Design Principles Behind the OSU Campus App

At Rokwire, we’re interested in learning from other campuses that have built successful campus apps. As part of the Rokwire Forum series, Rokwire director Bill Sullivan recently interviewed Ben Hancock, the Director of App Development for the Ohio State App. 

There were many takeaways from Ben’s discussion of the OSU app development process. One takeaway was that success emerges from doing a few things well. What kinds of things do users engage with most often? If you are able to make those things work seamlessly, then it is much easier to drive adoption. The Ohio State App has focused on a few core features. Features are added by recognizing a gap and addressing it rather than reinventing the wheel or duplicating an existing app. 

Ben Hancock talks to the Rokwire team about the design principles followed for the OSU campus app. April 9, 2022

Another takeaway from Ben’s talk was that the OSU developers focus on reducing friction in both use and design. Reducing friction means simplifying design elements, making things run smoothly, and quickly allaying user concerns. One example of reducing friction is the notion that obvious always wins. In The Ohio State App, each button provides enough information for the user to know what it does and whether it is worth their time to click on it. Reducing friction also involves keeping complexity to a minimum, so that a user only encounters essential information. It may be that a minimalist focus reduces the size of the user base a bit, but this also provides a tradeoff of less friction and a better app experience.

Guiding Principles

  1. Make people’s lives easier.
  2. Deliver useful features over noise.
  3. Obvious always wins.
  4. Respond to every single feedback thoughtfully.
  5. Make the experience more awesome, always.
  6. Discover, adapt, and reflect.
  7. You can change the University.

Guidelines that OSU app developers use for making development 

The principles of doing a few things well and reducing friction also intersect in interesting ways. For example, new functionality should reduce the friction potentially encountered by users in the course of trying to achieve their goals. In The Ohio State App, features consist of activities core to the student experience, such as bus schedule, grades, account balance, school calendar. With the integration of Canvas, only the features that reduced friction most, such as assignment schedules, were implemented in The Ohio State App.

Continuous refactoring of design is a key to longevity, guided by the notion that design is never done. This involves a long-term commitment to design that goes beyond the latest feature or release. 

Best Practices of the OSU App Development Team.

The design principles followed by The Ohio State App development team are influenced by Luke Wroblewski, a Google designer who is also a U of I alum.

The interview with Ben Hancock can be viewed on the Rokwire YouTube channel.

Categories: Guest Speakers, Smart Tech Futures