May 14, 2022 - June 28, 2022


Ripple Interactive


Anna Monaco (Engineering)
Benjy Kest (Business)
Me! (Design)


UX/UI Design
UX Research
User Testing
Product Thinking


Swift / SwiftUI



Ripple's mission is "Real Connection," with the goal of helping users make real life connections that ripple into decreased screen time. The app launched in April 2022, primarily as a group messaging and user discovery platform, but saw a decline in users and lack of user retention after its initial launch.


The What’s Happening feature aims to bring more opportunities for user connection by creating location-centric forums where users can discover memes, media, and anecdotes from other users. This feature aligns with Ripple’s overarching mission statement to engage users in spontaneous human connection through a simplified and secure platform.


Understanding the Problem
Framing the project question

Because I joined the Ripple team without much experience with the app, I first set out to audit the app's functionalities with two other participants. As a new user, I noticed that there was no feature that would maintain the users attention if there was no one with the app nearby. I also noticed that beyond discovering users based on location, there was no way to find things in common with people nearby, like classes or hobbies. Thus, I narrowed down the project focus to answering: How might we help students confidently and effectively discover other students with similar interests or affiliations on campus?

Identifying Constraints
addressing design limitations

For the summer, 9 software engineering interns were hired to build out this new feature. We had a 3 month timeline to design and ship the first iteration of this feature. So, for designing a new feature, I had a week to research and ideate, a week to iterate on a prototype and test with existing users, and 3 days to address feedback before the engineers (myself included!) could build the feature. Also, as an a software design & engineering company was hired to build out the design system and MVP of the app, I had to navigate Ripple's existing design system to use in my interface design.

Working with Stakeholders
understanding business needs

Speaking with Benjy, Ripple's co-founder, I learned that this feature was going to be pitched to potential investors as the next phase of Ripple, as it would address the problem of user retention. Thus, it was important to drive my design decisions with an entrepreneurial mindset, such as maximizing early user retention and backing each design choice with the target audience, college students, in mind.


User Interviews

To further determine the pain points of the overall process of meeting new people in college, I interviewed 15 college students about their social media behaviors. My goal was to understand how students currently utilize social media to connect with friends, new people, and students to derive insights on how Ripple could build a feature that better supports the needs of people on college campuses.

Contextual Inquiry
Understanding pain points

To get a better understanding of day-to-day use cases of social media platforms, I performed 4 task-based contextual inquiry sessions, with a student from each college year. My goal was to understand what prompts a user to check a certain social media app, which features are used the most and why, and what aspects of the app held the user's attention.

Affinity Diagraming
Synthesizing research

After interviewing and observing the behaviors of 19 students, I derived four main insights by organizing my findings hierarchically on FigJam, resulting in 4 main key insights.

Explore content that is relevant to you

Based on what they want to get out of using the Ripple app, users should be able to tailor how they discover and connect other students. This could be through interests, location, affiliation, and more.

Take control of how much personal information you want to share

While some users are extroverted and seek to share their name and location at all times, others want to utilize anonymity in asking questions or want to get to know people authentically before revealing their profiles. I realized that anonymity shouldn’t be black and white. Rather, users should be able to choose when they want to share their information or not.

Feel safe with posting and commenting

Through user research, I recognized common concerns that come with anonymity: cyberbullying, anonymously posted inappropriate content, and spam. Any social media user requires a platform that looks out for them and has measures to handle harmful posts.

Excite users with the opportunity to meet new people who are nearby

College seems to be a place that’s simply set up to be spontaneous; the closeness of residence hall life and the dynamics of group decision-making are a part of it. Users should be able to take advantage of being surrounded by like-minded individuals to make friends and say hello.


How does ripple fit into the story?

I decided to storyboard to get a high level understanding how the app fits into a larger context and identify key interactions. This storyboard depicts a college freshman trying to make new friends on campus.

ideating solutions

Having a high level understanding of the features to add and a well-defined purpose, I sketched some basic ideas of the types of screens and what they'd contain.

Agreeing on the concept to build

In communicating my sketches and initial thoughts to Anna to gauge feasibility with the project's deadline and to Benjy for how the feature fits in with the existing app, we decided on going with a forum-centric feature that emphasizes filtering by location.


Iteration 1
Iteration 2
Iteration 3
Final Iteration

User Testing


I used Maze to conduct user testing on my Figma prototype and capture feedback to improve my designs. User testing participants were comprised of 10 current Ripple users and 10 college students who weren’t familiar with Ripple. My objectives were to analyze how intuitive the user flow was, gather feedback on post interactions, and quantify the significance of a map feature for prioritization.


After synthesizing the results of user testing, I was able to incorporate user input in revising my designs and ultimately create a better user experience.


What's Happening Forum

Adding anonymity and a location-centric element to a familiar social media style, the What's Happening page allows students to share their thoughts and opinions.


Knowing the dangers of an anonymous social media platform, we decided to implement several features to ensure users feel safe when using the app.


Furthering Ripple's goal of encouraging college students to embrace spontaneity and create connections, the What's Happening map combined with the feed provides two ways to discover new posts and users.


The user discovery page allows a real-time view of users nearby. Users can view fellow students within a 100 meter radius and check out their profiles.

Developer Handoff

SUpporting software engineers

With my experience as a front-end developer and having experienced the nuances of coding from Figma files, I took leadership of creating the handoff document for myself and the developer team. For me, this sped up the develop process dramatically, as I no longer had to click through and check the styling of each component.


How did I feel when working on this project?

What could I have done differently?
What did I learn about working at a startup?
What did I learn about myself from this project?