Wave: Mobile App Platform
UX/UI Design | December 2021 - May 2022
Project Team Lead
Partnered with the National YMCA and National DFA, applying the human-centered design process, we developed a mobile app platform facilitating connections between youth and their peers, allowing them to launch or join community projects by forming partnerships with local organizations and mentors, and witness their personal impact in their community.
Team Members: Chelsea Tang, Avani Guduri, Thomas Kang, Allison Zhang, Sharon Xue
Tools & Skills
Connect with your peers.
Launch or find a project. See your impact.
How can we transform youth (middle and high school students) interested in creating impact in our community into confident and community-centered changemakers, providing them with the resources to do so?
A mobile platform that facilitates connections between youth and their peers, allowing them to launch or join projects they’re interested in with partnerships with organizations, mentors, and professionals while seeing their tangible impact in their community.
Conducting Primary Research
To better understand the needs of YMCA Staff, the perspectives of our target users (middle and high school students) and the current situation regarding successful youth activities, I conducted interviews with 6 YMCA Directors of Youth Programming across main branches around the US.
Primary Research Interviews
Local YMCA Staff
Directors of Youth Programming
Youth involved with changemaking
National YMCA Coordinators
Articles and Internet sources
Full Research Document Responses
🔗Ann Arbor YMCA
🔗Old Colony YMCA
🔗Chapel Hill YMCA
🔗Greater Cincinnati YMCA
This research allowed me to pinpoint frequent issues YMCA branches have with encouraging youth to be active in their community and why some remain more popular. I also strived to reach out to branches with different dynamics including partnerships with schools versus independently run as well as branches focused on helping kids at risk and those with unique programs targeting youth in government or STEAM.
Considering the variety of programs different YMCA branches have, which ones are typically popular and why?
What percentage of people discontinue participating in programs, and what are some main reasons for leaving?
How does the YMCA currently recruit new members? How do youth primarily learn about new programs?
What are the goals of people who go to the YMCA, and what existing (youth) changemaker programs are there?
How many people typically go to your YMCA, and what are the demographics (age groups)?
What are the primary goals of people who go to the YMCA? What areas do students tend to gravitate towards?
What are the YMCA USA’s biggest challenges/ concerns, and is there a goal you’d like to meet?
Narrowing the Problem Space
Based on my primary and secondary research including numerous articles and blogs discussing youth activism in communities, I was able to identify large overarching issues and narrow them down to smaller subspaces shown below. From these subspaces, we were able to determine 3 main issues to address in our solution.
Youth tend to be more successful and invested when they work with other peers on topics of their choice, but programs on topics of their choice are sometimes not easily accessible.
How can we help students connect with peers with similar interests in an accessible way and provide them with adequate resources to launch their meaningful own community projects?
Youth want and benefit from a lack of adult intervention.
How can we help students develop their program with minimal adult intervention and make them feel a sense of ownership in their projects?
Seeing the impact of their efforts and being provided with positive feedback encourages continued participation among youth.
How can we inform students about the community efforts of their peers, encourage participation, and provide positive reinforcement for their hard work?
Key Research Insights
User Personas & Stakeholders
To understand who this project impacts, I outlined levels of stakeholders and developed personas to better consider different stakeholders' pain points and goals.
Primary Stakeholders: Youth (middle and high school students) including current and potential changemakers
Secondary Stakeholders: Organizations (including non-profits), mentors (including professors or industry workers), professionals working with youth changemakers, community members impacted by their projects
Tertiary Stakeholders: Youth program staff, parents of changemakers, community program coordinators
Based on the research insights, we began brainstorming potential solutions that would address our 3 challenges and through affinity diagramming, narrowed down 5 top solutions:
Profile matching app: Connect youth with specific interests and various local community organizations
One-day program event/ summer camp: Implemented to connect youth to non-profits where community organizations present
Podcast website: Appeal to students on different topics with a network where students can meet peers with similar interests
Digital feedback: Allows youth to reflect on what they liked, if they want to continue the project, and how they felt working with their peers
Newsletters: Educate youth on community/social issues to incite them to become changemakers, Offer recognition for student projects
Why this solution?
