The initial research question ‘What are international students experience of loneliness’, has evolved to the problem statement, ‘how might we
 best support international students as they integrate into The University of Sydney’. Our focus from ‘loneliness’ to ‘how do we best support’
was discovered through combining research and finding that key to international student success in Australia is the promotion of
a healthy sense of well-being.

‘Usyd Mini’ stood out as the design solution that best met our problem statement and proposed user issues, needs, and goals. The application also distinguishes oneself owing to its unique focus around potentially providing solutions for a broad range of students who may be combating loneliness
 or not. It is a mobile ‘social application’ with its primary function to connect users through a map interface in a simple and easy way. It’s user-centered focus inspires an empathic quality in which users can create meet-ups based on their unique experience. The act of pinning a ‘unique experience’ may not be
an experience isolated to just themselves and other users may be drawn to what another student is offering. This allows the option to quickly connect
and share in the real-world after being facilitated by the application. In addition, the Usyd Mini is based on the University of Sydney
campus map and most of the key information is shown in our ‘cartooned map’ design which is inspired by the Google Maps and Google streets views.
Avatars are used instead of real, user photographs in order to avoid any user judgment as we found through research that this
 is a common phenomenon, particularly on Facebook.
Team: Chunliang Pan & Jessica Coombes
My role: research, idea of the interactive campus, UX & UI design, prototyping
In a study of international study security (200 students were interviewed), it was found that around 70% of international students in Australia had experienced problems of loneliness and/or isolation, especially in the early months. Students experience loneliness, due to loss of contact with loved ones and social loneliness because of the loss of networks as well. There is also the third type of loneliness – it is cultural loneliness caused by the unfamiliar cultural and/or linguistic environment The only solution to the problem is to create strong bonds with local
students and students from other countries of origin. This will help to remake cultural maps and move on.
From combining user research findings from interviews (with 10 students) and questionnaires (with 40 students), we discovered that main user issues surround:
->  Missing home away from the life that they were used to   ->  Difficulty finding/building meaningful relationships
->  Stress surrounds meeting academic expectations  ->  Difficulty finding an interest/group/local community to connect with
->  Language and cultural barriers   ->  Feeling psychically more disconnected rather than connected
->  Relationships with other students are not “real”, deep, satisfying ->  All points above were found to contribute to a diminished sense of well-being
‘How might we best support international students as they integrate into The University of Sydney’
Our problem statement was reached through exploration of combined research with our main discovery being that students cope with and manage feelings of loneliness through a variety of activities that work for them. Therefore, it was important to acknowledge that international students not only have different experiences of loneliness and manage in different ways, but are experts in their own lives and are resourceful in achieving a sense of well-being that is important to them. For example, an individual may value academic merit over finding meaningful friendships. This individual may then change this focus, depending on what they are prioritizing in their life at that moment.
We found through research that some students are experiencing small to nil amounts of feelings of loneliness and it is
important to acknowledge these students as well. Therefore, it was important to keep our problem statement broad. This was decided so to best include all types of users and their different ways of experiencing and managing life. However, we refined the space in which a design proposal would take place and therefore limited ourselves to just the University of Sydney campus and specifically, the students on
campus. In combining our research, we found that through conducting a person centred issue, empathic qualities were inherent
throughout. However, it would be appropriate for all design concepts and solutions to stem from the core value of
empathy, compassion and altruism to best address the design brief.
Brainstorming Initial Concepts
Cross Comparison of Initial Concepts

'Usyd Mini ’ Justification of Choice
Based on our design solutions, we wanted to design a simulated campus where each student was presented as a virtual character ( ie : ‘user’ or ‘avatar’) on a virtual campus. In order to refine and understand our proposed interface of the virtual campus, and to avoid repetitive design, we researched simulation game products that currently exist on the market. We found that there are some successful game models, such as the example of SimCity and the Farmville. These existing solutions best meet user needs such as socialization and interaction and connection with interests and the community. We felt that they did not meet our needs, goals and values as fittingly as our initial brainstormed concepts did.
We understand that this is because these existing solutions are addressing their own set of user needs.
The following images are screenshots of SimCity and Farmville that we found during our research
In order to understand the effect of virtual maps, we aimed to imitate the pattern of electronic maps, especially virtual maps like streets-capes, into our design. Most would agree that the most renowned electronic map product is Google Maps. Google Maps has a map function that is simple to use. Google Street View is based on real life shooting in Google Maps. This feature inspired us to learn more and contemplate including and refining a similar feature into our design.

Sketches of initial concept
In evaluating the usability of these existing games, we found that these sim style games lack a real time communication function feature and
a feature that reflects the current location of the user. This means that to a large extent, these existing game mode interactive systems cannot provide a psychological sense of belonging or generate empathy for our target users. In addition, the existing games on the market are very commercial and more concerned with profit and a wider user target than rather than how to empathize with users, so our design is more inclined
to add emphatic elements. Finally, after evaluating features such as from Facebook, Tinder and LinkedIn we found that the
interfaces were not suitable for our application. The Events or Profile interfaces were too detailed and
our design aim is to allow for users to browse all the things they wanted in a short time.

