dormitory maintenance request app

Fall 2014

For my Human-Computer Interaction class, my group and I created a mobile interface to submit dormitory problems to be fixed by building maintenance staff. The current request system is a confusing online form that only provides one-way communication. The design for this new maintenance request application works to integrate modern technology with a standardized process for addressing maintenance problems with less miscommunication and more status updates. The overarching goal for this application is to create a seamless process for reporting and addressing maintenance requests in an easy-to-use manner.


We interviewed students from different Cornell dormitories about their experiences trying to fix dorm issues, learning about their work flow for contacting the staff.

I also interviewed the maintenance staff manager and workers and learned about communication issues between the workers and students, as well as their workflow. One of the biggest issues workers had was not knowing which bed was to be fixed when students lived in double or triple rooms.

These are the many ways building issues get communicated between residents and the building staff. Principle roles are residents, resident advisors, building staff managers who assign work, and building staff.

flow model

These are some of the comunication problems students and building staff have when trying to get a problem fixed.

design model


Based on our findings, we brainstormed over 100 ways to address issues in the current maintenance request model. Then we narrowed the ideas down to the most practical and intuitive for students to use that would fit well with staff workflow.


Based on our student and staff interviews, I developed primary, secondary, and expert personas as users for the project. I consolidated their needs into four main goals each as a foci for developing solutions.

Our primary persona was Clara Sanders, a 21 year old sophomore currently majoring in Operations Research in Cornell College of Engineering. She is from a middle class family in New Jersey; her parents are both successful software engineers for Apple. She is an only child, and feels the need to excel in her studies to reach the same success as her parents.

Clara owns an iPhone, along with the rest of her friends; she never leaves her room without it. She loves using a Gif Meme sending app with her friends because they finds the images funny. She also snapchats with them. On weekends, she goes out to party with her friends and normally comes back tired (which makes her even clumsier than she normally is). She has broken stuff from being really tired and bumping into things, like her desk lamp. She also occasionally has her friends come over to her single in Baker Tower on West Campus to hang out and watch Scandal.

Clara is a neat freak and cleans her dorm every week. She also brews her own instant coffee in her dorm because she drinks so much of it to deal with her heavy workload, which also includes being the secretary for the Society of Women Engineers. She does most of her work in her room because she has a single and because she doesn’t like walking up Libe Slope.

She wants to: And she is:

BIGGEST BARRIERS: She never got a reply to the request she put in about the desk light. If she received an email, she might have missed it because she gets a lot of emails, and she isn’t expecting an email a reply method for maintenance. This severely hampers her work flow, and she has to walk up to the library to do work at night until the desk light is fixed or she decides to buy a new one. However she doesn’t want to put in an emergency maintenance request for this because she doesn’t think she should make that big of a deal.


We storyboarded three of our best ideas for addressing the problem to gauge which would be the best solution for streamlining sending maintenance requests and being updated on staff work. Ultimately, we decided a phone application would be most convenient for busy college students and would work well with the staff’s existing app tool.

storyboard storyboard

We developed a user flow for how our user would navigate through the app.


Low-Fidelity Prototype

We created a paper prototype with finger-swiping navigation which included basics for request, messaging, status update, and upvote features. This was tested with students, who gave us feedback on usability.

Medium Fidelity Prototype

Using Adobe Illustrator, we made an improved mockup which students tested in Popapp.

example medium fidelity

High Fidelity Prototype

I conducted A/B Testing comparing the maintenance app/mobile interface with the maintenance request form, with half of the testers starting with the mobile interface and the other half vice versa. I had testers think aloud for us to gain feedback. Popapp prototype


Future Design Changes

Revisiting Interaction Design

Looking back on this project, I was interested in seeing what aspects of user interaction with this prototype could be improved.

For the login screen, Cornell has existing troubleshooting for people dealing with NetID logins. Should the user have any issues, they'll have options on where to go next.


Users then have a choice of choosing a Non-Emergency Request (most common) or an Emergency Request. For Non-Emergency Requests, users can either submit a new request or an existing communal request nearby.


To search for nearby requests, the user would need to allow Location Services for the app.


Users get a preview of information for existing requests. They can see more information (full description and maintenance status) and Promote after selecting a request.Tapping the X or the greyed out area closes the popup.


If the user decides to create a new request, they are taken to the maintenance form. Name and NetID are already filled out because that information is available with the account. Toggling communal will allow the request to show up in the previous list.


The user can select from 7 different maintenance categories, as listed in the original site. One of the communication issues workers had was students not saying which bed was theirs in a doubles or triples room. Selecting Bed Lofting would change the description tip to ask for information regarding which bed to loft.


When the user submits the form, they will be asked to confirm their submission. If they select Back on the menu, they will be warned that they have not finished their request.