An app for new college students to browse, search, and propose new student organizations
Current RSO Management System
As part of a one-week design challenge, I chose this prompt because as a freshman I went to club fairs and browsed through my school’s online RSO (Registered Student Organizations) directory and couldn’t find any I wanted to join. As a result, I didn’t join any that year and I suspect a lot of people had the same frustration I had as a freshman browsing through the directory looking for something interesting to participate in and make friends. Let’s take a look at how other college students feel.
UI Design w/ Sketch
Prototyping w/ Principle
January 2019 - February 2019 (1 week)
To understand the users’ pain-points with searching and browsing for RSOs to join in college, I decided to send out a survey. Leveraging the power of Reddit, I posted the survey on three school’s subreddits (University of Washington, University of Southern California, and Cornell University) as well as on the subreddit r/SampleSize for any other college students to take. In total, I got 88 responses over 3 days and here are the results I got:
Besides these questions, I also asked a follow-up question in the survey on why they ever use or not use their school’s online RSO directory site. Here are some of the key user responses I got:
Too many options and not a lot to say about a club
It's too large and unorganized, takes too long to search for clubs in there
This also only works if I know what I’m meaning to find, which is hardly ever
You get a better feel for a club by seeing them at the club fair or by knowing a friend in the club
In addition, I decided to interview two University of Washington (UW) students, one Junior and one alumni who both founded RSOs on the process of proposing a new RSO and the pain-points they encountered. Overall, I got the impression that proposing a new RSO is not too difficult except:
Theoretically, you really only need a couple of people to start a club but UW requires five
Filling out the constitution form was a bit time consuming
Universities like UW and University of Southern California (USC) have online RSO directories for students to look up existing RSOs. However as a college freshman who searched through the UW system, I found it very lackluster and provide little information on what each RSO does and finding the right fit. USC’s system, while more modern, suffers from the same lack of personalization and information issue. On the other hand, Cornell simply includes a pdf file with list of RSOs and one line of information per RSO.
As colleges I did my research on tend to advertise RSOs as the main part of student life when attracting prospective students on their sites, the online systems make such promises seem rather empty.
In addition, through the interviews and looking into different college sites like the UW, USC, and Cornell ones on proposing new RSO, I realized the basic process looks something like this:
Find 3 - 5 other officers and a faculty advisor to start the RSO
Register for a new RSO proposal session online and fill out/bring constitution form to session
Attend RSO session and turn in constitution form
Wait for approval
After looking at the school’s sites, these requirements seem reasonable to prevent inactive clubs, like a lot of RSOs on the UW online RSO directory. The process seems simple but based on the interviews I conducted, there’re a few things some universities do better than others that are worth considering. For instance, UW requires that there’ll be 6 officers in order to start a RSO while USC only requires 4.
While there’re business needs to fulfill, I believe it’s possible to limit the number of officers to a minimum since the number of officers required beyond a certain point doesn’t ensure that a RSO will stay more active, and it will just add burden to the students like the one I interviewed. Therefore, USC’s model is of interest to me.
Based on the discoveries I had above, I decided to come up with the following user persona and scenario to keep things in focus.
Keeping John and Erica in mind, I decided to start sketching out the screens for an RSO app.
After a couple of iterations, I decided to make my final wireframes in Sketch and come up with a user flow:
I decided to keep main use cases easy to access by having a bottom navigation with 3 views:
MyRSO (RSO Proposal)
Let’s take a look at what happens from a user-perspective when the app starts.
Upon starting the app, a loading screen would show up with the App asking to access the user’s contacts like Whatsapp. That way the users would be able to see RSOs and events their friends are interested in (optional). The user would then be able to login with their school credentials.
At the top there’re recommended events based on what RSOs the users are following, and the popularity of such events in general and amongst the users’ friends. After that, there are “clubs your [user’s] friends are in”, which is self-explanatory. Both of those are designed due to user response that friend recommendations is a huge factor in how they decided to join clubs.
Thirdly, we have “club fair featured” RSOs for those popular at club fairs due to user response that they often turn to club fairs for discovering new RSOs. After that, we have “build your resume”and “browse by skills/interests” RSO recommendations as a significant number of survey respondents expressed interest in joining RSOs focused on resume-building and particular skillsets.
