sorting by group category or searching by name. However, as you can guess from this screenshot, nobody uses this. Indeed, in a later survey I conducted, 0% of respondents stated that they use an official school directory to find groups. Literally 0%. And I am almost positive that even in a much larger sample size, the percentage would still be literally 0%. 

Pictured Above: Harvard’s current system.

Research


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Active engagement in campus groups benefits students and universities. Students develop a richer experience, and universities develop a reputation for fostering such an experience. But the process of seeking and joining a group can be overwhelming.

I’ve personally experienced this at Harvard, so I drew from my own experiences and from the experiences of students here and on other campuses. The goal was to simplify this process with research and good design.

Through a short survey sent out to Harvard students and to other universities (via my friends at those universities), I collected information on how important students view campus groups, which factors they consider when joining campus groups, and what they believe the problems and possible solutions might be.

Survey results can be seen here.

Pictured Above: Screenshots from my survey results. Full results can be seen here.

The survey revealed that the three most significant factors students weigh when considering campus groups are how many members they personally know, what type of primary function the group serves, and how much time commitment is expected of the members.

These percentages were: knowing members (71%), type of group (71%), and time commitment (61%).

Current Problems


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1) Large Number of Groups:

Many schools have an overwhelming number of student groups, giving students a feeling of information overload. Harvard has around 500 groups, and the number grows each semester. One way we try to solve that here is through our student activities fair, but even that faces the same problem, since there are far too many groups to walk through.

2) Limited Exposure and Publicity:

Groups rely on publicizing themselves through flyers or word of mouth or (recently) social media. This puts lots of work on the members, while making it hard for prospective members to discover these groups. Flyers, for instance, are lots of work and can be a hit or miss. Even social media broadcasts can go ignored and appear tacky.

3) Limited Information About Groups:

Students want to make sure that they join a group that’s the right fit. But most groups only have limited information readily available. Often, you’ll only find the name, a short description, and an email. This means that students rely on word-of-mouth. When I was joining groups, I often relied on rumors and reputations which later proved false.

Pictured Above: Some written responses to my survey. Full results can be seen here.

My Solution


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1) Easy Browsing and Recommendations:

I mocked up ‘My Campus’, an app that allows students to browse groups based on relevant factors and receive personalized recommendations. Students can look through arts groups, for instance, or browse through their recommendations, or see which groups are popular, or see which groups have their application process open. And if users connect their phone number or social media, they can get recommendations based on which groups their contacts are members of.

2) Relevant Social Interactions:

My Campus has certain social capabilities built-in. Students can directly contact groups to ask questions. Students can also request to join groups right on the app. And students can view the group roster. This implements relevant social information without turning it into a full-blown social media platform (in which case it’d be easier to just utilize an existing platform).

3) Easily Propose Groups:

My Campus allows students to propose groups for listing on the platform. Students can fill out a group profile and submit for approval. The administrative process varies among different schools, so that will be left to them to handle. Once groups have been approved by the school administration, they will accept the proposal within the app and the new groups will be listed on ‘My Campus’.

Wireframes


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With problems and possible solutions outlined, I began wireframing the user flows using Adobe Xd. My wireframes provide a general architecture of how a user could interact with this app.

User Setup:

Onboarding starts when users sign up with their college email address. They are then able to access their college’s groups. This first screen also displays the app logo/title. Then, a questionnaire records the users preferences. This function is crucial, as it allows My Campus to serve up recommendations. The notifications are also important, as they inform the user of new recommendations and direct the user back to My Campus.

Exploration:

On the main browsing page, there are different cards which the user can browse through. These cards list categories like ‘Recommendations’, ‘Popular’, ‘New’, ‘Arts/Media’, ‘Cultural/Religious’, etc. Users can also search for specific groups by name. Users can save the groups for later viewing, and they can also view their messages with various different groups. These can be accessed through the bottom navigation.

Group Profile:

When a user selects a group, they are brought to the group’s profile page. This displays the group’s information and allows the user to view the group’s photos, save the group, share the group, contact the group, request to join, and view the different members. The group profiles display only a few key pieces of information, as to not distract the user. Category and time commitment are important, so they are listed directly under the name. The members section is also important, so it’s listed largely, under the description.

User Profile:

Users can also access their personal profile through the bottom navigation. Here, they can edit their name, view active requests to join groups, view groups they are a member of, propose new groups, and edit basic settings (such as notification settings). This gives a focused range of functions for the users and prevents it from becoming a social media application, where users post, like, comment, etc.

High Fidelity


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1) Exploration:

This high-fidelity version of the explore page is populated with real Harvard organizations and approximations of their group size. I opted to show membership size as the piece of information under the group name, as this is universally relevant. I picked blue-green to evoke a sense of freshness and newness associated with joining new campus groups.

2) Group Profile:

This high-fidelity version of the group profile is populated with information about the Lampoon, a group that I’m actively involved in and familiar with. The front-and-center image gives groups the opportunity to showcase their legitimacy, or fun, or whatever aspect they would like to showcase. The description gives groups the opportunity to write an attention-catching summary of their group.

User Journeys, Initial Feedback, Next Steps


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User Journeys:

One way that a freshman might use My Campus is to just browse through different listings to see what’s available. They could easily sift through all the different categories, see what groups their friends are joining, or even just look at the new and popular groups. Then, they could then save certain groups for viewing later and potentially applying.

Applicants could use My Campus to quickly search through and apply to different groups. They could also look through their previous saved groups and start from there. They would then be able to easily track applications in progress, accepted applications, etc.

Students who start new groups or are leaders of their group and want to get it listed also have a good use for My Campus. They can easily submit the information for their group and await approval by the administration. They can also track applications to their group and accept or decline new members.

Initial Feedback:

After showing My Campus to some friends, a notable piece of feedback I received was on the proposal functionality. As mentioned earlier, administrative processes can be complicated and varied. At the moment, My Campus essentially just notifies administrators of a request to list a group on the app.

Next Steps:

One way to take My Campus further would be to implement a more sophisticated process of proposing groups directly in the app. This could involve budget proposals, faculty advisors, group plans/mission, etc. With enough of a standardized proposal process, My Campus could replace the current paper method of proposing groups, or at least streamline parts of the process. And if the proposal process doesn’t benefit from standardization, My Campus could offer customizability instead, by offering administrators to create their own proposal forms.

Another way to take My Campus further could be to integrate it with social media apps such as facebook or instagram. For instance, users could share a group’s photo directly to their instagram story, with a link in their story to the group’s My Campus page. This would greatly increase exposure to the app and the groups themselves. Also, social functions could be added to My Campus, such as the ability for groups to list public events (such as info meetings or parties).

But to wrap up, My Campus is an idea that I think could make the lives of college students much easier. It’s not perfect or fully-comprehensive, but it’s a start. College students spend so much time cluelessly flailing about, so they could benefit from an app like My Campus. I know that I would’ve.