Digitizing Interpersonal Relationship Building during Quarantine
Due to the COVID pandemic, college campuses closed and students returned home, inevitably negatively impacting students' interpersonal relationships. COVID Connect is a gamified mobile application serving to address this problem, and facilitate college students in maintaining and strengthening their interpersonal relationships amidst the pandemic.
UX Researcher & Designer
UCLA HCI Lab
Anthony 'Xiang' Chen
April - August 2020
College students find difficulty maintaining and strengthening their interpersonal relationships amidst quarantine and a newfound long distance within their relationships during the COVID pandemic.
The Target Audience
College students who had previously relied on face-to-face contact to maintain interpersonal relationships.
Over quarantine, I found that I wasn't able to keep up with friends like I did in college. Without in person interaction, it was difficult to maintain relationships. To see if others shared my struggle, I conducted multiple levels of research, seeking the nature of the problem and how to address it.
I began by conducting secondary research on the relationship between quarantine and interpersonal relationships in order to see if my problem statement was actually significant. I analyzed one scientific article and one research study, allowing me to gain a better understanding of the problem area.
To analyze the problem relative to the target audience, I conducted ten thirty-minute user interviews with US college students regarding their experiences maintaining relationships in quarantine, with the goal of gathering insight on user pain points and existing user behaviors.
• College students experience less consistency and find it difficult maintaining contact within relationships.
• Zoom and Facetime are currently the two most commonly used relationship maintenance products.
User Pain Points
1. Continued growth of relationships relies heavily on active personal effort on both ends of the relationship.
2. Relationship building is stunted by the limited activities that can be shared digitally relative to in-person.
3. Difficulty making time for genuine connections with friends due to a heavy online school workload.
To better understand the problem space, I analyzed three existing friendship-building tools on the market – Garden, Fabriq, and Reach. I downloaded all three apps to analyze their features and overarching experience, as well as sifted through App Store reviews to examine user response and pain points.
Garden is a relationship management application that reminds users to stay in touch and reach out to their friends, family, and network based on the users' set frequency preference.
Simplicity, documentation of previous encounters, reminders holding users accountable
Users forced to Integrate all contacts, no manual contact integration, can't log interaction notes
Fabriq is a relationship tracker that allowing users to set reminders for important events, tracks correspondence, sends users reminders to reach out, and suggests conversation starters.
Personal notes on previous encounters, promotes genuine connection via gentle reminders
Limited # of contacts that can be added, "inner circle"/ prioritized contacts too small (5 people)
Reach is a relationship buliding app that encourages users to complete fun friendship goals with their network and motivates users to complete goals with "level ups".
Good way to meet people with similar interests and make new friends
Limited # of people you can talk to, too many feautures (confusing UI), glitchy notifications
• Users value a personalized, fixed frequency notification-based system for relationship reminders.
• Users want complete control and jurisdiction over exaclty who can be integrated within the product.
• Complaints on overly complex featues and confusing UI of existing products; users value simplicity.
I created a user persona outlining the ideal user of COVID Connect. This ensures that when I begin ideating and designing the product, I can best serve the intended user and audience.
Defining Key Product Goals
Based off of my research findings, I developed 4 high level goals I wanted the product to address. I kept these goals in mind throughout the ideation process in order to best serve the user and ensure that all design decisions and implementations were intentional.
Effectively encourage users to maintain consistent contact in their relationships.
Provide opportunities for creative means of relationship building.
Give users freedom and control as to who they use the product with.
Integrate research-backed relationship building practices to increase impact.
Following research findings and goals, it was time to begin putting together the pieces of the product. My goal was to effectively address user pain points while seamlessly implementing effective relationship building practices to effectively address the problem statement.
Now that I had a clear direction as to the contents and features of the mobile application, it was time to explore how to most effectively execute the idea and make some big decisions about both the visual design and overarching user experience of the product.
1. Asking genuine questions & noticing interpersonal similarities.
2. Approaching interpersonal relationships with compassion.
3. Expressing gratitude within interpersonal relationships.
4. Finding creative ways to socialize and bond with those you care about.
5. Conducting small, meaningful gestures for those you care about.
COVID Connect – a gamified relationship building application designed to facilitate interpersonal relationships during quarantine.
Stay in touch with those who matter most to you by setting personal relationship building goals following the 5 Love Languages system and having complete control over your circle.
Let's play! Choose whichever Love Language card deck you want to do and swipe through fun, creative activities! Once you swipe right on a card, choose a friend and have fun!
Get reminded of friends you haven't reached out to in a while, and take immediate action! With Your Circle within COVID Connect, you'll never lose touch with a friend again!
Hold yourself accountable to set relationship goals with a multi-faceted tracking system! Keep track of daily, weekly, and monthly progress with visual progress depictions.
This was the first project I got to take through the end-to-end design process – from research and ideation to MVP. I learned a lot from the process, and honestly, had a lot of fun doing it. Special thanks to Professor Anthony 'Xiang' Chen for overseeing this project, and everyone at the UCLA Human Computer Interaction Lab that provided input and advice.