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Culture Connect


The Team

Courtney Smith

Sarina Katznelson

Igor Podgorny

Eyerusalem Dessie


About Culture Connect

Culture Connect randomly matches two students who are from different cultures and ethnicities and offers icebreaker questions to help facilitate a connection. A user can begin a session by making themselves available to meet with or finding others to join. Users end a session with an option to exchange contact information and potentially develop meaningful relationships.

Problem Statement

We aim to provide students with a safe community that allows them to meet with people of a different cultural and ethnic background, and bridge the gap. Students feel lonely on campus, disconnected with the rest of the UW community and desire to stretch beyond their comfort zone.

Vision Statement

Our product will randomly select a new “buddy” that is of a different culture and ethnic background as the user, to connect and create a potential friendship. This will allow students to broaden their friend circle, gain insight on someone else’s upbringing and create a sense of belonging on UW’s large campus.  

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User Research

User research is way to gain empathy for and collect subjective information about the user group you are trying to help. By directly engaging the user we were able to pinpoint a problem based on our findings rather than what might be a problem. We wanted to help diverse students on campus so we set out as group and interviewed four individuals, two international students form China, one from Ghana and the last from Jordan. Our findings were split down the middle, with some wanting to stay in the U.S. and consider it “home” while others considered their home country “home.” Also, a recurring response during interviews was that they found it difficult to share their culture with people outside of their culture. With our group, we combined our findings and began developing persona’s.



Using information we gathered through our user research, we created two archetypal personas describing two different immigrant students, Amy and Victor. Each of their characteristics and pains/desires are based off at least one of our four interviewees. Creating these personas allowed us to step into our user’s shoes and understand their feelings. We were able to keep coming back to them, asking ourselves if they would use our app. Moving forward, we focused more on Amy because she hadn’t yet found a community in the US. We wanted to create an app to help users like her branch out and meet new people.

Amy Persona
Victor Persona

User Journey Map

The User Journey Map takes us through a day in the life of Amy, one of our user personas, revealing her thoughts, actions and feelings throughout the day. This map allows us to identify the peak of the user’s discomfort, loneliness and happiness giving us a better idea of when the desire for community is needed. This further allows us to center a product that can cater to those needs.


Design Requirements

We created design requirements to solidify our users’ wants and needs into concrete requirements of our technology.

Immigrant students need a way to…

  •     Break out of their cultural comfort zone by talking to people from different backgrounds in a large university setting.

  •     Educate people from different cultures by sharing their own cultural experiences and

  • differences.

  •     Educate people from different cultures by sharing their own cultural experiences and

  • differences.

Immigrant students need…

  •      A platform on which diverse students on the same campus can connect with each other safely.

  •      A platform on which immigrant students can be matched with other students from different cultures during free-time.

  •     A school-based platform to match and meet other students from a different culture to have lunch with.



A storyboard serves as a visual narrative that depicts the passage of time and provides context to anyone who will be helping in solve the problem at hand. We each created two storyboards, one sketched and one photographed, to depict a story that the user might experience when using our app. We wanted to clearly develop the problems and possible solutions. Understanding the physical context and seeing the emotions of the user in specific situations helped us better decide how we will solve the underlying problem what is required to successfully do so. By understanding the environmental and social factors we were able to create a set of design requirements for our app.


Information Architecture

Creating an Information architecture map helped structure the content of your application and understand how it relates to one another. Mapping out our application helped us better understand the flow and logic of our application. With our design requirements and IA map side by side we were able to make sure that on a high-level, we met the requirements needed to solve our problem. The IA map also helped us develop our paper prototypes by giving us a framework to build on when sketching the interface of our application.


Paper Prototype

Working off of our information architecture map, we created our first prototype. We used notecards to sketch out the individual screens of our three key paths: initial setup of the app, meeting with a buddy at Chipotle and engaging in icebreaker questions, and searching for a buddy at Mod Pizza and meeting up with them. We created this as a first rough prototype to test with our users. The roughness allowed them to focus on critiquing the flow and underlying purpose of our app.


User Evaluation

Testing our paper prototype using wizard-of-oz style user testing with four users allowed us to understand if our tasks were intuitive and purposeful. The users were confused about the purpose behind the app and the individual tasks, so we decided to add a tutorial that we included in our wireframes. Other participant suggestions included changing departure time to “available until,” changing distance away to time away in minutes, an in-app messaging system to talk to buddies after you’ve met, and an option to only meet with people of your own gender. We incorporated all of this feedback into our wireframes.

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Using feedback that we received from testing our paper prototype, we created wireframes for every screen of the app. The roughness of the wireframes allowed us to get critiques mostly on the flow, structure, and content of our app. Users expressed that our flow was clear, and that our tutorial was helpful. The users also expressed that they felt uncomfortable meeting their buddy with the lack of information we gave, so we decided to include a small bio in our high fidelity mockups.

Key Path 1
Key Path 2
Key Path 3

High Fidelity Mockup

Our high fidelity mockup screens represent all of our refined design decisions backed by user research and feedback from our users, peers, and teachers. Due to time constraints, we could only mockup a couple of screens. We chose these screens to represent in high fidelity because they best showcase the functionality of the app. We included one tutorial screen to hopefully provide more context.

At this stage, we also decided to change our name from “Buddy Connect” to “Culture Connect.” This name more closely captures the purpose and functionality of our app, and although it’s not perfect, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

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Looking Back

This 10-week long project represents all of our hard work and combined efforts. Throughout the class, we have worked together well as a team: encouraging and suggesting unique ideas, being adaptable and flexible, and supporting each other to produce our best products. We have learned so much about the User-Centered Design Process along our journey. Learning about UCD and applying it are two totally different things, and this project allowed us to learn about each step of the process hands-on. We realized the importance of user research and feedback, grounding our designs with them and always keeping our focus on the users.

Our biggest challenge in this process was narrowing our focus enough to create a meaningful, clear, concise product. Because we chose such a large user group with many pain points in the beginning, we had trouble at every stage narrowing the scope of our problem and solution. We often attached ourselves to certain ideas and when going through the huge changes that we did, we forgot to reevaluate some of those ideas which at times made our vision blurry and our product unfocused. Now that we are aware of these mistakes, if we were to do this again, we would make sure to narrow our scope in the very beginning of the process and make sure to always ask ourselves why we are using certain ideas and if they align with our users’ needs.

If we had more time, we would love to finish developing a high fidelity interactive mockup of the entire app and conduct more user testing with it. Overall, this project was very eye-opening to us as user-centered designers, and we are very excited to tackle more projects with all we have learned.


Get in Touch

If you have any questions or would like more information about Culture Connect please get in touch!



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