Clicking on an event image would take the users to the actual event page and likewise, clicking on an RSO image would take the user to the actual RSO page. I decided to use shapes as a way to differentiate between events and RSOs so event images are always squarish while RSO images are always circular.
Both the event and RSO page provide pretty simple information and most importantly, friends who are interested in the event or RSO. The top right hand corner allows the user to express “interest” in an event or “follow” an RSO.
Tapping the Search icon would bring up the search page with recent searches shown. Once the user researches for something, the would be able to scroll through search results based on “top result” (idea taken from Spotify so users can find what they want quickly), “clubs”, and “events”. I put events last as when users search, they’re most likely looking for RSOs rather than events, this being an RSO app (assumption).
Proposing a new RSO
And finally, the last use case of interest, proposing a new RSO. Upon clicking on the icon at the bottom right corner, users would be taken to the “MyRSO” page with RSOs they’re a part of, RSOs they’re following and events they’re interested in for easy access to such.
After clicking on “Start Proposal” at the top, they’d be taken to a main page with instructions before starting to fill out the form, at which point, the bottom nav bar would disappear to prevent user accidentally navigating to different pages while filling out form. While a goal is to alleviate burden for Erica when starting a RSO, it’s also important to address John’s concern of preventing the university from being filled with inactive clubs.
While filling out the form, users would have the option to go back to “MyRSO” page by clicking on the text at the bottom of each form page. Besides that, I included a place on Form Page 2 for users to look up faculty emails to assist them in finding faculty advisors.
Overall, the proposal process is simplified as such:
Find 3 other students and faculty advisor
Fill out form on app/online, and read through/agree to Constitution
Wait for Approval
Next, I decided to interview five college students and ask for their feedback browsing through the app as I explain to them the purpose, stakeholders, and design decisions I made. I got a few valuable opinions I decided to take into account:
“Clubs Your Friends Are In” list is helpful but not feasible in the case that users don’t have friends
Include advice on finding advisors for RSOs since not all would be willing to help
MyRSO page is a little unclear due to it being split between admin actions and user actions
Users won’t read through instructions for starting RSO
Should include more information on the club and event pages but not too cluttered
To deal with the case when users don’t have friends using the app, I’m changing the “Clubs Your Friends Are In” list to simply “Recommended RSOs”. The list would still ideally be filtered based on RSOs the user’s friends are in but that if they don’t have friends on the app, it would simply be based on popularity. In addition, I added RSO recommendations in the about page for an RSO based on user feedback.
Finally, I decided to make the preliminary instructions for proposing an RSO as part of the proposal process and made it a page (for emphasis) to prevent users from not reading through the list. Besides that, I also added “view tips” under the point on finding faculty advisors due to user feedback that it would be helpful.
Lastly, for the page of a hypothetical event, I decided to include pictures to further contextualize the event due to user suggestion that it would be helpful having more information. I chose to push the “friends interested” portion to the bottom since a user said:
If I don’t want to go to the event, I won’t go even if five of my friends are going
In terms of color style, I decided to use UW’s main colors, Purple and Gold, as basis. However, as this is meant to be an iOS app, I followed Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines carefully and used recommended, accessible purple and yellow colors for my purple and gold. In addition, I decided to use an off-white for the interface to prevent the screen from turning into a flashlight, not to mention, the off-white I chose fits with the overall purple and gold theme. Overall, the color palette is kept small with purple, yellow, white, off-white, black, and grey.
I also limited typography to 13, 14, 15, 17, and 20 SF Pro text, following human-interface guidelines. Besides that, all the icons are taken from the open source icon collection: Octicons, for consistency.
It’s been a great week learning about how poorly-designed a lot of university’s experiences for students to search, browse and propose new RSOs are. In addition, this is my first time carrying our user research and designing this many screens in a week so it’s been tough but fun at the same time!
Given more time, I’d definitely come up with full prototypes with animations in Principle and test with more users. Nevertheless, I wish there was an app like this when I was a freshman, so I might’ve actually joined RSOs and made more friends, although I wouldn’t have had such a long and thoughtful writeup.