In ART 326 Interactive Design, students follow a human-centered approach to design a mobile app based on the findings from user research.
Since technologies are so rapidly integrated into our lives, we start by examining some of their benefits and pitfalls. We reflect on personal experience and ask critical questions. The project is seen as an opportunity to address problems that have been overlooked, like digital addiction, polarizing or adversarial debate, and negative effects on mental health. What can designers do to change this?
Through design thinking, it seems possible to have a deeper understanding of the human experience, and thus, develop more humane products. How can design put the ‘human’ back in human-centered design?
The prompt asks students to select a person to be their user for this project. They are to develop a concept for a mobile app that supports their user emotionally, helps them be more focused or mindful, make informed decisions, connect more authentically with others, or develop a sense of belonging.
We follow a human-centered approach to design. Students plan and conduct user research to better understand their user’s goals and needs. Then, they create and refine prototypes based on the results of usability testing.
User research is framed as a way to discover an opportunity for design. Students conduct an in-depth, semi-structured interview with their user, plus one other user research method of their choice. They plan the methods in advance. Interview questions are critiqued in class. Then, they conduct research and produce outputs. This research helps students develop empathy with their users early in the process.
After research, students develop a user-based app concept. A definition statement helps to translate research results into actionable findings and acts like a 'solution-generating springboard'. Students write a user profile, brainstorm a range of possible features, consider which features would be most appealing to their user, research similar apps, and craft a mission statement to ensure the app has a clear purpose.
Students develop a low-fidelity paper prototype with wireframes for 10+ screens. This planning tool is intended to help students determine a navigation model, think through user flow, and construct the information architecture. Students conduct two rounds of usability testing—first, with classmates, and then with their user.
Branding involves naming the app and designing an app icon. Students generate a list of possible names for their app and research them to check availability. After the name is finalized, they sketch a range of ideas for the app icon. We discuss the visual-verbal synergy between the name and icon.
Students create a style guide to define the UI design style. It includes the app icon, color swatches, typography, sample icons and imagery. Once a design direction has been established, they set up their design file and start with the most complicated screen to test their wireframe pattern and styles.
The remaining screens for the mobile app are designed and a high-fidelity prototype is built in InVision. Once the prototype is interactive and can be viewed on a mobile device, students do another round of testing in class, to gather feedback on usability, flow, design, and consistency.
In addition to the prototype, students develop content for the product page in the App Store. They write an app store description, craft the subtitle, and carefully select key words. The project culminates with a UX/UI case study that articulates their process, from problem finding to prototype testing.
Mobile apps from this class project have received over 20 gold and silver ADDY Awards presented by AAF, at both the local and district level.