For my UX Diploma Capstone Project, I had to identify, plan, research, and design a digital mobile interaction that addresses a problem space of my choosing, from start to end of the UX | UI design process.
Academic: BrainStation London, Capstone Project
UX Researcher, UX | UI Designer, Marketing Strategist
Figma and Invision
10 weeks part-time
Living as an expat around the world for nearly 10 years, I've experienced and witnessed the obstacles of making friends in a new place. Dating sites have perfected the idea of narrowing down a desired connection, but what about friendships? How do we discover genuine connections among thousands of people? And most of all, how do we find and build these bonds in a natural way?
Socialink is the all-in-one social app that allows people to connect with like-minded individuals with similar interests, hobbies, backgrounds, and journeys. Users can initiate conversation, host, explore and join social events, and connect with the community in the local forum. Building lasting social circles, and making meaningful memories is now easy within one app. Genuine connections are all around us waiting to be made, Socialink is just leading the way.
In order to focus on a user-centered solution, I implemented both the Double-Diamond and Design Thinking frameworks. By moving between convergent and divergent thinking, all ideas and solutions were widely explored and tested.
The Problem Space
Moving to a new city or country can be an enriching and rewarding growth opportunity. Individuals have the chance to start over and build a new life by connecting to their surroundings and community. However, it can be quite a lonely and isolated experience if done without a local support system or friendship group.
Social connection is an important contributor to overcoming loneliness, but finding the right social networking opportunity is key to building genuine connections that will last and enjoying the experience of a new city, to the fullest.
In 2021, a study surveyed 12,400 expats, representing 174 nationalities in 186 different countries and found that...
9 in 10 expats
have felt isolated in their time abroad
said they struggle to find friends abroad
claim they don’t have enough socializing opportunities.
Through competitor analysis, I discovered that many expats use Facebook groups to talk about the struggles of finding friends and try to create social circles.
....It's very difficult to actually make friends. I'm not looking for randoms... I'm talking about real friendship.
....I'm going to fully put myself out there.... it's so hard to make friends as an adult.
I believe that helping expats connect with others in their city who share similar hobbies, interests and goals will help them build a quality support system, combating the feeling of isolation.
I will know this is true when qualitative research from positive expat reviews show successful friendships made through the digital solution.
Empathizing with the Target Audience
To gain a better understanding of users main pain points, motivations, behaviors, and goals, I conducted phone interviews to 3 participants of the target audience.
Adult expats ages 18-35 years old who have moved to a new city or country.
31 yr old, Female, English Teacher
From Florida, USA
Lives in Bangkok, Thailand
Lived in 4 countries, traveled to 18
22 yr old, Female, Student
From Bucharest, Romania
Lives in Madrid, Spain Lived in 2 countries, traveled to 7
29 yr old, Male, PR Manager
From Exeter, England
Lives in London, England
Lived in 3 countries, traveled to 27
Feedback from each interviewee was analyzed and important insights were separated into pain points, motivations, behaviors and goals.
Had to learn that readiness to adapt is pivotal, have to break out of ways, try new things, hobbies, food
Only goes to afterwork drink socials because workmates are only friends here and aren't keen to do other activities
Never tried a social app for meeting friends because of Male social
Now has a lot less friends than before but it took a long time to create the social circle
Making friends abroad becomes your family, like a home away from home
Bonded with others going through similar experiences, with natural connections
Being part of a similar community in your new city and learning how to adapt to things together creates the best bond
Bases friendships more on quality than quantity
Difficulties moving abroad are handling things alone. Not having support.
Found making friends online felt forced, and more trying to fill a void of loneliness then actually connecting
Dealt with people not responding or following through on FB posts to meet because of too many comments
Moving to a big city from a small town was difficult to make connections, other than work doesn’t know where to start
Friends abroad = Family
Friends made in a new
city are the closest thing to family
one has, it is crucial for
positive mental health & to take
Quality over quantity
Making friends that last whom
they share a good bond or connection with is more valuable then the amount of friends they surround themselves with
Connecting through similar interests
Some of the best bonds are
made by connecting through similarities (school, work, hobbies, lifestyles, interests, situations, etc.)
A core theme was chosen based on it having the most pain points, motivations, behaviors and goals among the interviewees and also the most opportunity for solutions.
How Might We?
How might we help expats connect with like-minded individuals in their city in order to reduce the feeling of loneliness and enrich their social lives?
To synthesize my research findings and build a deeper empathy for the target audience during my design process, I developed a user persona (based on previous research and interview insights).
Based on the core theme of "connecting through similar interests”, an experience map was created to gain a deeper understanding of the target users current pain points.
The goal is to discover opportunities for design intervention within expats current behaviors of finding friends online. This follows Abbey's journey of using current competitors apps to make genuine connections.
