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Erasmus Connect

Connecting students living abroad

(Ongoing project)

TL;DR
Project goals
  • Connect students who live abroad
  • Inform students about different cities and universities
Project type
  • Build a platform/brand from scratch
My roles
  • Business strategy
  • Branding
  • UX
  • UI
Final images at the bottom of the page.

Disclaimer: This is an ongoing project, meaning that some of the information may have already changed or kept private. I'll keep updating this page.

Project context

On the 18th of August of 2019, I moved from Lisbon to Copenhagen to study on an Erasmus program.

Weeks before arriving in Copenhagen I was eager to know who I would study with, who I would live with in the student residence and what the city felt like. I searched for ways to find people studying abroad and found plenty of platforms that tried to do something like that, but none of them complied with my specific needs.

I decided to create something that solved this situation.

Due to the proactive nature of this project, I did everything except the implementation. This includes user research, market research, business strategy, user experience design, user interface design, graphic design, branding, and marketing.

Problem statement

University students need to find each other and know more information about the city they are going to before going on Erasmus. The main goal can be described as “connecting students who now are studying abroad or will be in the near future”.

To achieve this goal, I created an online platform where students look for people who will live the same experience as them and gives them information about European cities and universities. During the initial ideation phase, I partnered with three Belgium developers (names on the bottom of the page) who are implementing the platform.

This task proved to be exceptionally difficult because of all the data needed to start the platform (List of all European universities, list of all European cities, etc…)

Thought Process

To connect students who now are studying abroad or will be in the near future, the first question I asked was: What do students want to know about other students, cities, and universities?

After answering this question, I needed to find a way to differentiate from all the already well-established solutions who attempt to do similar things. This step was pretty easy considering how bad other platforms are in the “connecting people” aspect.

Then, I had to decide whether this new platform was going to be a startup on its own or if it should be developed with specific clients in mind. After discussing this aspect with the developers, we decided to take the second route.

Approach

1. Researching the market and target audience

The first step of the process was very straightforward.This project had a very well defined target audience from the beginning and I am included in that audience, so what is defined as “empathizing with the user” was not a problem at all. It is also important to mention that while developing this project, I lived, studied and socialized with people who also belong to the target audience.

With a considerable amount of potential users available for research, 10 who I talked to every day for 6 months and others who I saw less often (50 in total), I started to conduct interviews where they would tell me what platform they wish existed to fit their needs.

The feedback about the project idea was very positive and the potential users gave valuable insights about how the concept should be developed.

At the end of all interviews, I built personas that represented an average of all the people interviewed.

2. Developing user journey

Developing the user journey was a complex process due to how broad the platform is.

The first thing worth identifying was the use cases:

A. Users who are going on Erasmus in the near future
a. Connect with people who will go to the same university as him/her
b. Connect with people who will go to the same city as him/her
c. Connect with people from their city who will go on Erasmus
d. Know more about the city they are going to
e. Know more about the university they are going to

B. Users who are now on Erasmus
a. Connect with international students who are in the same city as them
b. Connect with students from their own country who are abroad
c. Know the secrets of the city where they are currently living in

Once the uses cases were defined, It was time to construct the user journey.


3. Developing Brand identity and platform style

Like described in “thought process”, this platform was thought out to be sold to a specific client, so I had to follow some brand rules while creating original guidelines for this new platform.

Since this project lives on an independent website and app, I dared to create a super intuitive and simple visual language that is characterized by having very big buttons, plain colors and as little information on the screen as possible.

The color scheme was created by joining two colors previously existing in the target client logo to create a gradient.

4. Information architecture

This being a data-driven project, it was essential to know what data to display and the best way to arrange it on screen.

Multiple tests were made in the search menus, user profiles, and university profiles to achieve a simple and coherent DataViz.


5. User interface design

The established guidelines for this interface were:

1. As intuitive as Possible
2. As basic as possible
3. The fewer time people spent on the platform (but still achieving their goals), the better

The rules arose from my understanding that this platform should not be mistaken by a social media, being rather a platform to insert and extract info that will guide people to other social media/platforms.

At this stage, I designed the navigation menus and gave the final touches to the profiles and search menus.

6. Chat system design

In a conversation with the developers, they came to the conclusion that an internal chat system would be a great feature to let users get in contact inside the platform before jumping to other social media on users’ profiles.

We decided to build a chat system primality meant for the first interactions between users with the same principles and simplicity as the rest of the platform.


Final thoughts and reflections

At this point in time (14/10/2019), this project is still in its early phase of implementation.

Many changes can and will be made before the product launches, so it’s too early for a final reflection. Although, there are already a few good reflections to be made about the whole process.

This was the first project I ever started to develop proactively from scratch with the intent of selling it to another company. This means that I had to think about things beyond the design discipline and focus on business plans and other corporate-related topics I love.

Because of this love of creating concepts from scratch, I have started other personal projects which are not yet included in this portfolio.

In this project, I handed all my work to developers and this thought me a toon of lessons related to UI design and web development in general. This also got me to learn how to communicate design ideas to people who might not be familiar with them as well as learning coding and developing concepts I wasn’t familiar with.

Team members

Robbe Dekien
https://robbedekien.be/

Jarne Deschacht
https://jarnedeschacht.be/

Tijs Martens
https://tijsmartens.be/
.

As always, I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions or give further explanation on any topic.

Drop me a line at hello@josegoncalves.dk or contact me through this page.