NYU Torch Tech

New York University Torch Tech was a platform that focuses on fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and network building among the NYU community. It was a virtual workspace to encourage and empower professionals across NYU to network and collaborate with each other based on common interests and goals.

Role

Experience & Interaction Designer, UI Designer

Project Type

Collaboration platform

Technology

Sketch, Zeplin, Abstract

Collaborators

Mianying Chen, Hye Ryeong Shin, Yu Hsuan Lin, Hau Yuan, Sarth Desai

Project Timeline

October 2017 - January 2019

Client

New York University Information Technology Department

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The Challenge

No centralized collaboration platform in a university community

New York University is a big community consists of students, staff, faculty, and alumni. To cultivate a sense of community, NYU Information Technology Department has been taking advantages of information services such as Google Groups, Communities of Practice, and Community Groups across NYU. There were many events and community activities happening on campus, but there was no centralized online platform to get involved in sharing experiences, learning best practices, and networking with each other.

In today's digital age, effective collaboration will highly achieved through digital platform. This digital platform can empower individuals to share, communicate, and collaborate with each other with more flexibility. In a university environment, it is important for everyone to be part of the family, to easily participate in conversations, access resources, and collaborate anytime and anywhere.

The biggest challenge for tighten the community is how to create a thriving digital environment resulting in a happier, more collaborative, and engaged members.

The Objective

NYU Torch Tech to bring people together

NYU Torch Tech is developed to encourage the community members to collaborate towards achieving a better community by sharing their ideas and skills. Its main objective is to create a digital environment to boost collaboration through creating groups, share knowledge, build networks, and easy access for what's happening within the community.

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The Approach

Designing from and for community

Problem definition was the most important thing to answer how might we bring people together through digital platform. I valued the process of doing more user research before jumped into design. A lot of qualitative and quantitative researches had been done to create empathy to who were we designing for. Iterative design was essential to bring powerful result. It might not be the best solution at the moment, but the more the product was being iterate, the more I, as product designer, knew what and how to add value for the users.

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Focus group discussion archive

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Focus group discussion analysis

It was very important for the community members to connect with others that had same skills and interests. For them, it would bring more value for participation in the community. An individual in a big community often found it's difficult and needed more effort to network in a smaller community that share the same interest. They needed an easy way to find and be found with others so they could share knowledge, resources and information.

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Focus group discussion analysis: Rainbow Sheet

The Discovery

What the community said

Quantitative and qualitative researches, including focus group discussion, in-depth interview, and heuristic evaluation, were conducted to analyzed how was user behaviors in a community. What value they beliefs to participate in a community in order to be a part of the family. How they do with digital communication platform was also an interesting point to look at. Me and my team did focus group discussions to dig deeper into what exactly their needs were.

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Design Solution

Recreating digital collaboration platform

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Previous communication platform

NYU IT Department had been using Google Groups for an online communication platform. Based on the user research, users found it was not intuitive enough to navigate the forums specific to their interests. The usage of mailing list was also inconvenient since there would be so many emails coming in. Sharing resources was quite difficult in Google Groups since there was no centralized storage for all the media.

NYU IT also facilitated Communities of Practice for all NYU members to join with the same interests. These communities were actively running on campus. But, there was no digital platform that could let the members interacted anywhere and anytime. This was one of the pain points that obstructed the community to grow. That said, me and my team had to think how to make the communication flow better through the digital platform that could be useful for the community.

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Previous community group

Designing for a specific user target

Identifying a target user helps to effectively develop the end product. Narrowing down who's the end-users would help to make decisions faster and cost-effective in terms of the development. I believed it was hard to please everyone in the community at the same time. For this reason, the iterative design was really important. We separated the scopes into several phases. The first phase would focus on communication features and sharing knowledge. Meanwhile, the next phase would improve these features and add more on how to build the network. 

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User Persona

Defining features and scope

Based on the user research and target user, I and my team brainstormed to analyze what features to be implemented for each phase. Due to time constrain, the main focus for phase one was: Knowledge Sharing, Search, Events, and Trending. Meanwhile, the other two big features: Network and Project were implemented in phase two.

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Feature analysis

PHASE 1

Developing knowledge sharing platform

Phase 1 was mainly focused on developing the knowledge sharing platform. The biggest feature for this phase was for user to easily ask and answer open questions from and to the community. Another support feature was Communities of Practice, where user could join any group with the same interest.

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Information Architecture

Detailed Design

Communicating the design

This project was a big project in which many designers and developers collaborated together. To enhance the communication between designers and developers, me and my team had to document each step in the design process. After I created the Information Architecture, me and my team made the wireframe to communicate the content before polishing the visuals.

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Wireframe

Design Guideline

From the user's point of view, the Design Guideline is very important to pay attention to company identity and culture. Our Design Guideline had to reflect NYU core values. It was easier for users to identify NYU products since Design Guideline could keep the integrity and consistency of a product. Meanwhile, from a development perspective, it is important to maintain scalability.

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Ask and answer questions platform

The main objective of Phase 1 was to make knowledge sharing became much easier. To achieve it, we created a platform for ask and answer questions. Users can ask and answer questions based on the feed that was personalized to them.

The Launch

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Discover interesting posts

Users can easily find posts they're interested in to subscribe to. Also, users can search specific questions or posts by keywords.

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Communities of Practice

Users can join community groups they're interested in. Within the group, as members they can share resources, open discussions, and follow each other to broaden the network.

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Responsive web

Designing for mobile

NYU Torch Tech is a responsive website, so user could easily access it on any devices. The mobile view was designed with mobile-first in mind following the Design Guideline. While designing for mobile, I had to change some elements to be mobile friendly. For example, the button size, cards, text-area for asking and answering the questions, etc. I also had to carefully think about using the whitespace and font-size.

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Final design: Phase 1

Communicating with prototype

To implement how the interaction worked, I created a working prototype in InVision. This way, it was easier for the developers to develop the product. Prototyping was the most effective way to communicate with the team, aside from getting feedback from users.

Moving forward

More research for Phase 2

Currently, the development of this project was in the final phase of Phase 1. Meanwhile, I was already doing more research for Phase 2. For next phase, this project would mainly focus on developing Network feature and improving all features in Phase 1. Both quantity and quality research were needed to gain more feedback for the improvement. Iterative design was really important to improve the product.

What I learned

Collaboration brings more value in design culture

No matter how good the design process is, if there's no collaboration within the team, the work will not be efficient. Collaboration happens not just among designers, but also between designers, developers, product managers, and all related stakeholders. It brings different perspectives of the great ideas on the table.

 

When I joined the TorchTech team, I was continuing all design process from the previous designers. In this case, the documentation was an important tool for collaboration. Even though I couldn't ask directly to the previous designers, but I could continue this project by looking at all the documentation. That said, creating the documentation accessible and easy to access will help the design process be more efficient. Besides that, the communication between designers and developers are essential in designing the solutions. After all, everyone in a team own the product, not just designers. It's important to make everyone brings up their ideas to create a better design solution.

"The collaborative design process is not about having someone else create the entire design solution, it’s about putting a process in place and creating a space with different people different perspectives." - Unknown