Room Hangouts

Helping students decide where to live by connecting them with in-person tours.

Service Design
Usability Testing
Digital Prototyping

Jan - Mar 2022
10 weeks

Software Engineer: Josh Lara

Defining the Problem

​In order to learn how different stakeholders experienced Stanford's housing application process, we interviewed 9 people — including undergrads, graduate students, residential assistants, and housing staff. Overall, we learned:

  • The housing website contains mostly logistical information and does not give students a sufficient idea of what it would be like to live in a place.
  • Students learn about different dorms through personal experiences and word-of-mouth. They prioritize this first-hand knowledge when differentiating between their housing options.​
How can we give students more opportunities to gain first-hand information about their housing options? ​

A Rapid Experiment

​My team ran rapid experiments for three different ideas in order to pick a solution. I conducted a "Room Hangouts" experiment on 3 students. Participants were given personal tours by students in dorms they were interested in, so we could understand:

  • Will visiting dorm rooms help students decide where to live?
  • How do students feel about visiting a stranger’s dorm room?

Participants were sent to this Host Selection Document to sign-up for a visit. Clicking on a green box led them to a Google Form.

In addition to logistical questions, the Google Form asked participants to rank how much they knew about the dorm they were about to visit.

Experiment Results

“The website images don’t tell you enough, or make rooms seem nicer than they are”

“[When I visit a room] I get a better sense of how the space is being used”

  • Visiting a dorm in-person is more informative than the housing website.Before visiting, students rated their knowledge of the dorm a 1 or 2 out of 5. After visiting, students rated their knowledge of the dorm at least 4 out of 5.​​​
  • Students would use a service that facilitates student-led dorm tours.Students would feel comfortable visiting a student they've never met, especially if they have mutual friends. Some students already reach out to friends for dorm tours, but they don’t always know someone in the dorms they are interested in.


After I validated the Room Hangouts concept, I sketched out these wireframes in order to think through different app layouts and flows.

Low-fidelity wireframes

Paper Prototyping

Next, I made paper prototypes and tested them with 4 students.

Select screens from the paper prototype

My main takeaways were:

  • Focus on the graduate student flow.Undergrad and grad students have such different housing priorities that they should see different content on the app.
  • Show hosts and time slots on the same page.Some students care a lot about who the host is, while others prioritize time availability.

Design Iteration

Once we moved our wireframes to Figma, we tested our prototype with 8 students using the RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation) Method. This meant that we made changes to the user interface as soon as a problem was identified and updated the prototype between each test.

Version 1 of our Figma prototype

In total, we made 9 iterative versions of the app.

Style guide

We added color in Version 4, once the content of the app was pretty set.

I was responsible for the visual design of the app and made this style guide. The red color ties into Stanford's branding, while the blues are clear and trustworthy.

Table of prioritized issues

As we tested with each participant, we added issues to a table and determined what needed fixing before the next test.

Host Selection Flow

The host selection flow involved a lot of iteration.

While most of our participants chose a host based on their number of mutual friends, others only cared about time availability or how the host looked in their profile picture.

This final version of the screen enables students to quickly scan for any of these priorities:

  • At a glance, see who the hosts are and what days they are free
  • View hosts with mutual friends at the top
  • Use the chat button to ask questions before scheduling a tour
  • Click on a day in order to see specific time slots and confirm a tour

Final Prototype

This final version of Stanford Room Hangouts includes introductory screens to guide new users, as well as student reviews for each room type. The updated design makes it easy for students to gain first-hand information about any dorm they are curious about, even before scheduling a tour.

A click-through version of the app can be experienced here.

Moving Forward

If I were to continue this project, I'd pursue these next steps:

  • Explore and design flows for undergraduate students.Our prototype focuses on the graduate student flow. Undergraduate students have a significantly different set of priorities and will only look for options within their assigned neighborhood.
  • Develop a robust reporting system.Help students feel comfortable visiting hosts and sharing any issues.
  • Incorporate virtual tours.Accommodate incoming students who are not able to visit campus.


I really enjoyed getting to build out this app from start to finish! I especially liked working on the host selection screen and figuring out how to display a lot of information in a clean and intuitive way.

I've also been thinking about what it would take for the app to be successful in real life, since our participants were excited about the concept. What low-stake experiments could any university housing office use to address the same needs, and help them see the value in building out and supporting an app like this? Perhaps they could:​

  • Run an "Open Dorm" event before housing applications are due. This could be a one day event where a few volunteers from each dorm offer walk-in, group tours of their living space and answer questions about what it is like to live there.
  • Record a simple, one-shot video tour of each room type.Give students can get a better sense of the space. This is especially valuable for students who have to choose housing before visiting campus in person, like Master's students.