Those moving abroad often find themselves getting lost and unable to find a Singaporean community with similar interests. HomeAway is an app that connects travellers with Singaporeans living abroad.
About the project
Connects You To Home While You’re Away
To ease the transition of relocating and improve the quality of life while living abroad, it is common for travellers to make preparations ahead of time by turning to platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, Hardwarezone and the websites of embassies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Immigration & Checkpoint Authority (ICA) and Ministry of Health (MOH). During which, travellers often find themselves getting overloaded with information they simply do not need, feeling lost and unable to find a familiar Singaporean community that share similar interests in the destination country/state/city.
Through qualitative analyses, their problems were distilled into informational and social needs. Using a human-centric approach, our team asked how might we streamline existing, reliable information from the various government agencies, yet leverage upon the effectiveness of forums and social media platforms to create an all-in-one application to satisfy these needs, improving the quality of life overseas, even before travellers were to depart.
What it does
Based on the needs of travellers, the core features include enabling users to find useful information, keep track of essential information, find and join Singaporean communities who share similar interest groups and participate in events organised by Singaporeans or the Singaporean embassy abroad.
In acknowledging the importance of user retention in driving scalability and sustainability, we added personalisation, privacy and security features, so as to deliver a pleasant and satisfying user experience.
How we built it
Using the theme of “Connects You To Home While You’re Away”, we were inspired by design elements of the MRT, the rail network in Singapore that connects us together. Incorporating similar typography and colour schematics, we translated our sketches for HomeAway into an interactive interface using Adobe XD. After several iterations of development, the interface was assembled into a mobile application using Flutter, written in Dart on the frontend, and powered by Firebase on the backend.
Challenges we ran into
Everyone in the team was new to hackathons, hence we were unfamiliar with the process of research, ideation, implementation and refinement of ideas. In the domains where we found ourselves to be lacking, we had to be adaptive to learn fast by reading documentation and internalising tutorials, so as to be better equipped to articulate and present our ideas.
In light of the pandemic, maintaining clear communication was a hurdle to overcome as we held all our meetings online. Some of us worked part-time jobs, some had classes to attend, some fell ill after getting vaccinated. All these played a part in delaying progress towards our objectives. Despite these factors, we were not afraid to ask questions when in doubt and remained patient when answering these questions. In doing so, we maintained communication lines and managed to remain on task.
From the technical perspective, we encountered issues with exporting Adobe XD designs to Flutter. As a result, we abandoned the idea of building HomeAway with the assistance of importing Adobe XD elements, and had to resort to constructing HomeAway from scratch. On top of that, some of us had no prior experience using Flutter and had to learn how to use the platform on the spot, while trying to create the application. This was a significant obstacle as we worked tirelessly to implement our prototype into a usable mobile application.
Solutions that improve the quality of life of Singaporeans while they are overseas.
When the hackathon started, we began to gather qualitative data through interviews with Singaporeans who are living or who have lived overseas. We wanted to find pain points and problems which we could solve with our hackathon solution. Once we had conducted our research, we consolidated our findings by creating a persona. We explored potential personas then settled on Daniel – an introverted student planning to enrol at Hull University. We did a user journey mapping, assessed pain points, touch points, and crafted an empathy map. From this preliminary user research, we identified the pain points we needed to address in order to improve the quality of life for Singaporeans living overseas.
We explored existing solutions that are available on the market and tried to see how they could be incorporated into our solution. With our discussion running late into the night, we settled on the core features for the mobile application, made a navigation diagram, and then I began to work on a low-fidelity prototype. After churning out the prototype with Adobe XD, I passed the screenshots to the two “tech” members in the team who are excellent in mobile application engineering and development. They proceeded to replicate the prototype using Flutter and Firebase. If you would like to see more of the low-fi prototype screenshots, you can view it on my Behance.
When we made it to the finals, the team discussed ideas for the design, typography, and colour schematics for the app. Using the theme of “Connects You to Home While You’re Away”, we were inspired by design elements of the MRT, the rail network in Singapore that connects us together. Incorporating similar typography and colour schematics, we designed each navigation menu to have a dominant colour to enable users to remember the association to being connected to home.