Reimagining Housing at Brown University A user interfaces project by Victoria Yom, Avery Crits-Cristoph, and Polina Tamarina
Every year, Brown University administrators and Residential Life workers have to figure out how to get 6,000 undergraduates placed successfully into housing. They have to successfully execute the Housing Lottery (a process where students choose their rooms online in 2 minutes when it's their turn as dictated by a numerical lottery), handle room change requests, accommodate students with disabilities, figure out where to put students coming home from study abroad, make sure nothing is catching on fire, and keep everyone satisfied. As one might imagine, this is a difficult task. Currently, Brown University's main method of providing students with housing information and handling paperwork is the Residential Life website, and a couple other auxiliary sites. As we can see below, they're far from ideal. Many of them are confusing visually and logically, but most importantly none of them provide a flexible model for handling the high volume and complexity of input that constitutes students' needs during the housing process. The content is decentralized, and frequently non-visual.
Designing for 3 Personas
We knew we wanted our system to be helpful to a wide range of users, and we designed our interface around the main three: students, Residential Peer Leaders (RPL's), and administrators. We wanted to create a comprehensive system, but we also knew that catering to all involved, particularly the administration, would improve the viability of implementation.
We started thinking about our solution in two parts. The first was some kind of student profile to allow students to manage housing preferences and applications/paperwork in one place. The second was an interactive housing map, which students could use during their allotted two minutes of the Housing Lottery to investigate floor plans and building information (how many kitchens, common rooms, etc.)
We wanted the site to be simple, uncluttered, and easy for stressed students and overworked administrators to navigate. We experimented with different user flows- tab based versus one linear process. We split up preferences and paperwork between the Profile and a To-Do list, and started thinking more about how information would flow through the site and be approved by the curating administrators.