UX Case Study
STUDENT CHAT FORUM
FEATURE FOR WBU: A Student mental health app
WBU: Student Chat Forum
UX/UI Design | Branding
We are going through a student mental health crisis problem. Students from all around the country are experiencing different mental health problems, preventing them from achieving academically and having an overall impact on their university experience. To really highligh the problem we are facing, a recent poll conducted in 2019 of 38,00 UK university students found that students expressed high levels of anxiety, loneliness, substance misuse and having ideas of self-harm, with 87.7% of students experiencing feelings of anxiety (Statistics from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/05/levels-of-distress-and-illness-among-students-in-uk-alarmingly-high#maincontent) With so many students experiencing different mental health problems,
So, the app concept I have been working on is to help contribute to the student mental health crisis. Specifically, for this project I have been working on a ‘talk’ feature which provides students a space to communicate with one another through a chat forum. This is a feature which will help provide students with initial forms of support, hoping it will encourage conversation and a safe outlet.
Understanding the problem
As a university student myself and being surrounded by friends who also go university, there have been many times a friend would tell me they’ve been feeling depressed, lonely and anxious. It is an uncomfortable experience many students go through and often feel like they are completely alone in the situation. The same problem that is expressed time and time again is that students (including myself) feel like they do not know where to go to get help or where they can reach out to other students even for simple advice.
So, by understanding the problem this led to the initial stages of conducting research so I could really find out how students are coping throughout their university experience and the pain points they have.
My role in this project was the UX/UI designer, user researcher, designer and project manager. This project is a part of my dissertation project submitted to King’s College London, in which I designed a mental health app for students to use.
To produce this UX case study, I followed this model
My goal is to create a mental health app for students to communicate with one another as well as seek support from services provided by their universities or mental health charities. Specifically, the goal is to create a ‘talk’ feature where students can interact through a chat forum where they can ask and receive advice on a range of topics.
A concept similiar to this already exists on the market and is the main competitor, which is the Big White Wall. This is a website that is endorsed by many university institutions across the country. However, it is not known to many students (even myself) which is a problem. It is supposed to help students throghout their university journey and provide a platform for students to seek help.
So, i wanted to see how well known the platform was to current or former university students so I went ahead and asked students if they had heard of the Big White Wall and there are some of the responses I gathered:
All respondents had not heard of the platform and they were all students that attended universities which endorsed the Big White Wall. This was an extremely interesting find as there is already a large audience usinf the platform, but it seems like there are not enough.
Some problems I found with Big White Wall & specifically the community section (which is the section I am exploring and adapting for my app) is that :
- they are only a website and operate as a web-app, no app for students to download.
- the UI is extremely simple, could be improved in terms of the colour, icons.
- they don’t have the option to search for a key word or phrase, which would filter options, providing students with a range of options.
These are some of the ideas I will be taking into consideration and implementing into my app, to provide a seamless user experience for students.
Having gathered market research and exploring my current competition, I went ahead and conducted 3 unstructured interviews with friends that are currently studying in university. These consisted of informal conversations with each participant, it was helpful knowing them too as mental health is a sensitive topics so I was able to already have the established rapport so they were comfortable in having this conversaion.
● How is your university experience going?
● Have you suffered from any mental health problems?
● Who do you turn to when you need some advice or help?
● How helpful has your university been in providing support?
Overall, participants said they did not have the best university experiences, and here are just a few findings:
Key finding 1:
All students experienced different mental health problems throughout their university experience, including depression and anxiety. They also said that loneliness was a huge problem experienced and they know many other students that are going through the same thing.
Key finding 2:
They expressed that they did not have a strong support system from their university. Seeking support from services provided by the university was not spoken about and was not something students were made aware of. Participants expressed that universities were lacking in highlighting different points of contact, that it was a matter of students having to go and seek help for themselves.
One student said:
“I’m currently in my third year of uni and not once have we been told about any student mental health services. Yes, we know every uni has them but it has never been brought up. I didn’t even know the Big White Wall exists as a platform, so I think that really highlights the problem here.”
Key finding 3:
In terms of seeking advice or help, participants emphasised that although they had friends they could turn to, they all said they would want a space where they could speak their mind and ask for advice anytime and every day.
