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Spaces

A modern student housing solution

The Problem

I started college at Brigham Young University and while I was there I realized that there was a big problem with student housing. Unlike many colleges which allow for many students to commute, BYU has the majority of its students stay nearby in BYU approved housing. While this can be helpful for multiple reasons the resources for finding and signing up for housing have become outdated or bloated and difficult to navigate. I had a potential solution in mind, but I wanted to talk with other students to get their ideas.

Finding student housing at BYU is complex and stressful because the tools being offered are outdated and unorganized.

Research

I started interviewing students who were attending BYU and a lot of people thought that an app would be a good solution to the challenges they faced with finding BYU housing. To help them share their ideas about what features the app could have I asked them to sketch out what they thought the home page of the app could look like. I chose this approach because it allowed people to explain a visual concept in a visual manner, they didn't have to worry about saying the wrong word they could simply draw.

Discoveries

I discovered that the primary tasks people needed help with was finding housing and selling their contract if they needed to leave before it finished. They liked the idea of contacting management and maintenance and paying rent on the app as well, but it wasn't as important. Everyone felt stressed about using the current tools because they either took too much time to get to the helpful information, or didn't have enough information that was helpful.

Primary Goal

No central location for finding and selling student housing contracts

Secondary Goal

Managing other parts of student housing like paying rent and contacing management

Common Problem

Current tools did not provide the value people needed for a simple housing search

The home screen

Pay & Messages

Apartment Result

Design

After the interviews and doing some research on my own I began to create an interface in Adobe XD which was still in beta at that time. I was also very new to design but I took inspiration from Material Design and Airbnb. When I had created a prototype that seemed to be functioning well enough I went out to test with students and get their feedback.

Redesign

The reactions to the app were very good, but I knew that I could create an even better experience by focusing on the primary goal of searching for and selling student housing. I went back to the drawing board and tried to figure out how I could focus the structure of the app on this task and make it easier to accomplish.

Sketches of possible interface changes

I wanted to create a better experience by focusing on the primary goal of searching for and selling student housing.

Brand

As I was exploring ideas in Adobe XD, it dawned on me what I would call the app. The name Spaces hearkened to the openness and simplicity that I wanted to capture in the design, and it also connected to the purpose of the app which was to help people find a "space" to live in. I started to think about how I could take people on a journey of sorts where they're guided step by step, and when I made these connections I was able to refine the experience and focus on the primary goal.

Comparison of the original home page and the redesigned home page

Each page became focused on guiding people through the journey step by step

Searching for a location is as simple as using Google Maps, and built on Google Maps

Less prominent features like chat were taken off the home page and put in the navbar

Final Touches

As I was starting to come to a close on this project, my brother joined in to help turn my designs and ideas into a functioning app. He helped bring up features and changes that I didn't think of before. Together we were able to refine even further for a more cohesive experience.

Lessons Learned

As we both moved on to other projects we stopped production of this app, but the lessons that I have learned from it have helped me to become a better designer. I gained valuable insights about the importance of jumping in even when you don't have all of the answers yet. When you give it everything you can the answers will begin to manifest themselves through research you do on your own, or through testing with your audience. I also got a taste of what it is like to work with other people on a project. It helped me to discover the benefits and challenges that come up when working with others and how choosing to work through the problems together will ultimately bring about better results.

Try out the prototype from Adobe XD, and I apologize if there are any inconsistencies or issues with navigating as I haven't finalized every interaction.

Try it out