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hula hoop

HCDE 518 A (User-Centered Design) | October 2021 - December 2021

As part of a graduate course in User Centered Design, in Autumn 2021, our group was assigned to explore a design question regarding the new normal. 


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly two years of isolation, society is more disconnected than ever. People have been detached from their friends and support groups, and for those without strong connections or in new environments, the idea of trying to make new friends has seemed impossible.

With the rollout of effective vaccines and the enforcement of health mandates, the world is finally able to start opening back up, and after feeling secluded for so long, people are yearning for social connection and community. However, many people don't know where to look.


To address this challenge, how might we create spaces to foster meaningful friendships?


We researched what makes people feel "connected," what makes a connection meaningful, and how the pandemic and quarantine have impacted people's social relationships. We found that people value in-person connections the most, and that many people have a difficult time keeping in touch with friends or finding new friends.


Our app, Hula Hoop, aims to be a welcoming and inclusive space that helps people connect with others, promotes meaningful experiences and interactions, and makes it easier for everyone to stay on top of their social lives.

hula hoop team
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Jeff Pabst

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Natalie Owcharuk

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Leah Shin

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Our design question:

How might we foster meaningful friendships?

Our design solution shall provide means to meet new people, foster opportunities for both virtual and physical interaction, be low pressure and low barrier of entry, help users with similar interests connect, generate in person gatherings, help with calendar organization, and have a focus on mental health.

Primary Research to Personas

Method: After establishing our design question and principles. We moved forward developing a primary research plan focused on 6 observations (Qual) and 66 (Quant) survey responses for primary research. 

Key insights:

  • For the majority of people, in-person relationships are the most meaningful, and physical proximity or frequent interaction is important for maintaining strong connections.

  • Many people don't know where to go to make new friends, and have found existing solutions ineffective, frustrating, or intimidating.

  • To make new friends, most people are looking for a wide range of low pressure opportunities that allow them to interact with a variety of people.

  • People are commonly drawn towards people with similar interests or goals, or those with shared experiences. However, people like the ability to meet people who are different from them that they might not normally have the chance to interact with.

  • Many people have a difficult time finding or deciding on activities to do when meeting new people.

  • People sometimes struggle with or get frustrated by the lack of follow up after meeting new potential friends.

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Our detailed user journey flows:

Three HMWs and three journey flows aligned

As we wrapped up our three HMWs, groupings, and prioritization we assigned one team member to expand further on a user journey flow based on our discussions. Down below we included the three journey flows and expanded on a flow that can address the pain points from our research, personas, and group discussion on feature solutions.

Our detailed storyboards:

Three journey flows to storyboards + site maps

After our group walked through our user journey flows, we expanded on the flows further by storyboarding out the user scenarios selecting out the personas we designed as a team. Since our journey flows were very detailed, it was a much easier process to create these storyboards and site maps to expand on.

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