covid-cover

COVID Connect

Digitizing Interpersonal Relationship Building during Quarantine

Overview

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.

ROLE

UX Researcher & Designer

UCLA HCI Lab

TEAM

Anthony 'Xiang' Chen

DURATION

April - August 2020

4 Months

The Problem

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.

Research

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.

Literature Review

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.

Screen-Shot-2021-01-27-at-9.15-1
loneliness

SNIPPETS OF THE LITERATURE REFERENCED

Relevant Findings

"Youth flourish socially through connections & fulfilling relationships, which are also an integral part of their learning. Long‐term isolation leaves these basic human needs unsatisfied & affects mental health." 

Screen-Shot-2021-02-11-at-5.08.28-AM-1

ROLE OF "EMPLOYMENT: STUDENT" ON LONELINESS

User Interviews

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. 

brandon
may

TALKING TO BRANDON NGO (UCLA) AND MAYSNOW LIU (UCD)

Key Takeaways

•  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.

"I have definitely had to make a more conscientious and active effort to contact friends to keep in touch during social distancing. It’s definitely harder because online schooling requires a lot more responsibility.”

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.

Existing Products

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.

IMG_C429C120A5D9-1-1

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. 

Positive User Response:

Simplicity, documentation of previous encounters, reminders holding users accountable

User Pain Points:

Users forced to Integrate all contacts, no manual contact integration, can't log interaction notes

1200x630wa-1

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.

Positive User Response:

Personal notes on previous encounters, promotes genuine connection via gentle reminders

User Pain Points:

Limited # of contacts that can be added, "inner circle"/ prioritized contacts too small (5 people)

unnamed-2

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". 

Positive User Response:

Good way to meet people with similar interests and make new friends

User Pain Points:

Limited # of people you can talk to, too many feautures (confusing UI), glitchy notifications

Key Takeaways

•  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.

User Persona

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.

hcipersona

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.

Accountability

Exploration

Freedom

Effective Practices

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.

Ideation

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.

The Concept

Feature Prioritization Matrix

feature-prio

BLUE: HIGH PRIORITY, GREY: LOW PRIORITY

Design Decisions

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.

HMW best suggest relationship-building practices for users?

My Solution:

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.

article

BLUE: HIGH PRIORITY, GREY: LOW PRIORITY

HMW implement features in a way that makes users feel comfortable and familiar?

My Solution:

stressed

DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN LOVE LANGUAGES AND PRACTICES

Screen-Shot-2021-02-17-at-1.48-1
Screen-Shot-2021-02-17-at-1.52-1

SNIPPET OF RESEARCH ON THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGE SYSTEM

HMW motivate users to actively use the product and achieve their relationship goals?

My Solution:

Screen-Shot-2021-02-10-at-6.23-1final
abolfathi-tinder-s1-1final

HOW "SWIPING" REVOLUTIONIZED ONLINE DATING

Design Process

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.

Branding & Design System

styleguide

User Flow

User-Flow-1

Low Fidelity Wireframes

I started off with some low fidelity mockups to figure out the technicalites of the product. This part of the process allowed me to figure out all the nooks and crannies of the flow and features. I used these wireframes largely to figure out general page layout and product architecture.

lowfidelityyy

Design

COVID Connect – a gamified relationship building application designed to facilitate interpersonal relationships during quarantine. 

ONBOARDING

Welcome to COVID Connect!

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.

GAMEPLAY

Swipe, Swipe, Swipe!

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!

FRIENDS

Long Time, No See

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!

TRACKING

Track Your Progress

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.

Takeaways

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.