One student said:
“I feel like I’m a burden to my friends when I go and ask for advice. I know I shouldn’t feel like that but sometimes you just want advice and help from people you don’t know.
These conversations were useful as i could really see that students did not feel like they had the best support systems and did not want to be a burden to their friends about their problems. This is exactly why I want to design a platform which allows students to voice their opinions and not feel like they are a burden and if they dont have a strong system provided by their university.
In response to the user interviews, I put together a user persona of an ideal student that would use the chat forum 'talk' feature on WBU. For the user persona I wanted to reflect the typical university student by producing a bio as well as her behaviours to show what a student enjoys doing. I included the goals and frustrations highlighting her need of a platform in which she can express herself and receive advice as well as her frustrations in which she doesn't receive the mental health support from her university.
In response to the research I conducted I came up with these design solutions:
⚬ Design a chat forum feature where students can ask for advice from other students.
⚬ Allow students to reply to questions, queries or dilemmas by actively responding or liking comments.
⚬ Provide students with choices when searching for a dilemma, query or question by allowing to search for a key word or through a list of categories.
⚬ Ensure it is easy and simple to navigate so students feel comfortable and can reach their user goals.
To begin the design process, I started off by sketching the screens that users would see when using the ‘talk’ feature. I annotated them to show what the various features would do and ensured that it would be a simple process for users to engage with dilemmas as well as create their own. It was useful sketching the individuals screens as the goal is for the user to have an easy journey from one screen to the other. Throughout the process, I would ask myself:
⚬ ‘Does this make sense for the user?’
⚬ ‘ Am i overcomplicating the process?’
Following the sketches, I produced high fidelity wireframes as well as an extremely simple user flow to show the journey a student will take when using the 'talk' feature.
In response to the research, sketches and wireframes, this is the final design for the 'talk' feature for WBU: a chat forum for students to interact with one another. This forum will allow students to view, search, like and reply to dilemmas, queries and questions written by other students as well as write their own.
The aim was to create a simple and clean interface which helps users reach their goals as quickly as possible.
Users are given a choice to search for a word or phrase. This provides the option to filter out dilemmas, queries and questions if they are looking for a certain discussion. If users don’t want to search for a particular word or phrase, they can browse through a range of categories instead.
Users are able to filter dilemmas, queries and question by searching for a specific word or phrase. Once searched, the chosen word or phrase is highlighted so students can easily find the discussion they want to participate in.
This is a feature I wanted to add so students can make very detailed searches and seek advice as quickly as possible.
Students can browse through dilemmas, queries and questions and choose from a range of categories. They can easily be applied and removed.
View, like and reply
When students choose a dilemma, query or question they can view the replies and gain some useful advice. They can also like and reply to engage in conversation and share their own opinions too.
This is a simple interaction which allows students to consistently remain anonymous throughout communicating with other students.
View response and user profile
Students can view a response, giving them the choice to report a comment if it is offensive, harmful or derogatory.
Students can also view the profile of who made the comment. The profile contains their aviator, username, age, academic year and university (profile varies depending on the students choice of sharing information).
A private chat can be started to allowing students to privately message a user if they have a question or want to have a conversation.
Write a dilemma
To write a dilemma students can simply click on the green + button on the 'talk' home page and be presented with a pop up screen. This will allow students to write their own dilemma as well as choose the categories their dilemma fits in. Students can also be notified when someone replies. It really is that simple!
This was my first UX case study and it was a great experience. It definitely involved a lot of research and exploring existing UX case studies as well as templates. I learnt about the process and now I have a stronger understanding of piecing together a successful UX case study. Looking back there were elements I could have expanded on/ researched into including carrying out testing on users. However, it is all part of the learning experience and is something to consider for my next case study.
Now onto the next case study where I will only reach new strengths as a UX designer!
I want to say thank you so much to Love Circular, the journey and support so far has been AMAZING! As someone that was focusing only on UI design, Love circular have helped me transition and explore further into UX design which has been a great learning experience so far.
Update: I got 82% on my dissertation project! This is an idea I am extremely proud of and hope it will be something more than just an idea. Getting an amazing result back has definitely boosted my confidence and allowed me to appreciate the work I do.
My new saying when it comes to design work is 'it's finished, not perfect.'