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Project overview


Team facilitation,

Research design,

Conducting user interviews,

synthesis of data,



User interviews

Affinity mapping


User journey mapping


Source is a cloud-based service which lets users access the content on any device.

Source is a research organizer which lets the users manage their sources and references, create citations, collaborate and read scholarly content on the go. 


Group of 4


14 weeks




Reading academic articles on mobile devices is challenging due to their formatting, and organizing resources during large academic projects can be a hassle. However, academic content is often difficult to read on small screens, and students may miss resources when they can't link all their devices.


A 4-month project in collaboration with the D2L team, where we, as a team of four, worked in weekly sprints to create a working solution from scratch.


The team designed an app, Source, a research organizer that manages the sources, references and citations collected during the project. The app's core features are the readability of academic content and the organization of resources by storing and providing citations.

The app was tested with 15 users across 4 countries. 12 users were successful in completing the assigned tasks, rest of the users took more time but were partially successful in creating and storing citations.  

Final screens were designed keeping WCAG accessibility guidelines in consideration.

Source: Organizing your research on the go

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On Source, you can add all your sources by creating a folder, and it will create citations in various styles in an instance.
Also, collaborate and share your work with your team.

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Academic articles are in PDF and hard to read on mobile. Source will create that experience better by parsing content and making it more readable.

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Research done on a computer is better that's why we want you to read them anywhere on any device.

How did we get here?

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It all started with a design prompt

The project started with the introduction of an industry partner D2L with our team at Sheridan College on a Zoom call.

We started brainstorming our ideas

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Thinking out loud about various problems that educators and students face.

As design students, we find it hard to manage all the resources and citations. It's not the fun part of creativity is what we believed.

So, we came up with some fun ideas to implement in our project proposal.

Here comes the fun part

We found that the problem is real, and so was our excitement.

  • We use smartphones to store personal data and access information.

  • This trend is also seen in universities, where students use their smartphones to write essays, complete homework, and access course materials.

  • A survey found that almost 80% of online students use their mobile devices to do their coursework.

  • Using mobile technology, students can access course texts, contact professors, conduct research, and even record data using tools like sensors.

  • Research has shown that using mobile devices can be more effective for certain learning methods, such as cooperative, game-based, inquiry-based, and self-directed learning.

Insights we found from secondary research

We learned more about our user through the primary research

Goals of our research was to find:

  • Get to know the potential user.

  • To learn how technology facilitates the research conducted by the students.

  • To learn the phone usage habits of different users and understand their priorities.

  • To understand how people manage their citations.

  • To understand how much people spend their time managing citations.

  • How people collaborate with each other for their academic research.

To understand in depth about our users we conducted interviews:

  • Target audience: Students in higher education  

  • Participants aged 18-30 who were studying or had graduated in North America.

  • A sample of 11 semi-structured interviews were collected over two weeks.


Some of the research questions asked during the interview:

  • How much do you spend your time on your phone in a day? What types of things do you do on your phone?

  • What do you read on your phone, and how is your experience? Do you experience any challenges while reading on your phone?

  • What impact do you think mobile devices have had on how you interact with your teachers and peers?

  • What are some ways mobile devices have been used in academic settings that you’ve been a part of?

  • Have you used mobile devices for academic research, or did you have any situations where you used your phone for research because your laptop was out of reach?

After spending two intense weeks over phone, zoom and in-person interviews, we had to synthesize the data.

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For the pattern-forming and sense-making of collected information, the tool used was affinity mapping. The team found affinity mapping a perfect tool for brainstorming collaboratively to produce meaningful insights.

Insights found during the primary research helped us to articulate the problem.

Main findings

Prefers reading small content on phone

Laptop is preferred for research

Uses citation generator

Note taking for storing sources

Cloud sharing for easy sync

Use phones for daily tasks

  • Students prefer reading small content on their phones and find laptops more comfortable for research due to their bigger screens.

  • They use their phones for quick tasks such as communication, scheduling, and testing their work.

  • Participants use online citation generators and note-taking apps to store their links.

  • Cloud sharing is important for them to easily access their links from both phone and laptop, and collaborate with their team easily.

