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With two other RISD students, I decided to research on areas that could be improved in the RISD community. We focused on improving Residence Life for students. Larry McLamb is our persona that represents RISD on-campus residents. This project was completed during the IBM Designing with Emotional Intelligence class. Please click here to see the final prototype!

How can we redesign a Rhode Island School of Design(RISD) student’s room selection process for optimal agency, well-being, and long-term connection?

Design Challenge

  • What are some challenges RISD rising sophomores have with the current room selection process?
  • How do we use visual storytelling to empathize with users?
  • What are the cupcake (immediate), birthday cake (near future), and wedding cake (long-term goal) options?

Design Scope

  • Project Length 4 Weeks
  • Week 1 - Contextual Inquiry
  • Week 2 - Story Boarding, Interview
  • Week 3 - Usability Testing, Prototype
  • Week 4 - Usability Testing, Prototype
  • Find a design problem in the RISD community, and propose solutions.
  • Learn IBM research methods through IBM Field Guide Book.
  • Interview with various stakeholders and do empathy map, experience map, and feedback grids.
  • Learn how to persuasively communicate through storytelling.

Design Research

We decided to identify the immediate stakeholders of our project and do contextual inquiry. The students ranged from freshmen to upperclassmen, transfers, and returning students. The RAs included current RA and recently graduated RA. The full contextual inquiry documents and transcripts for five users can be found here. We also sent out a survey online and got 18 responses. The survey responses can be accessed here.

RISD farm: Reslife (Shepherd), RA (Dog), RISD Students (Larry)

    1. RISD Residence Life Staff

  • "Informing RISD students of housing options is not something we’re good at currently.”
  • "We hope RISD students can inform us if there are problems ahead of time and not last minute."
  • "There is lack of number of staff who can help students. Therefore, while we know the problems exist, we don't have the incentives to solve all of them in time."

    2. Resident Advisors

  • "I think ResLife staffs do their best to reflect and kind of help support the students."
  • "I would like to see a student to be kind of in the position of authority on the same plane field my supervisor's supervisors."
  • "I think ResLife does there best to put themselves in the shoes of the student...but they never truly know what it is like."

    3. RISD On-Campus Students

  • "I feel like ResLife actually tries, and responds quickly…"
  • "There’s a huge gap in my ceiling right now, and when it rains, it looks like a waterfall in my room...I didn't know about this before I moved in."
  • "I know alot of my friends with last name that starts with “a” or “c” and they have bad time-slot for everything, every year."
Empathy Map for RISD Student and RAs

Who is Larry McLamb?

Design Ideation

Based on our user research, we came to the conclusion that there is a lack of information on amenities and housing options available for students that lead to housing problems in the future. Instead of taking reactive measures, improving the RISD Housing Portal (where students sign up for rooms) would be proactive measures to ensure that students feel more prepared and are satisfied. This would help reduce the workload of Residence Life staffs as well.

Current Housing Portal

Our group decided to conduct usability testings for the room selection process within the current housing portal to determine the challenges users face when they interact with the website interface. We conducted the testings on five users ranging from rising sophomores, tranfers, and the residence life staff. The screen, audio, and written documentations of our user testings can be found here.

Current problems with room selection process and our initial solutions

Design Prototype

Based on five usertesting insights, we realized that while the improvements we made were effective, the design choices could be pushed further by making the visuals of housing options more informative on the main page, showing availability of rooms as quickly as possible, and showing process for group room selections. Screen and audio recordings of our prototype can be found here.

Final Prototype Sketches

Usability Testing for Final Prototype

Design Reflection

During the four weeks, I not only learned the various IBM research methods such as empathy map, experience map, and need statement, but also learned how to use visual story telling to persuasively engage people with our persona, Larry McLamb. It was a great experience presenting our project to IBM UX designers and RISD administration staff, and getting their feedback.

Residence Life is currently working on updating the current housing portal, and we have sent our presentation to Anu, Associate Director for Housing Operations. During one of our usability testing, we were all very excited to hear that ResLife would like to implement our design choices into the new housing portal.

    I learned the following...

  • Visual story telling will keep viewers engaged.
  • Presenting research effectively can be challenging, especially when you want to show all of the research you've done. Choosing the necessary components to make a point within a limited time requires practice.