Yurou Zeng

NYU: Welcome Week App Case Study

With Freshman year shoved to the back of mind, I never thought to reflect on my first year orientation experience until the masses of Spring Welcome emails started to flood my inbox. I was attracted to the offers of free food and stationary, but the event navigation app gave me such a hard time I ended up not attending a single event.

I decided to take things into my own hands, hoping to redesign the NYU Welcome Week app with updated visual and a better user experience! 

The Process

I began my preliminary research by reading a number of blog posts and advice columns on optimizing the orientation experience, I wanted to gain insight into different orientation processes and organizational systems across schools.

From that I formulated a number of questions I wanted to ask and a list of initial features as well as ones I wanted to validate with the user interviews.

Before getting into the interview process, I took a look at some competitors and existing apps for events like a student orientation. I noted the key features and things that gave them a competitive edge, I also paid attention to my own reactions to the systems that are in place and how I might resolve the issues I noticed.

In a quick user survey across 150 first and second year university students, I found that while orientation guide apps were used religiously by some students, most students barely used the app, if at all during welcome week.

Now that I know the stats, I need to understand the why

I conducted more in depth user interviews with students as well as past orientation leaders on their personal experiences and possible frustrations with the organization of NYU Welcome Week.

The Challenge

My aim is to create an app that simplifies the browsing experience and compliments a student’s orientation experience.

  • Reduce the clutter surrounding the high volume of orientation events
  • Lessen the time it takes for students to find an event that interests them
  • Help students identify required and/or specialty events

I wrote out a user journey flow to flesh out the types and amount of screens I needed to design, but also to figure out the least amount of clicks it’ll take for a student to find and attend an event (or at least add it to their calendar). With a working map, I transferred that into some quick notebook sketches for ease of brainstorming.


I moved onto Sketch once I’ve got the general idea of the design layout down and created a set of relatively high fidelity wireframes.

Usability Testing

Once I had a basic working prototype, I conducted a couple more general user interviews followed by usability tests. I needed to observe the assumptions users made and their interaction flows to find out if there are unclear features or inaccurate assumptions I've made.

Key Feedback:

  • I thought having both a phone calendar sync and an in-app calendar was redundant, but multiple users appreciated having both options
  • Lots of things appear to be clickable while not, need to make distinct what is and isn’t
  • Very positive responses to “what’s happening now” section
  • Some of the categories were confusing, especially “social groups”

The Solution

Home Page:

By default, the categories will appear in alphabetical order. If the interest questionnaire is answered, the home feed listing will be arranged accordingly.

The first category will always be “Ongoing Events” and it’s ordered closest to farthest event. The other sections’ orders are according to time, with the earliest event listed first. These categories will help promote smaller, less publicized events and provide interesting and spontaneous opportunities for students!


I implemented a “tags” system to help categorize and summarize event. By giving students short snippets of the most important information, it could help ease the questions surrounding certain events.

When a student wants to search or view more events—even though it takes them an extra step—having a categorical organization will help in sorting events. By color coding the categories, it further helps distinguish events from one another.


I think blank states are a sometimes overlooked part of app design so I really enjoyed coming up with a way to encourage users to add events, but with an air of informality. The calendar mimics the format of the search results so there are less interfaces to get used to.

Event Listing:

I designed two iterations of the event page, one where the title is text based (straight to the point) and the other image (engaging and visually stimulating). I decided on the image as it helps group the text and a picture does speak a thousand words.

Made sure to highlight the map, so when a student views the details of an event, they’ll immediately see where it is and how to get there. The list of tags are also much easier to digest than a long paragraph of information and can help students make quick decisions about whether or not to attend an event (and hopefully, they decide yes)!

Using Format