Competitive analysis

To learn where we stand in the market, we did a competitive analysis of competitors and explored all the possible features.

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Now that we know our user, it is time to design the experience.

User experience


Persona: helps to create a fictional potential user. It allowed us to focus on certain pain points that needed to be addressed.

We had to know how our user will use the app. We designed a Journey map to understand and empathise at each step.

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Customer Journey Mapping: helps to create a fictional potential user. It allowed us to focus on certain pain points that needed to be addressed.

To materialize the idea, we had to frame the problem in a concise manner. It helps the designers to focus on the main problem.

Problem statement

Students find it challenging to read academic articles on their mobile phones, and it is hard to organize the resources during academic projects.

User story

As students, they want to use their phones for research to access the materials easily and conveniently.


Information architecture

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IA is a great way to write down the flow of the app. It helps us visualize the navigation followed by the user.

Once IA was finalized, we iterated by creating quick wireframes to visualize on 1:1 scale 

Mid-fi wireframes

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Home screen: 'continue reading' where left off while reading articles and papers.

Add sources using various methods

In the project folder, a user can save their resources using various citations.

exploring reading mode

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Mid-fi wireframes exploration and user flow

Once we were done with the mid-fi wireframes, we tested them with the users to the pain points and re-iterate to improve the experience.

Usability testing

User testing: A total of three rounds of testing were run.

The first round of testing:

Stage: Lo-fi wireframes  

Users: Peers 

Number of users: 5

Success: 3/5 were partially successful in performing the tasks


Second round:

Stage: Mid-fi wireframes  

Users: Students and researchers

Number of users: 9

Success: 7/9 were completely successful in performing the tasks​, except for some errors.

Third round:

Stage: Hi-fi wireframes  

Users: Students and researchers through

Number of users: 9

Success: 8/9 were completely successful in performing the tasks



Intent: Users were able to understand the motive of the app.
Usability: Users were able to identify the buttons and icons.
Terminology: users were able to identify the terms.
Use of ease: Fairly easy to navigate
Relevance: Users found the app to be extremely relevant and useful.

Did not work

Intuition: Users found the prototype to lag after the first flow. They could not restart the prototype after it lagged.
Understanding reading mode: Users could not understand the term ‘reading mode,’ which was asked as a task during the test.
Presumption: The test moderator presumed that the testers might be familiar with Figma and how to use it.

We learned...

  • Creating clear and concise instructions is crucial for user experience as a minor wording error can cause users to miss important features.

  • Additionally, cultural differences can affect the design of the interface, such as the use of colors, placement of buttons, and shape of icons.

  • Some users may not read all the instructions, so being concise is key.

  • Testers also provide valuable feedback, including recommendations that can inspire further improvements.


“it's simple design, no extra distractions.”

“I liked the facility that you have while using it, not confusing at all and easy to work with”

“I have my articles on the go instead of in paper format and that article is easy to read because I can change the display setting so I can easily read the article”

Our designs have to be accessible so that people of all backgrounds can use the design without feeling excluded. We tried to align our designs with WCAG 2.0 guidelines for accessibility.

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Final screens

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Reading mode

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Reading experience


Biggest challenge I faced during the project

In this project, we had our main emphasis on team building and that was the biggest challenge I faced. As a facilitator, I had to quickly wear two hats which are being a designer and being a leader. I find it extremely challenging to keep all of my team members on board. There were some times when team mates would not respond or show up on time. 

How I addressed the problem?

To address this situation, I made sure to communicate properly and concisely. As a leader, I appointed roles for everyone in our team. I made sure everyone recognized their strengths and wanted to work the way it was suitable for them. I scheduled weekly meetings and informed the agenda beforehand so that they knew what to expect. I made sure all of the deliverables were done within the timeline by notifying the team members of changes and notifying about the feedback that we got from our mentors.

What did I learn?

I learned that it is not easy to work in a team, people are hard to manage, and there are situations where things do not go the way we wanted. It is extremely important to keep a check by showing up constantly so we can overcome most situations by communicating effectively with our teammates and stakeholders.

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