Find My Seat

Role: UX Researcher & Designer | Team: Jessie Nguyen, Michael Wroblewski, & Eric Wang | Timeline: 3 months

THE challenge
One of the main pain points as a student is trying to find a suitable place to study. The process is oftentimes time-consuming and stressful, especially during peak hours at popular study spots. Therefore...
how might we improve the seat-finding experience when studying on campus?
Find My Seat is a mobile app that searches for open seats in various locations on campus, based on your selected preferences. Once you find the perfect study seat, you can add it to your favorites for easy access whenever you are on the hunt for a place to study.
The final interactive prototype built with AdobeXD.
The Process
Exploring the problem
Trying to find somewhere to work together on a group project is challenging and frustrating. This is one of the storyboards I drew to further explore the problem of seat-finding on campus.
On the outset, searching for study places does not seem like a complicated process. However, there are various intricacies that underlie the process, and they were exposed through the 12 interviews we conducted with the following questions:
   • Where do people like to study on campus?
   • When do they study?
   • Do people have any preferences in a study space?
   • Do students prefer to study individually or in a group?
   • What are any challenges in finding a seat?
One of the most popular places to study is Moffitt Library, with its open space and quiet floors. It was interesting to observe students sitting on the floor while using the benches as a table surface for their laptop and books.
synthesizing the insights
“I honestly can never work with groups of 4 or more in libraries 
without reserving a room. There are never any open tables available 
to work in.”

“If a floor is full, I just end up checking all the other ones 
before there is a seat available for me.”

“I am a night owl so I typically work better at night at some library, 
but everyone apparently likes working at the same time in the same 
library as me.”

Common themes emerged after organizing the points into an affinity diagram.

The 10 key insights included:
   #1. Most people like to study in a place that’s quiet, but not too quiet.
   #2. People tend to study at libraries over cafes or at home.
   #3. Timeframe of studying is based on the individual’s schedule.
   #4. People prefer seats that have table surfaces.
   #5. People consider proximity to essentials, like outlets, bathrooms, and free wifi.
   #6. People have different preferences with studying with others.
   #7. It is more difficult to find seats for a group than just one seat for an individual.
   #8. People would make several rounds on a library floor and go to different floors.
   #9. After various attempts, people tend to look for a different location to study.
   #10. Some people avoid libraries overall because it takes too much effort to find a seat.
Generating potential solutions
Taking into account our top insights, we began a series of brainstorming activities to come up with potential solutions to the problem.

One-Minute Sketches
converging to a solution
The solution I wanted to tackle designing was a mobile application that organizes seats on campus and lets you know of the current status of a seat. I made the conscious decision to assume that seats have a tracker to detect whether they are occupied or not, in order to design this app. 

Once I started whittling down the list of features and mapping out the user flow of the application, I found that organizing study spaces and study seats is more complicated than I first expected.

As I built out the user flow, I decided to cut certain features out because their complexity would have cluttered the app.

After mapping out the general user flow of the app, I started creating prototypes of varying fidelities. At each level, I reached out to more students for their feedback. I iterated on the design based on their inputs on the usability, from little things such as making the buttons bigger to more significant gaps like displaying the location of the seat.
main takeaways
• Making some assumptions still leaves a lot of design challenges to tackle - the major assumption I made was the ability to track a given seat's availability. Nevertheless there was still enough things to untangle and work out in designing an app even with this assumption (and building a temperature sensor to put on every seat could be a possible solution!).

• User feedback is incredibly important - at the mid-fidelity prototype, one person pointed out that there is no way for users to locate the actual seat, which is the entire basis of Find My Seat!

• Incorporating every insight you have gained after user research is impossible - it is necessary to determine your key goals in order to avoid over-complicating the application and losing focus on what exactly you aim to do. 

• There is always more to do - you can always keep going and tweaking little visual elements in the UI, but at a certain point you need to remember that any additional changes still need to keep the user in mind.


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