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Jemma Kwak
Piazza Redesign
A mobile redesign challenge of the classroom discussion forum.
2018 - Product Design - Design Thinking - Mobile UI/UX
Process Deck
Background
Piazza
is an online discussion and Q&A forum used by schools. Classes at UC Berkeley use Piazza as the main mode of communication between students and instructors. Students use the platform to ask questions about topics ranging anywhere from course material to general course logistics, to declarations of gratitude and happiness at 3am after finishing a particularly difficult project(See gitlet
).
The Problem
As someone who has used Piazza as a student and instructor, I understood many of the usability issues and disappointing user interface from both ends. One of the key features that make Piazza so useful is its ability to make the classroom feel smaller by connecting students directly with the teaching staff. For students enrolled in huge classes at Berkeley(professors have asked for students not to come to physical lecture and, instead, watch online webcast videos), Piazza is a refuge where both parties—students and teachers—get to ask and answer questions on their own time. Unfortunately, the organization of the application is confusing, jumbled, and frustrating to use.

After conducting user research on the current use of the app, I concluded that the biggest areas for improvement would be the organization of posts, flow of answering questions(particularly in threads), emphasis of existing key features, and the sense of a classroom feeling.

I also saw a huge opportunity to give the user interface a much-needed facelift that could bring Piazza into the present with a modern look and feel.
Design Goals
After some user research, I consolidated the main pain points I felt necessary to address with the redesign.
Categorization of Posts
There is currently no organization to the mass amount of questions. Students must be exact when searching for a post that can often be buried during high traffic times, such as project and homework deadlines.
Validation Metric
One of the current action items for a user is to “Good Question” or “Good Note” a post. I decided to generalize the system into “likes.” The “Most Popular” posts are intuitively the ones with the most likes.
Classroom Feeling
Piazza's current design does not lend itself to an incredibly social environment. I hoped in emphasizing both students’ and teachers’ identities would a more social, relaxed user experience for all parties.
Organization of Threads
Many questions turn into lengthy discussions with the “Followup” feature. With the feature of anonymity in followups, it is unclear who is talking to who when the threads become long, despite the importance of the feature.
Mid Fidelity Mockups
Final Mockups
Interactions
Takewaways and Reflections
This was my first serious mobile redesign. If I were to do things differently, I would have definitely started with a style guide. I had been unfamiliar with the grid system at the time and did not incorporate specific step sizes into my designs.

Additionally, I didn't utilize the Assets palette in Adobe Xd, which made any necessary changes to a single, repeated component very tedious.

Piazza is truthfully one of the most utilized, free tools at Berkeley. By improving the accessibility and usability of such an important academic resource, we can improve the overall experience for both the student and the instructors. I truly hope Piazza is able to see the importance of user flow, a and ultimately, move the application in the direction where students feel excited to use it.
Up Next
BerkeleyTime