I joined Penn Labs in Fall 2017 as a web designer. We work closely with the University of Pennsylvania to bring university resources to the student body. To do this, we use the most accessible channels for reaching students: web and mobile apps.
Inclusivity and usability are core tenants of Penn Labs products. Apart from talking to our users to understand their needs, we also strive to maintain a presence as observers of day to day life on campus. This is our way of making our products work for more people.
My work at Penn Labs includes UI design and branding, as encapsulated by the three projects below. I'm also excited to be taking on a more technical role in the organization, as I start learning how to implement my design on the frontend.
I am currently working on the UI design for PennBasics, a dashboard which will aggregate resources that Penn students use every day. PennBasics is brand-new: our team was formed in Fall 2017 and has been building the site from the ground up.
Modules that will ship with the minimum viable product of PennBasics:
- Dining halls: current menus, hours, and activity levels
- Laundry: available washers and dryers in each laundry room on campus, plus "Popular Times" data
- Study spaces: noise level, activity, and map of electrical outlets
- Campus news: aggregate of news stories and blog posts from student-run sources including the newspaper, tech magazines, food magazines, and journals
Many students, including all freshmen, rely on dining halls for most of their meals. However, each dining hall has a unique menu and variable hours throughout the week. This information is available online, but is not presented in an accessible way. Menus are difficult to read, retail options are mixed in with dining halls, and it's not clear what's open right now.
The PennBasics dining feature aims to provide an immediate overview of which dining halls are currently open. Users can also browse available menu items, which are displayed as easy-to-read cards. Down the road, we hope to install infrared sensors at dining hall entrances to track how busy the dining halls are. Provide this information on the site can help students avoid the busiest dining halls.
All of Penn's laundry machines are equipped with activity monitors that track when the machines are in use, and how much time is left in their cycle. This gives us the capability to create an online interface for students to easily see which laundry rooms are likely to have open machines.
In high rise dorms, which have laundry rooms on every even-numbered floor, this is especially useful. Rather than haul a laundry basket up and down the stairs searching for an available machine, students can check the rooms from their computer and get their laundry done more efficiently.
PennBasics is still an ongoing project, and the UI design is continuously being refined. One of the biggest challenges has been designing for edge cases. For example, a sidebar can be useful for keeping options surfaced, but what if the number of items in the sidebar exceeds the height of the screen? Fleshing out complete sets of "what if?" scenarios forms the basis of the refinement process for our design.