Give expats one platform to find friends so that they don’t get overwhelmed with all of the options.
Private chat option (group and individual)
Provide a communication option so they can speak with prospective friends before meeting. Thus, making it easier to interact with those interested without having to change apps.
Search for like-minded people
There is an opportunity to let people find others they actually have connections and bond with before meeting up.
Create events for people with similar interests
Pair people to attend events/ social gatherings of shared interests and hobbies.
I authored 20 user stories from the personas point of view to discover the needs and wants of expats when finding friends in new cities.
From the user story tasks I created, I categorized them into 3 common epics. Joining events with other like-minded individuals, was chosen as the core epic.
This was based on how well it addressed the main pain points of the persona, and solution opportunities.
Connect through similarities
Join events with other like-minded individuals
Make individual bonds to create lasting friendships
To address the problem space of helping expats overcome isolated and lonely feelings by connecting with like-minded individuals in their city, a task flow was created to ideate a possible digital solution.
Following the core epic of joining events with other like-minded individuals, the task will be to join an invent of their interest with people they think they would get along with well.
I began the development process by drawing exploratory sketches of screens that followed the task flow. Solution sketches were then designed. These were chosen based on their usability, simplicity, and efficiency of allowing a user to follow through with the task.
It is an IOS app that provides expats with a single platform they can use to find social events, find friends with similar interests, and also get local support by posting on a forum.
The screens follow the task flow- the user joining an invent of their interest with people they think they would get along with well.
Low Fidelity Prototype- Version 1
Five expats were recruited to test the prototype, following a given scenario, in order to perform given tasks. A script was created to ensure consistent and easy testing sessions among the users.
Male & Females, ages 23-35, with experience moving to a new city or country
Although all five users were able to complete the main task of joining an event, they all struggled with filtering the results and seeing the other attendees. I chose the highest impact changes to implement (from the design prioritization matrix).
The Problem Before:
Users were confused where to post, and also had got lost navigating through the events forum and people to meet functions.
Users now can navigate through the main functions of the app (meet people, go to forum, see events) through the navigation bar. The home page is now used as a dashboard.
Specific Event Screen
The Problem Before:
Tags under photo card looked clickable, when they where not intended to. Interactive buttons looked unclickable. Confusion about where the chat CTA leads. Also users unsure if the heart button would like and/ or save the event.
Event filter tags now clearly unclickable by being placed on photo. Heart changed to save ribbon. Date, location, and attendee buttons given outlined button to look interactable. Chat button changed to small icon beside host name.
Event Attendee Pop-up
The Problem Before:
Users could not understand all of the information on the small cards (information overload, with little white space).
User profile cards bigger with hobbies and interest icons used instead of text. Nationality flag added for each user, along with brief biography sentence, and a flip-through photo card. This was so the task of "seeing if users will get along with any attendees to the event" can be done without having to click on each profile.
Continued User Testing
Two more rounds of user testing were implemented following the same task, with new adult expat users for each round. The major layout changes were made in the first initial test, and the feedback gained from the other two were mainly cosmetic (button and font sizes, text copy changes, and locations of icons). These changes were implemented to create a 3rd mid-fidelity prototype that was ready to go into high fidelity design.
In the problem space, I discovered many expats face overwhelming feelings of home sickness, isolation, and loneliness. It was vital that I created a brand that combated these emotions by portraying a positive and motivating brand identity.
To keep a cohesive brand development, I started with creating vision boards to set the tone, values, and motifs of the brand.
To establish brand colour, typography, and visuals I created a mood board that reflected the brands positive identity.
I wanted to develop a brand name that expressed the key purpose of the app and also the brands goal. Some ideas I brainstormed were: synch, vibe, click, roam-mate and social link.
I chose the name that best and clearly connects the target users goal (socializing) with the main purpose of the app (linking up). With the final decision being Socialink.
Social + Link = Socialink
To create a well identified logo design of the brand name "Socialink", I started to sketch chain links into an "S".
The idea of a link for the main logo, not only fit the name, but also symbolized expats bonding and connecting to each other.
Inspired by the mood board, 4 brand colours were chosen:
60% dusty blue | 30% faded orange | 5% sun glow yellow | 5% light teal
I followed the Atomic Design System to create a UI library of the atoms, molecules, organisms, templates, and pages of the high fidelity design.
With the brand identity and visual elements established, I turned my mid-fidelity frames into a high fidelity prototype.
The digital solution provides expats with a single social platform to discover social events, find friends with similar interests, and also get local support by posting on a forum.
In this walk-through, the persona already has an established profile set up. They begin by exploring the app to connect with new friends. Then, decide to search for an event of their interest, with other like-minded individuals.
Responsive Marketing Landing Page
To begin the marketing strategies of the high fidelity design, I created a desktop and IOS responsive landing page.