ZORM: the digital dorm

INTERACTION DESIGN  /  DESKTOP UI & UX

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IN SHORT

During my first semester of college, I joined a campus organization called StartUM Entrepreneurship and I joined one of their student startups called Zorm. The team wanted to create a digital 3D platform for students to visualize and thus adequately plan for moving into their dorm rooms through dragging and dropping furniture and room accessories. As the Lead UI/UX Designer, I also become the Product Manager over the application due to the current stage that emphasized user research and prototyping. 

 

THE PROBLEM

As students enter college for the first time, they face the challenge of planning their move into the dorms without much information. While students try to seek advice from multiple resources like university Facebook groups and upperclassmen, they continue to feel frustrated with their limited ability to properly plan due to each dorm room's high level of specificity.

 

THE SOLUTION

Our team wanted to provide a platform that would allow incoming students to interact with accurate 3D digital models of specific rooms they would actually be assigned. With this, students could virtually design and set up their rooms using proportionate furniture objects included on the platform. This allowed them to gauge how much available space they truly had, giving them a better idea about what they should bring.

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THE DESIGN PROCESS

As the Lead UI/UX Designer of Zorm, I led user research and prototyping. I used Google SketchUp to create 3D models of the platform. They were ultimately used to present our team's overall idea and the application's functionality to venture capitalists during our seed round of funding. Throughout the design process, I conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups with various stakeholders, which included university students, housing staff, and moving and storage companies. I then synthesized all of my data and presented it to the business development and engineering teams through these 3D models produced in Google SketchUp. The prototype allowed me to express my thoughts on how the platform should appear and function from the standpoint of our users. 

One interesting point that came across in many of my interviews with students was their existing familiarity with the concept of having 360 views of virtual locations primarily due to video gaming experience. One game in particular that came up multiple times was The Sims, a virtual life simulation game created by Electronic Arts. The game gives users the ability to furnish and customize the virtual living space of their characters. I decided to study this build mode of The Sims 3 to see what familiar movement responses we could implement in the platform.

From my research I was able to pick up on subtle responsive movements related to navigation and object placement. I found that users were able to rotate their view of a room by holding down the left side of their mouse and moving it in a circular motion. I decided that this could be implemented in our application since many of our target users seemed to already correlate this movement with the function of rotation. Furthermore, I was able to mimic other viewing tools like pinching in and out to alter zoom and using keyboard arrows to dictate which way the furniture should rotate.

The video below is a walkthrough of the application, showcasing the precision of the room dimension renderings and the ease of positioning objects within it.