SFU SIAT student Robbie Sebullen is part of a student team to take top honours for their project, IKEAStay, in the student category of the Vancouver UX contest.


SIAT team takes people’s choice, top student prize in Vancouver UX contest

November 18, 2016

A team of undergraduate students from SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology has claimed a pair of prestigious Vancouver User Experience (UX) awards for their project, IKEA Stay. The students conceived an online service that gives IKEA customers the chance to test products through an immersive AirBnB stay and web experience.

The team won first prize in the UX by Students category, then followed up by claiming the People’s Choice award, voted on by the city’s UX community. The awards were presented in Vancouver on Nov. 16.

Students Edward Chen, Tiffany Cheng, Haley Clarke, Gilbert Fung, Robbie Sebullen, Maurice Yu, developed their project in a fourth-year course and were mentored by SIAT faculty member Russell Taylor.

“It was a great thrill to be part of this competition and to see our idea so well received by our peers and by others in industry,” says Sebullen. “We really just wanted to do well in this class, so this recognition is incredibly exciting.”

A blend between a physical and digital showroom, IKEA Stay allows people who are moving to a new city to visualize the way their homes could look and get a further understanding of what products work for them. 

“We recognized that the IKEA online platform is being used by those who are moving to new cities, and thought of tying in the usability of the popular AirBnB to reach this audience,” says Sebullen.

IKEA Stay moves people towards an online platform, so customers are drawn to the e-commerce and encouraged to order products online. 

It works like this: IKEA Stay rentals would be listed on the Airbnb website. When guests arrive, they are given a tablet they can use throughout their stay. They are invited to test out the IKEA items and keep track of the items that they like. 

“When they see an item they’re interested in, they can bookmark the item or read more information about it,” explains Clarke. “As soon as they leave the Airbnb, they’ll get an email reminder, leading them to the IKEA website. They’ll be greeted with their bookmarked items and can continue their experience browsing the items from their IKEA Stay, see a variety of contexts in which people style and use these items in other IKEA Stays, and find things they might’ve missed.

“With IKEA Stay, guests can get a feel for the furniture and there’s potential for them to discover new items and purchase them online for their new homes.”

The idea is still just a concept and the students haven't yet approached the companies, but are weighing next steps. 

"Our senior design students are in high demand in industry North America-wide in large technology product companies and digital design agencies, whether still in school, as interns and co-op students, or after they've graduated,” says Taylor, noting that the awards recognize that SIAT students are working at a level that is recognized within their chosen industry.

“This project solves a real-world problem, with cutting-edge approaches to how users interact. I'm very proud of the winning team—and all of our high-achieving undergraduate students.”

The UX student award celebrates work done in courses, extra-curricular activities, or portfolio projects, and is not designed for commercial purposes. 

IKEA Stay was one of two SIAT teams shortlisted as one of three category finalists. Zillow Places, a rental app designed to address the huge growth in urban renting, was led by students Armina Foroughi, Shilp Vaishnav, James Wang, Frances Breden, Sumeet Anand.

The finalists are touted as representing “some of the best UX work being done in the Lower Mainland.”A team of judges evaluates submissions for such characteristics as clarity, innovation and impact.

“Student projects like these help to remind the rest of us of what’s possible,” says SIAT Director Thecla Schiphorst. “Up-and-coming practitioners are making huge contributions to innovation in this region’s UX community.”

The student category is one of five in the annual competition, which also includes categories for marketing, products, non-profits and charities, and emerging experiences.