Connect U

The Design Challenge

How can we ensure that off-campus commuter students feel connected to campus experience while commuting to, staying on, and leaving campus?

My Role

User Research, User Analysis, Requirements Analysis, Prototyping, Usability Testing.


A mobile product that combines three unique features into one app for enhanced connectedness to campus life and experiences.

Our Design Process

  1. User Research: Identifying opportunities through contextual research, interviews and surveys, affinity mapping, and business and user assumptions.
  2. User Analysis: Understanding our users better through empathy mapping, user personas, and an as-is scenario.
  3. Requirements Analysis: Defining our solution through needs statements, big ideas, a prioritization grid and a to-be scenario.
  4. Prototypes: Building our solution through paper prototypes, usability testing and mid-fidelity prototyping.
  5. Evaluation: Iterating and reflecting on our design through summative evaluation.

User Research

Our research consisted of:

  • 8 semi-structured interviews
  • 25 survey participants
  • 36 questions
  • 16 graphs

We identified 3 user pain points:

Commuter students:

  1. Lack a sense of belonging on campus.
  2. Lack awareness of campus commuter resources.
  3. Do not have leisure time due to school and commuting.

User Analysis

User Persona

Empathy Mapping

Connie says:

  • “My schedule is too congested”
  • “I do not have a proper friend group”
  • “I do not know what commuter resources there are”

Connie feels:

  • Exhausted
  • Lonely
  • Frustrated
  • Not in control
Empathy Map

Requirements Analysis

We generated 4 needs statements from 3 user pain points.

Connie the Commuter Student needs to:

  1. Learn more about campus commuter resources so that she can make full use of commuter resources.
  2. Find students with a similar commute so that she can socialize on her commute.
  3. Connect with other students so that she can make more friends who go to the same school.
  4. Better arrange her daily schedule so that she can feel more in control of her time.
Prioritization Grid

During Ideation, we brainstormed 7 normal ideas and 2 absurd ideas.

Then we voted on the Feasibility and Impact of each idea and generated a prioritization grid.

Our No Brainers emerged as:

  1. The Friend Connector
  2. Campus Resources Matcher

Finally, we arrived at 3 hill statements from which Connect U’s features and interface emerge.

  1. Through the Friend Connector, Connie can initiate a connection with a commuter student within 5 minutes of setting up a profile.
  2. Through the Resources Matcher, Connie can find all commuter resources that matches her needs within a single search.
  3. Through the Event Finder, Connie can find events that fit into gaps in her schedule in the same day (within 24 hours).


To begin prototyping our solution, we first sketched a low-fidelity paper prototype. This low cost method allowed us to conduct rapid usability testing.

To test our prototype, we recruited 4 representative users and asked them to engage in Think-Aloud Protocol while completing pre-determined tasks that engaged each feature.

Snapshot of low-fi prototype storyboard

Lean Usability Testing on the low-fi paper prototype revealed 3 key design change which we implemented into our medium-fidelity prototype.

1. Prioritize According to User Habits

Prioritize placing commute route information above interests in Personal Profile Page.

2. Intuitive Search and Filter Experience

Use filter buttons in place of Hamburger Menu to filter interests in Friend Connector and Events Finder.

3. Flexible browsing to reduce workflow

Flexibly browse events by swiping left or right in place of pop-up descriptions.


Lastly, we rendered our Mid-Fidelity Prototype clickable and conducted a summative evaluation on it with 4 representative users.

We observed the success and failure rates of 4 pre-determined task through in-person usability tests and collected post-test ratings of each feature.

Our major findings were:

  1. Too many words on the interface were generating information overload.
  2. Hesitance exists about using Friend Connector due to safety concerns.
  3. Some phrases are not clear in providing direction.

Next Steps

Increase Safety

  • Implement security screening
  • Provide opt-out option for Friend Connector

More Emotions

  • Reduce “functional” feeling through UI design
  • Include more visuals

Project Video

Key Learnings

  1. UX Writing is challenging: Interface writing requires a combination of clarity and simplicity. We fell short in our design and induced information overload. I seek to better this skill for the future. 
  2. Failing fast is a blessing: Early on in the course, we began ideating on a problem space which turned up unoriginal in our project pitch. Through this experience, we learned to stick to the design process and trust it. For the entire course of the project, we tackled each step as it came and generated great ideas and work along the way.

Our Team

From left: Nian Liu, Wenzhao Zhang, Lee Wan Chun Wah, Natasha Malik

Special credit: Wenzhao Zhang was our graphic designer and crafted our ideas into the polished design artifacts displayed in this case study.

Working Studio Gallery