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Unite Students. 2020


MyUnite app allows Unite customers to easily manage their staying at Unite, from connecting to their flatmates through uChat, to logging a maintenance request.

uChat is the app feature that put future flatmates in contact before they move in via a messaging system.

The problem

The MyUnite app had been released six years prior to the start of this project, and although there were some minor improvements, the UX and UI remained closely tied to the original design. One area that required attention was uChat, which had the following key issues to address:

  1. Group chat experience: Due to privacy concerns, only the first name and initial of the last name of chat participants could be displayed. Previously, different colors were used to address homonymy, but this caused other problems such as accessibility issues and inconsistency with the new brand guidelines.

  2. Reporting abusive text: To prioritize customer well-being, uChat provided the option to report abusive messages within the chat for review and action by a moderator. However, this feature was not prominently placed within the app, resulting in it being easily overlooked and the entire reporting process taking place offline.


Regarding the group chat experience, it was quickly clear that simply changing the colours of the UI wasn’t enough to solve all the UX issues in the app, and that some more work was needed.


The first step was to identify the common practice for group chats. From a quick analysis, we understood that group chats follow mainly two standards to help users distinguish other members: colours (Whatsapp, Snapchat) and profile pics (Messenger, Instagram).

Usability testing

Once we knew the most common used solutions to our problem it was easy to sketch out two solutions based on the research findings and involve customers to gather insights.


I’ve spent an afternoon talking to 10 customers about uChat, and their experiences with group chat and messaging services. After, I was showing the two options I designed for uChat trying to understand which one was more efficient to solve the issues we had, and to meet user needs and taste.


The results were interesting and showed that we were making strong assumptions about the customers’ experience. For example, we believed Whatsapp to be the most commonly used messaging app, when actually it was Messenger. Also, many customers said they commonly use Snapchat to text, which we didn’t consider extensively before.

Mid res JPG-uChat
Proposing solutions

The user research was showing a strong preference for a solution similar to the one adopted by Messenger: less relevance to username, and rely on profile pics to recognize users.My first design iteration was highly relying on this results, including a flow to set a profile pic.Sadly, business requirements and deadlines couldn’t commit to a solution that could take too long to be developed. Several conversations with POs and Developers took place to find a common ground for an MVP that could solve experience issues and was deliverable in the agreed deadlines.


The second main issue identified within the app, the reporting feature, was addressed directly in the redesign of the app. Previously, the “Report a problem” CTA was placed in the channel selection screen. The lack of proximity with the actual text to report was making it hard for customers to understand the purpose of the CTA itself. During the interviews with customers we explored other options, including a more standard gesture of “long pressing” a text to surface actions against it; this one seemed to be the most common learnt behaviour.

new UI.png
uChat flow.png
Final UI
uChat UI.jpg

Team members

Geoff Meston, Natasha Young, Valentina Zanelli

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