How might we improve cohabitation
in student residence?
To solve the problem of noise pollution in university residences, we can think of a multitude of solutions. From ergonomic, architectural, to technological, some of them are more feasible than others. We decided to focus on a digital solution. Our first challenge was to identify the types of students who will want to live in university residences. The solution must adapt to the different lifestyles of the students.
To get a better understanding of the field and remove our own biases - the team was composed of students - we planned to go out there and talk to our potential users. In our school, a lot of students were coming from all over France.
Specific behaviours emerged and we decided to create some personas to make sure we will be creating a solution that our users need.
To synthesise our data, we mapped out a typical day as a customer journey. This helped the team to identify pain points and have a starting point for the synthesis stage.
The first step in our strategy was to identify the potential students able to live in our accommodation. We analysed their behaviour and thus understood their fears and needs. The team determined three key factors to distinguish: sociability, workload and presence in the apartment. These variables pointed our that our personas were fundamentally different, although they are likely to live in the same building.
In order to identify pain points and find a solution tailored to the users specific needs, the team mapped out a 24 hours customer journey. Each coloured line represents a persona. It helped us analyse when a noisy behaviour overlaps with someone who doesn't want to be disturbed.
The team identified several key moments during which students could experience or generate noise pollution. These pain points appear when the activities overlap. When conflicts between neighbours arise, an appropriate technological and social solution is needed. Beyond wall and ceiling insulation, our first objective is for the students to be more aware of each other.
We created SoundMe, an app to manage the sound level of home devices, and to communicate in advance activities that might generate noise pollution. A tablet comes with every apartment and the app is installed on it. It becomes like the dashboard of the apartment. When signing the rental agreement, the student immediately has an account. When connecting for the first time, all they have to do is enter the number of their accommodation and their name.
Via an internal chat, it becomes possible to let know the neighbourhood without leaving your house or having a physical confrontation. This solution aims at increasing diplomacy and empathy in conversations as they are key indicators for cohabitation. SoundMe displays a red warning when the volume is likely to disturb the neighbourhood so that students are aware when they are making too much noise.
The design started with foil and felt to design wireframes. This first step helped us quickly visualise different solution and chose the one that makes most sense.
The team then designed high-fidelity wireframes to be as close as possible of the user interface. SoundMe is composed of three main functionalities. The sound volume management, the profile and and a chat. The chat empowers users and put our users at the heart of our solution. It allows students to interact with their neighbours and communicate any disturbance without any passive-aggressiveness.
What are my key take aways?
Talking to real users and take their perspective into account allowed me to put myself in their shoes. Ideating on a solution that is the most convenient for everyone is mandatory when you are taking in consideration various user types.
Sketching low fidelity prototypes helped the team to jump from an idea to another in a short amount of time. It increased our creativity, and encourage to be more tolerant about others' ideas. Communication was therefore smoother.
What would I have done differently?
Even though it wasn't in the project's brief, I would have proposed to create an interactive prototype. Testing out our designs in an immersive experience always provides insights. Further iterations would have been conducted according these feedbacks which would have improved the desirability of the overall solution.