Cover image for Project Flare depicting app screens


Design, App
Project Context
UCL Technology Society is regarded as one of the largest technology societies in the UK. Their annual flagship event is a hackathon that goes by the name Porticode. Flare was our team's entry to Porticode 5.0, panelled by judges from BlackRock, Squarepoint Capital and G-Research.

Team Composition:
5 students - 3 HCI, 2 Digital Engg. Mgmt.
My Contributions
My Roles & Responsibilities:
User Insights & Ideation, Building the Project Vision, Planning and Scope definition, Wireframes, High fidelity screens, Clickable Prototype, Content writing.

2 Days
Tools Used:
Figma, Paper & pencil, Canva

The Challenge

The task was to build a technological solution that can help the student community at the University, by solving a problem that University students commonly face.

The Solution

Our idea was to devise a solution that would not only help students in their personal lives, but also benefit them in their professional careers. We came up with a mobile application which would motivate students to establish meaningful connections and hone one of the most powerful career-building skills: networking.
Clickable figma prototype (view it on a desktop/ laptop for better experience).

The Result

In an event open to thousands of students currently studying at the University, our team won the first runner's up position and was also adjudged the "Most Creative Project" at the hackathon.
Winning Certificate for the hackathon

Design Process

Design is not a rigid structure with steps to follow, rather a path that you discover as you traverse through a project. But since we had only two days worth of time to submit a solution, we went ahead with the tried and tested Design Thinking approach. It comprised of the following stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

Design Process for Project Flare
Steps involved in the design process.
Since the theme of the hackathon was to build a technical solution that would help students at a University, we started by noting down our own experiences, the issues that we have faced as students ourselves.

Multiple points came up during discussions, some are listed below:

1. Navigating through the campus can be a problem, especially if the university has buildings (halls, classrooms, cafes, libraries, etc.) spread across the city.

2. Missing a common forum, specifically tailored for the university, for asking general queries (on similar lines as Quora or Fishbowl).

3. Hesitation in making personal and professional connections with other fellow students.

4. Absence of a platform where current students can interact with alumni.
Identify User Needs
Define the Problem
A common consensus was achieved and it was agreed upon by the team that one of the most pressing concerns faced by students is 'breaking the ice' with people we meet at the university.

We discussed two aspects of this issue:

1. On the Personal Front - The thought of your first day at the university, when you enter the premises and you do not know anyone. You come across new faces at events or social gatherings but there is always a hesitation to go and talk to the other person.

2. On the Professional Front - Networking is extremely important to progress in your career. The key is forging meaningful and long-lasting relationships. But sometimes it can be hard to know what to say to get things started.

Based on this, we interviewed each other within the team and figured out key goals for the solution. Also, two user personas were identified, in line with the product needs and goals.
Key goals for Project Flare
Key goals of the project
The ideation phase started with discussing possible features for the solution and simultaneously sketching out ideas. It was decided that we would design a mobile-based application, so that the intended users would have an on-the-go solution for the identified issues.

Following points came up during the brainstorming session:

1. There would be no lengthy sign up process. One click login would be achieved using Single Sign On feature.

2. The app would fetch list of events that are happening or are scheduled to happen in near time, using the Universities' APIs.

3. Users must be able to check event details and register for an event through the app.

4. One could see other people who have registered for that event.

5. A QR code at the event venue or a Room ID shared by event organisers would be used to verify registered attendees.

6. App would show names of people who have similar interests. Their screens would light up with same color.

7. Combination of a distinct color and shape would be shown to matching users.

8. Users would then hold their phone in the air like a flare and look for matched screens to find like-minded individuals.
"Knowing about common interests would give someone enough hints for kickstarting a conversation with a total stranger."
Once we had rough sketches of app designs, I started converting them to high fidelity screens on Figma. The time was limited and the deadline was fast approaching, so the best option was to use pre-built components (from Figma's Community Marketplace) wherever possible.

It was quite challenging to develop style guide, brand colors, typography and detail out user flows while designing the first draft of hi-fi screens. The idea was to complete a user flow and then hand it over to the frontend developer, before beginning work on the next set of screens.
High-fidelity Artefacts
Screenshot from Figma, depicting screens from Project Flare
Screenshot from Figma, depicting FLARE screens and prototype flows.
Creating Wireframes

At this stage, it was important to have a basic tangible solution in place that can be shipped in less than 24 hours so that the concept can be conveyed to the stakeholders (judges of the hackathon). The focus was on the overall flow. So, I started building high-fidelity wireframes. Design artefacts from this phase are illustrated below.

Visual designs depicting the onboarding/ walkthrough/ login flow
Visual designs depicting the Events management flow
Visual designs depicting the Joining of a Room / and Profile flow
Visual designs depicting the flow for selecting interests within the app
Visual designs depicting the flow for flared up screens and adding new  contacts
Evaluation & Future Scope
Stage: TEST

As time constraints did not allow for a full-fledged usability testing, we determined five parameters that would define our success criteria. At the end, we measured FLARE against these parameters:

1. Fit: Whether the final product fit the problem statement that we started with.
- The overall aim was to solve a problem which is commonly faced by the student community. FLARE targets an issue that almost every student has experienced in their academic journey.

2. Innovation: Whether the solution can be termed as a new approach.
- The existing platforms (provided by the University) that allow students to register for collegiate events and connect with alumni, were either cumbersome, outdated or discontinued. FLARE is a new and fun way of achieving these goals.

3. Functionality: Is the product robust and is it capable of serving the purpose?
- The University had separate web applications for event management and connecting with alumni. FLARE provides all this packaged as one mobile application, in a user friendly and intuitive manner.
4. Design: Is the product visually appealing and aesthetic in nature?
- The look and feel of the application is quite fresh, refreshing and welcoming in nature, unlike conventional University platforms.

5. Extensibility: Whether the solution has scope for expansion within the same or different domains.
- There is plenty of scope for extending the functionality of this solution. We came up with a future roadmap for FLARE (depicted below).

Diagram depicting the 5 year roadmap for project Flare
Project Roadmap for upcoming years.

Key Learnings

Hackathons are always fun and they teach you a million things. This one taught me the value of stepping up and believing in my potential, in times of dire need. (some key takeaways mentioned ahead)

Result: We won the first runners up position.

  • Wrong icons created by Icongeek26 - Flaticon

    Be assertive and back your decisions especially when everything seems directionless!

  •  Effort icons created by Freepik - Flaticon

    Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes smart work can beat hard work.

  • Team icons created by Smashicons - Flaticon

    Collaboration is the key when you want to make a successful product.