📅 Year: 2022 Fall - 2023 Spring
⚡️ Contributions (Solo project): Task Analysis, User Research, Prototyping, Usability Testing, Visual Design
💻 Software: Figma, Miro
01 | From where it begins？
As an international student myself, I feel the pride, the privilege, as well as the loneliness, the isolation altogether. I saw the need for an online community for Chinese international students in the US. Hence, in 2022, I started this CIRCLE online community project.
Studies show that college students frequently suffer from mental disorders such as depression (41.6%) and anxiety (36.4%). The lack of social support and cultural differences make it even worse for international students. A welcoming, close-knit community could be their lifebuoy ring to thrive academically and mentally. I realize that international students tend to be scattered in different locations, only an online community can conquer the distance.
Credit: This project is advised by Amy Bruckman, Regent's professor at Georgia Tech, teaching the Design of Online Communities class.
02 | Competitive Analysis
TL;DR: The majority of those sites focus on helping Chinese international students with job hunting in the tech industry, shopping, and finance. The Bulletin board system platform makes it hard for users to build personal connections or meet people locally. Wechat groups, in comparison, are a more coherent community and exist across all American universities. However, they are not searchable on the internet, and information gets lost easily as chats overflow. All three GT WeChat groups I have access to have roughly 470 people (500 is the maximum number).
03 | User Research & Insights
The users groups are defined as - Chinese International students in the United States. I used surveys and semi-structured interviews to collect data.
04 | persona
Evan Yi - Evan is a senior at a public high school in China, in the college application process. His high school doesn’t provide resources for US colleges.
Jenna Xia - Jenna is a freshmen at Duke University. She feels a little disoriented because of language and culture differences. Does not do well in literature classes.
Charlotte Pan - Charlotte is a senior at UCLA. She is excited about graduation but is stressed about job hunting. Her U.S. visa is also expiring soon, and she is not sure how to renew it. She also would like to stay connected with UCLA alumni and help incoming students learn more about this great institute.
05 | Pain Points
High school seniors
Insecurity and uncertainty about whether he can get in a college he likes
Not sure how to get reliable sources of information about the U.S.
Worried about language/culture barriers
Cannot get a lot of resources for International students such as how to read health insurance
Very stressed about graduation because of uncertainties
Do not know how to look for career resources for Chinese international students
06 | ideation
3 critical points for international students
- Before coming to the US
- Right after arriving the US
- College graduation
Jobs to be done - functional
- Collect and share information that is tailored for Chinese international students.
- Promotes in-person socializing in local areas.
- Information should be public and searchable in both China and the US.
07 | User flows
User's goals at different stages
1. High school senior - Learn more about college applications
2. Newly admitted/freshmen - Learn more about college life
3. Sophomore moving out of campus - Find a safe neighborhood
4. Students new to the area - Find a local hiking group in Atlanta
08 | low-fidelity prototype
I conducted a think-aloud task walkthrough with a low-fidelity mockup to facilitate the iterative design process. I was able to identify confusion with wording, mismatch between users' mental models, and categorization. I also did preference testing on different versions of the menu bar. After 4 interviews, data reached saturation with repetitive feedback.
09 | high-fidelity mockup
10 | the takeaway
The CIRCLE online community project was born from both personal experience and empirical evidence, recognizing the unique challenges Chinese international students face in the US. By targeting the poignant issues of loneliness, depression (41.6%), and anxiety (36.4%), this platform serves as a crucial support system.
Addressing a Real Need: The emotional struggles of international students are not just anecdotal but supported by research, underlining the real necessity of this platform.
Conquering Distance: The online format unites students scattered across different locations, bridging the geographical gap and providing a communal environment.
Cultural Sensitivity: CIRCLE not only addresses mental health issues but also fosters a community that respects and celebrates cultural diversity.
Personal Investment: As an international student myself, this project is not just a technical endeavor but a personal mission to provide others with the support I've felt they need.
In conclusion, CIRCLE stands as a testament to the power of community, the significance of empathy in design, and the necessity of culturally sensitive innovation. It is more than a platform; it's a lifebuoy ring for those navigating the turbulent waters of studying abroad.