Formal and professional apps currently exist for young professionals looking for careers such as LinkedIn and Handshake, however not many apps foster a platform for younger students to connect with others to pursue their passions more casually. In order to develop a prototype that would be remotely accessible and appealing to a large number of technologically active youth, we decided to design a mobile networking platform where students are able to meet peers, non-profits, mentors and professionals to launch their own projects. We consolidated concepts in other solutions including digital feedback where students can review projects and learn about different ongoing community endeavors to join as well as the newsletter idea of recognition and impact where youth can see the impact they make in their community and publicize their efforts through posting.
We began analyzing the UI of different networking platforms (Handshake, Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, LinkedIn, Instagram), identifying patterns and features of different sites to incorporate into our own app design, focusing on a more appealing aesthetic, casual yet professional, user experience targetted at a young audience.
Key takeaways we found included:
Onboarding experiences should remain short and easy to complete (allow for skipping questions, indicate progress, have pre-made options to select, collect personalized interests)
Include filters for searching for projects to match users (including by interest, organization, time span, distance, school, and more)
Allow for customization of project and member pages
Allow for organizations to connect with peers and peers to connect with other peers and groups
Incorporate heavy use of visuals into the design, especially with one's feed
Before diving into high-fidelity mockups, I designed wireframes for the different pages of the platform to understand the overarching user flow and start to fill in detailed aspects of the experience.
I helped conduct user testing sessions where we received feedback from youth participating in YMCA programs regarding our wireframes, allowing us to iterate for future prototypes. The feedback we received included:
Align project categories with primary youth interests (surveyed popular topics for youth)
Allow for youth to post updates about projects and be motivated by viewing others' project updates
Allow for youth to find organizations and peers based on distance
Adding chatting features where peers can speak to members of projects before joining and creating project groups
Include public or private components to one's profile
Design Style Guide
Pitch Deck for YMCA Presentation
Quick, short process to create a basic profile for the user, allowing them to pick their interests for project matching purposes (most other questions are optional). Their interests are also displayed on their profile in order to connect with like-minded peers.
Explore & Join Projects
Based on the user's interests, appropriate projects are recommended on the project page, and can also be filtered by the user. Each project and organization also have detailed pages for users to read about members, description, and logistical information (skills needed, community partner, founding date and location).
Connect with Peers & Orgs
Users can connect with peers who have similar interests or are working on projects they wish to learn more about as well as organizations they might want to launch projects with or be a member of. Chat features allow easy communication between project groups and organizations.
See Your Impact & Launch Projects
The home feed will display project updates for youth to see the effect their project, and others, on the community, inspiring and motivating each other. Features like saving, commenting, and liking encourage positive feedback for their hard work. Youth are also able to easily launch projects.
Launch a project steps
Full Prototype Walkthrough (with audio)
Conduct more user testing for our final prototype with target students
Develop a functional prototype through coding
Discuss implementation guide details with YMCA staff members
Measures of Success
Number of users and connections
How many peers, professionals and mentors have we connected?
Number of projects launched
How many new projects have been initiated to improve the community?
Impact of Application
Meaningfulness of projects and networking determined through surveys and feedback from users
Through this project, I appreciated being able to collaborate and lead a team comprised of students from different majors and backgrounds. All of us were able to bring varying perspectives (whether Cog Sci, business, CS, art or design) to each discussion and certain skillsets. I gained experience with delegating tasks according to what people were interested in learning as well as were skilled in. I was also able to facilitate regular communication between my team members, National YMCA directors, and National DFA studio leads to coordinate regular feedback meetings and reflection sessions which reinforced my belief in beneficial critiques from stakeholders. We presented our final project to the National YMCA at the end of the semester and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the directors.
I consistently struggled to find users for user research which made me realize how difficult it is to conduct research without personal leads or through a company. It taught me persistence as we cold-emailed over 20 YMCA branches around the country to get in contact with directors of youth programming. I even attempted to contact numerous branches near my hometown to create personal connections and asked for referrals from other directors or students. Although in the end, the interviews we received were very comprehensive, allowing us to synthesize and generalize issues across community organizations.
Moving forward, I hope to further iterate on the prototype by interviewing more students (target users) around the country to validate design concepts and conduct user testing with the prototype to test design decisions and usability of features while compensating research participants. I also plan to conduct more interviews with YMCA coordinators for feasibility and implementation and program a final functional application to present to the organization.