New in Town — A UX Case Study

Design Interactive Spring ’21 Cohort Project.

Project Overview

Problem

As young adults graduate from college or move to take advantage of new opportunities, they oftentimes have difficulty developing a new support system and community from scratch. Consequently, having a lack of support networks tends to contribute to depression and social isolation.

How might we help young adults and professionals who have moved adapt to their new community and thrive?

Solution

We designed an app that acts as a directory of all the different social events and locations (e.g. restaurants, cafes, recreational places) each city has. Users can search for new areas to visit, see what locals in their area recommend, and bookmark places to view later.

Our app helps users become more familiar and comfortable with the new area they moved to and allows local residents to help newcomers discover what their city has to offer.

Our Team

Project Timeline

Our timeline for the five-week sprint process.

User Research

We wanted to discover the main challenges that recent graduates face after college, and concluded that user interviews would be the most effective way to gather in-depth data. We conducted 8 user interviews with post graduates who were between the ages of 21–25.

A lot of our interviewees graduated in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, so they did not move cities and definitely had a different experience transitioning out of school and into the workforce. Likewise, most of our interviewees already had high school or college support systems to rely on and did not experience the need to reach out and start anew. Although this was not our intended target audience, we agreed that this data might better reflect the user pain points of new grads during this time period.

Our main findings include:

  • New grad life can be anxiety-inducing and stressful
  • New grads appreciated social and career-related support systems
  • New grads wished they had (1) small close-knit groups with people of similar interests, careers, or backgrounds and (2) more resources about financial responsibility (e.g. taxes, stocks, loans, etc.)
Our affinity map and synthesis of our user research data.

Synthesis & Ideation

Using the synthesized research data, we started brainstorming “how might we” statements to help narrow down our focus to effectively address our user pain points.

How might we help connect recent graduates to those with more experience within the workforce?

How might we help recent graduates develop new support systems (e.g. new city or school)?

How might we help post-graduates feel less isolated after college?

How might we help prepare recent graduates to face real world challenges?

We then tried to sketch all possible solutions that could (1) help further user’s careers, (2) develop support systems, (3) lower user stress and anxiety during this transition to adulthood, and (4) provide more resources for real world challenges.

Pencil and digital sketches of possible app features we created to address each of the 4 user pain points.

Although we tried to create an app by focusing on just 1–2 of these user pain points, it ended up being too difficult to synthesize so many multifaceted problems into a single platform. We were overwhelmed and lost focus, so we had to backtrack, rethink our whole approach, and narrow it back down to our primary problem:

How might we help young adults (e.g. post graduates) better integrate into new communities?

Fortunately, we realized that 3 out of our 4 user pain points all had a similar overlying goal: they ultimately wanted to feel more secure in the new area they’ve moved to, whether that meant finding people they could relate to or finding places to explore alone, to meet new people, or with friends so they don’t feel as isolated.

As a solution, we decided to design an app that acted as a directory and had all the different social events and locations (e.g. restaurants, cafes, recreational places) each city had. We believed that once the user is more familiar with their living area, the user would feel more comfortable meeting new people or trying new things.

User flow for the onboarding process.
Redesigned sketches focusing on user needs for his/her new city.

Mid-Fidelity Prototypes

With our new solution in mind, we primarily wanted to incorporate the following into this app:

  • Create levels for different types of users: Observer (newcomer in town), Adventurer (middle), Local (end goal — very familiar with the city)
  • Based on a quiz surveying the user’s needs, dining places/social events/places to socialize would pop up on the user’s feed
  • Allow users to leave reviews of each area you visit so newcomers can read and learn more
  • Create a feed where locals can post secret, lesser known areas for newcomers
  • Allow users to bookmark places for later
Primary screens and functions of our app.

Because we had to rethink our app’s direction during this fast-paced sprint process, we unfortunately ran out of time to conduct usability testing and directly proceeded to develop high-fidelity prototypes.

The Final Prototypes

For our final product, we were able to implement five different features into the “New In Town” app: an onboarding questionnaire, home page, search by category, search by typing, and bookmarking.

Since our targeted audience is people who just moved into town, we wanted our app to reflect the same lively energy and chose the color purple because it is generally associated creativity. Additionally, instead of filling the entire screen with purple, we only used it as an accent color to refrain from overpowering the primary information and features of the app, which are the location names, details, etc.

1. Onboarding

When the user lands on the app, they will be asked to provide some personal information about themselves and reveal the new town the user moved to. This will allow the app to categorize the user as an Explorer (i.e., newcomer to town) or a Local (very familiar with town). Then, the user will rank certain locations/categories based on personal preferences.

Onboarding: signing up and creating an account.

Locals in town act as our secondary audience and will be very useful to provide knowledge to newcomers. They can recommend secret, lesser known areas in the city or simply highlight the better locations.

Based on user-selected preferences, dining places/social events/places to socialize will pop up on the user’s Home Page.

2. Home Page

After the onboarding process, the user is taken to the Home Page. The available features include the search bar, search by category, “Suggested for You,” “Suggested by Locals,” and user-selected categories (e.g. “Restaurants & Cafes”). This customized page allows users to explore new places and familiarize themselves with the area.

Each location and event has reviews that users can read through and a space to ask questions that other users can answer.

Search by category

3. Searching

Explorers are unfamiliar with the city they’ve just moved to, so search bars allow them to discover new places. To help familiarize them with the area, they can:

  1. Search by category, which is useful if they’re very unfamiliar with the area (shown on the left)
  2. Search by typing, which is useful if they have a specific type of location in mind

4. Bookmarking

To help users remember where they want to explore, they can:

  1. Bookmark a place or event and save it for later
  2. Categorize bookmarks based on user preferences

3. Visit all bookmarks and remove places as necessary

Reflection

Takeaways

From this project, we learned the importance of narrowing down and synthesizing diverse research findings, specifically to work towards solving a single problem, rather than all of our user’s pain points. Especially with a limited time constraint, an inadequate or inefficient synthesis could lead to greater problems down the road as we experienced ourselves. This project only reinforced that design is a constant, iterative process.

If given more time, we would love to:

  1. Conduct usability testing to adjust app features to fulfill user needs
  2. Further develop current features (e.g. being able to add and filter posts on the Suggested by Locals page)

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