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Fine Arts University

Empowering students with a mobile app to navigate the campus experience

The Challenge

For this project, we worked with a San Francisco-based fine arts university that offers premier art and design classes taught by industry experts. Its urban campus is made up of buildings dotted across the city, so students navigate the busy streets to get to and from classes, internships, and studios.

The university offers a dedicated bus system to help students criss-cross the city, but their previous mobile bus-tracking tool was a sore subject for staff, students, parents, and donors. The clunky application crashed frequently, which made it a hinderance rather than an asset to students. Furthermore, for a school focused on art and design, the sub-standard visual aesthetic simply didn't hit the mark.

The Solution

The project kicked off with several intensive discovery sessions with the school's marketing, transportation, and technology teams to review current app frustrations and begin spec’ing out a plan for the new solution. We left San Francisco with a goal to deliver a mobile app that would provide real-time bus tracking, user-specific class schedules, and upcoming school news and events — all wrapped in sleek, sophisticated, brand-centric design.

Given the deep-rooted problems that plagued the old app, we decided to build ours from scratch to ensure the most efficient integration of data from Salesforce, transportation, and news and events APIs. We selected Cordova as the framework to allow us to target multiple platforms and roll out a consistent experience across both iOS and Android devices.

During the build phase, we scheduled frequent demos to collect feedback from the client stakeholders, test our sprint-based deployments, and iterate as needed. During these tests, we quickly realized that the large amount of data being processed on the main transportation screen was causing loading delays. Transportation was the core of the app, and users were hyper-sensitive to any less-than-ideal performance having already experienced repeated crashing in the previous app. Not attending to this problem would have been a deal breaker.

We couldn’t cut the volume of data, because that would have left users with inaccurate and incomplete information. Instead, we took inspiration from Uber and Lyft to design and build a loading screen overlay which smoothed the transition, reassured users that the data was on its way, and simultaneously reinforced the university's brand. Problem solving at its best!

A series of mobile screens from the new app, including a transit trip details page; a menu page; a home page including a feature story and events; a transit map; and a sign-in page.

The Result

The new app hit the Apple and Google Play stores in November 2015 and is available for students to download. Students who rely on the app to get from place to place, keep track of their class schedules, and stay up to date on campus news and events are loving the new and improved user experience. We’re thrilled with the feedback from the university as well.

 

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