Penn Mobile: redesign
"There seems to be too much to know, so I turn out knowing nothing."
As most students on college campuses know, the amount of information needed to keep up with student life is overwhelming. That is what inspired Penn Mobile. Penn Mobile was built in 2013 and provided seven different functions: dining availability, laundry availability, student news, emergency contacts, course information (from Penn Course Review), Penn transit routes, and a school directory. However, the user base was small with roughly 6 active users per day out of the potential few thousand student market.
The University of Pennsylvania student body and faculty, more specifically, the undergraduate student body because of their higher frequency of involvement with on-campus activities, dining, and living.
The Failures & Opportunities
Design is user-centric, and the only way to create an app that fit the needs and wants of Penn students was to discover the failures as well as the opportunities from the perspective of Penn students. We surveyed the Penn student body and discovered that there were many issues with the app that inhibited from using it.
- "The app doesn't work" – Internally, there were too many features and not enough developers to manage and keep up with bug fixes, so it was true that the app wasn't functioning. One of the most important elements is to sustain trust between the user and the app. If the app continuously crashes or provides incorrect information, the user will naturally distance him/herself from the app.
- "There are too many features that are alright" – Users were overwhelmed with the number of features, some of which were uncritical, and preferred if the app did a few things (or even just one thing) very well.
- "Looks kinda sterile and feels clunky" – The user interface had not been updated overtime and did not create an enjoyable experience.
- Scale the Penn Mobile platform with quality– After realizing the waning user base, we wanted to first establish lasting relationships with our users and truly integrate ourselves into their daily routine. Therefore, we decided to limit our features and focus on providing a few high quality services and continuously building on them.
I led the UI/UX redesign project on PennMobile, working across Android and iOS platforms. The iOS app was relaunched spring 2017. This post is focused on the iOS redesign.
Homescreen: The homescreen functions as a summary page using a widget design to bring quick & easy access to each feature. Users are able to check on their laundry at their favorite room, book study rooms, and check the menu at their preferred dining hall, all with zero to one click. Furthermore, we wanted the app to emulate asking a roommate or friend for information, and therefore utilized a heuristic for the data from Penn's academic calendar and weather api to communicate in the clearest way a student would understand.
Dining: The dining page reflects a familiar mobile user experience to many students – that of UberEats. We presented the most essential information (open/closed & hours), then allowed the user to explore further into the menu if desired. The favoriting option brings a dining hall to the homescreen for future easy access.
Laundry: One of the worst moments of college life is the moment you realize there are no washers or dryers open after dragging your load 10 minutes down the hall. That's why we've connected to the laundry api to provide real-time notifications on specific machine availabilities and even data on popular times to optimize your schedule. Favoriting a room brings the desired information right to the home screen.
GSR Booking: Didn't know that you could book GSR's in the Dental School?! Neither did I! Democratizing the ability to book study rooms to all students with two clicks, we made it simpler to find a place to study with friends. Instead of having to go online through many portals, you can get a room instantly with a few touches.
Emergency: Emergency provides every crucial emergency service hotline, ranging from MERT to CAPS, with a one-touch dial.
Upon relaunching, the app now has over 3000 unique users and roughly 1000 daily active users (just on iOS). This app is on its way towards seamlessly integrating with Penn's student life.
The product carries endless potential as the primary mobile platform I'd appreciate any feedback and constructive criticism. This was my first time taking a stab at documenting my design process for a product I worked on. Though it is in continuous improvement, I hope you get the chance to enjoy it! 🤗