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About Trace
Northeastern University COVID-19 App

When COVID-19 first reached the United States, every education facilities transitioned to remote classroom environment throughout Spring and Summer of 2020, and half of 2021 academic year. With near semester began, Northeastern University required students to be back on campus, therefore, students began to adapt to the new normal of attending classes through a hybrid basis. With this transition in instruction comes a new set of guidelines – frequent testing, daily wellness checks, and mask wearing in every indoor places.

Northeastern reacted to the pandemic by creating a variety of different websites to perform the slew of tasks needed to attend in-person classes. Although the speed at which they churned out these websites was second to none, the user’s experience left a lot to be desired.

Trace was created for student and faculties on-the-go and acts as a one-stop-shop for all the COVID-19 related activities at Northeastern University.

Overview

Over the course of 8 weeks, my project team and I collaborated to complete the full UX design cycle and designed a mobile application that would replace Northeastern’s myriad of websites on COVID-19 information and services.

This app was designed and created as my final project for my human-computer interaction course during the Fall 2020 semester.

ROLE

Project Manager

UX Researcher

UX Designer

DURATION

8 weeks

TOOLS

Hand sketching

Sketch App

Axure RP

Figma

TEAM

Bobby L. | UX Designer

Lisa L. | UX Designer

Shebna M. | UX Designer

My Role

With four designers working on this, we each played a part in the entire UX process including gathering the generative & evaluative research, wireframing, and prototyping.

In addition to the above mentioned processes, the biggest contribution that I made to the project was that I was one of the three sole designers for the medium and high-fidelity prototype. Additionally, I was the project manager for the team throughout the project process.

Design Challenge

Our challenge was to redesign the user experience when interacting with Northeastern University’s COVID-19 resources and websites.

The goal of this application is to create an on-the-go platform that includes, but was not limited to, all of the features that Northeastern University created to combat the virus, such as scheduling COVID-19 tests, viewing results, and daily wellness checks.

The Research

Research Plan
Laying out the project foundation

To efficiently gather data, the team decided to split into two groups where one group would focus on evaluative research based on the already implemented websites and the other group would perform generative research to see what students would want from a one-stop-shop application.


I led the evaluative research group that aimed at understanding three key metrics for Northeastern’s current websites pertaining to COVID-19 information and services:

  • Efficiency: e.g. How long did it take users to find and complete all mandated activities?

  • Effectiveness: e.g. How likely were users to omit some of the guidelines because of difficulty in using the services?

  • Satisfaction: e.g. How would users describe the overall experience and mental effort of using the services? 

Once the evaluative research was performed, the generative research group wanted to gain insight and focus on the following questions:

  • What type of notifications do users like to receive regarding COVID-19 guidelines?

  • What functionalities do users want to be highlighted in a COVID-19 service application?

  • How connected would the users want the functions of this app be with other campus services such as medical aid or mental support?

User Interviews
Gathering the data

Our target demographic was Northeastern University students who were either on campus full-time or participated in a hybrid structure. Both research groups interviewed the same 6 individuals coming from different majors and years of study.

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User Interview Main Takeaway

  • The current system for completing mandatory COVID-19 activities was cumbersome and time-consuming. 4 out of of the participants stated that the websites that Northeastern created were difficult to find and navigate.

 

  • They didn’t mind completing the mandatory tasks, but don’t want an application that was overloaded with information. The users already felt overwhelmed with the amount of tasks that needed to be completed to be on campus, so they wanted an application that solely focused on the priority tasks.

 

  • They wanted a centralized way to view all notifications. Instead of having to check multiple sources, all participants expressed a desire to have a single source for notifications.

User Persona

​Our main user persona is a fictional representation of the entire user group that took part in our user research. The participant's commonalities were combined to create Ruby Rails, a graduate student at Northeastern University starting her program during the onset of the pandemic.

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Personal Statement

Northeastern University students need a centralized platform for COVID-19 related information and services pertaining to campus life because they want an easy way to complete mandatory COVID-19 procedures and monitor their wellness.

Affinity Diagram

Once the the user interviews concluded and both research groups compiled the notes, we wanted to group our notes to understand what were the biggest factors affecting the current systems and see if there were:

  • Any emerging trends in the three major factors of efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction from the evaluative research?

  • Any common wants or needs identified from the generative research?

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Feature Prioritization

Before jumping into the low and medium fidelity for Trace, we wanted to have a solid path forward with the functionalities that would be included.

To make this application adhere to the university’s standard, we understood that there were certain features that were a must-have. There were, however, some features that came up during the user interviews that we wanted to consider before we finalized the minimal viable product.

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The Path to Interface Redesign
Low & Medium Fidelity Prototype

With the key features identified for the minimum viable product, the team quickly created low fidelity wireframes with Balsmiq and transformed it into a medium fidelity prototype using Axure RP to test it with the users.

During the usability test of the medium fidelity prototype, there were several fundamental issues that manifested themselves. The sections below highlight the key features and the qualitative feedback that the team received from the participants.

The Convoluted Homepage

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With the key features identified for the minimum viable product, the team quickly created low fidelity wireframes with Balsmiq and transformed it into a medium fidelity prototype using Axure RP to test it with the users.

During the usability test of the medium fidelity prototype, there were several fundamental issues that manifested themselves. The sections below highlight the key features and the qualitative feedback that the team received from the participants.

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