Persona-based storyboard
Persona-based, simplified flow chart representing the scenario
 We tested our design with four participants during very early stages. We told users about our goal and briefly described our idea; Firstly, we showed potential users very basic user scenarios and roughly sketched wireframes. Then, we asked for feedback, as we needed it for our design evaluation, before preparing serious mockups . Unfortunately, the sketches and mockups were not enough for most participants, so we quickly prepared a very simple paper prototype. We interacted with it together to make clear what kind of features the app will probably have. All participants are students at the University of Sydney. First of all, they complained about avatars ––“we should have different avatars”, “a feature to customize avatar would be awesome”, “with the similar avatars, but with different names the app will be boring”, “ definitely there should be inbuilt app in the app with the possibility of preparing your own avatar avatars should look like users”. Secondly, a feature with events was missing: “Only clicking on the avatar with some options... Where are events? Where is a calendar? It doesn’t make sense”, “An inbuilt calendar with schedule would be a nice option”, “on facebook you can invite people to events, parties etc. Think about it”, “without any special features it would be like second sims, just for a mobile”
Thirdly, two participants told us that the map after zooming in is not interactive enough: “when I see the whole Campus map its okay, but
when I will Zoom in to street view it would be just an Image? It should be interactive, more like google maps style.”, “It shouldn’t be another campus map, it should be more like a game with some movement” Actually, in the beginning, we wanted to keep the design very simple to make it as intuitive as possible, yet clearly, it is not enough. We have to implement some new features to encourage students to use the app.
All feedback, especially critical feedback, is useful owing to the fact that our participants represent our client’s needs. Therefore, diverse avatars, inbuilt calendar, events, and the interactive map will be our new goals. We feel that these additional features will generate more bold
and unique attributes to our design.
We asked some related personal information about the participants , which includes Age, Occupation, Background and Similar experience.
The purpose of these related information has been shown in the following part.
Age: Group of young people
Occupation: USYD Student
Background: Understanding of usability
Similar experience: Ability to use the application

All the users belong to the USYD student that are target group for our application. And also all of our participant have no experience of using the similar application , so that means some of our tasks possibly are a bit challenging for them. But for this reason , the think aloud data are able to derive usability problems within our interface.
The comments and suggestions from participants can really help the researcher and designer better improve the application in the subsequent iterative development.
think-aloud background demographics
With the help of tool, InVision , participants experienced the application and completed tasks below through an electronic prototype.
performance data

Think aloud Method Findings

1. The application interface provides multiple functions that can help people pay more attention in finding friends by immersive gaming experience.  2. The USYD MINI has a highly integrated interface that retains key features and omits unnecessary redundancy.
3. Think aloud with the assistance of prototype that is efficient and effective, and accurately providing design problems in the user interface. So that the data reveals the problems of interface design objectively and helps to improve iteration in the future.

1. We conducted think aloud with only 3 users, the result might not be able to show all the problems
2. The think- aloud testing based on the prototype, and the prototype just can provide some functions of whole application. So that the conclusion only can reflect part of whole application issues.
 3. There are some interface flaws that can lead to some obvious errors such as missing ‘back’ icon in the menu interface.
 4. The task need to be described clearly to avoid misunderstand.
The Usyd Mini application is a unique solution to fill a much needed gap in the market in supporting international students at
The University of Sydney. It is a useful solution for numerous reasons:
->  Findings have shown that it meets the majority of our user needs, goals and values.
->  Usyd Mini shares similar characteristics to Google Maps and Street View and Social Media Platforms. Participants have given feedback surrounding its likeness to these and therefore, allowed for simplicity and intuitive navigation during user testing.
 -> The solution received largely positive feedback and feedback was consistent with user goals, needs and values.
->  Usyd Mini aligns with the design brief’s notion of empathy, compassion and altruism. With user feedback highlighting ‘connection’ as being
the main thing that they felt whilst using the application.
What is next for the Usyd Mini? Findings have shown that our design could be improved through a variety of means. Mainly:

->  Improving the interface: Numerous participants had interest in the ‘user avatar’ aspect of design and expressed interest in animation. Therefore, improvements to user experience could include a more ‘Sims like’ effect gamification explored in research) in which users can approach and speak to each other in the virtual world.

->  Inclusion of safety aspects: Since the application is based on GPS location, it is imperative to ensure user safety. Whether this means allowing users to block others from seeing their location or users having access to their own privacy settings would be aspects to explore in future.

->  Further user testing: With more time, we would have liked to explore more prototyping and testing with the InVision tool and create more high fidelity mock ups until we had all main interfaces of the application active through InVision .
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