SIAT students continue to dominate at the Vancouver User Experience Awards

January 21, 2020

With their app Medilog, the winners of the student category at the 2019 Vancouver User Experience Awards aim to connect caregivers and the elderly. Their health-tracking app helps remote caregivers provide care and support to distant loved ones. Students in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Estela Xu, Nikie Zuo, Nusrath Imtiaz, Cassey Peng and Keefe Liew make up the winning team, and their project was developed in IAT 333 Interaction Design Methods with professor Will Odom.

Their original motivation to create the app came from their shared experience of having family members and friends living elsewhere that they need to keep in touch with. After a while, they settled on a target audience of the elderly and caring for elderly relatives — this was particularly inspired by Xu’s relationship with her grandma, her grandma’s desire to travel, and Xu’s need to stay connected with her.

“For me, this project was really great practice for product design,” says Xu, “because we started the design from the perspective of the problem that my grandma is living by herself and I can't always be aware of her health status, and I think we did a very good job of designing for people and focusing on the problem first and how we can solve it.”

Through their class work, feedback from UX industry members, and user testing, they refined their app design. They were encouraged to think about how the data from their app could be used to support their goal of caring for the elderly, such as tracking heart rate.

“We really appreciate this award,” says Peng. “We’re lucky to win this because the other teams are also very strong.”

“It’s very rewarding,” adds Liew, “it was great to see all our fellow SIAT students there as well.”

Xu also notes that she’s grateful the team decided to enter the competition. They waited a year to enter their project, not initially confident that it was strong enough. “If you want to do something, you have to take the initiative and do it. You never know what will happen. I think this is a really good life lesson.”

The team came together again a year after completing the project to prepare all their materials and documentation to submit their project to the awards. It provided them with an opportunity to revisit their work and evaluate it from a new perspective. “We recalled how we came to certain design decisions and what we were trying to aim for, and, with the award criteria in mind, going deeper into it,” explains Liew.  

This is the fourth year in a row that students in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT) have won the student category. Last year, the winning team was from the faculty’s Master of Digital Media program. SIAT teams have a history of success at these awards — for the past three years the People’s Choice Award, which is an overall award for the most popular project from all categories, was given to a SIAT team.

SIAT teams dominate the finalist category every year; in fact, as with most years, the other 2019 finalists were also from SIAT: Twitter Emergencies (Isabel Chan, Kateryna Jones, Natalie Lingren, Mischa Price, Preston Romey, and Jasmeen Virk) attempts to bridge the gap between people searching for reliable answers in emergencies, and the accounts that are providing it. YouMe (Elvina Prasad, Russell Tse, Jason Yang, Perla Patricia Ramirez, and Garry Grewal) is an inclusive sexual education app that aims to teach sexual education topics through gamification.

“I'm an aspiring UX/UI designer,” says Peng, and this project really focused on the user experience and especially how technology can improve life quality and the interpersonal relationships between humans.”

“I think that's the goal for most technology, says Liew. “In the end, the technology is supposed to improve our lives and everyday experiences.”

“You don't design for technology, you use technology to solve problems,” says Xu. “This whole process really got me thinking about the goal of user experience and product design and designing for empathy. That really inspires me to be a product designer and keep pursuing a career in this domain.”