Zoosk’s UX Design Challenge with Indiana University


In the fall the UX team at Zoosk partnered with the Human Computer Interaction Design program at Indiana University to give a design challenge to their master’s students. Over the course of one week, students worked in teams to create new ideas for fostering quality romantic interactions in an online setting, and we were very impressed with what they came up with.

The Challenge – Create a New Way to Flirt Online
Zoosk UX asked the students to think about flirting online. In online dating the amount of initial ‘flirts’—defined as messages or other interactions such as winking at someone—a person receives can be very high, while the quality can be low. Just like with any first meeting, it’s difficult to start a meaningful conversation with someone right away.

Zoosk tasked the IU students with finding new and novel ways for people to flirt, which would help improve flirt quality. The students received the challenge on a Monday, and the deliverable was due on Friday. Working in teams of two to three people, the students had about four and a half days to submit their projects.

The Curveball – Encourage Complete Profiles
At the halfway point, Zoosk gave the teams a surprise curveball and changed the scope of the project. The teams were given the information that a more complete profile tends to lead to higher quality flirting online. As an addition to the first challenge, the teams were also tasked with considering novel ways to encourage users to fill out their profile.

This was quite a tall task, and we were impressed with the results. There were two submissions that tied for first place, and another two very strong projects that won honorable mention.

The Winners

1st Place Winner – Themed Messages
Yishi Yang, Wenyang Dong, and Tiffany Jen

The reason this team was one of the winning teams was due to the simplicity of their concept, and the breadth and depth with which the concept was explored.

Themed messages would allow someone sending a message to pick a theme for his or her message. The themes would be related to an interest shared by both users. This would allow the person receiving the message to quickly and visually see that the other person had read his or her profile and put time into the message. It would also show that the two of them shared a common interest.

1st Place Winner – Hidden Games
Dennis Ellis, Thai Yue, and Tony Kennedy

What was special about this concept was that the team focused on both the user and receiver, and made both of them participants in the process to receive better quality messages.

The concept this team came up with was a game—one person would set up various games on his or her profile, such as hidden pictures, for other user to find. This game would encourage people viewing a profile to really explore it, and he or she would be rewarded with additional information that could be used when messaging the owner of the profile.

Honorable Mentions

Check Ins
Deepak Bhagchandani and Yizhou Pan

This was a solid project with an interesting approach that helped a user automatically fill out his or her profile. The concept was that a user could use a check-in model with comments, to create a moment. These moments could then be used to fill out his or her profile and find other nearby people to message, who had similar interests.

Q&A Game
Stephen Hicks, Michael Moreau, and Angelica Rosenzweig

This was also a strong submission that combined filling out a profile and creating better messages into one experience. The idea was a simple question and answer game that two users would play before they could freely message each other. Answers given would fill in a user’s profile, while also allowing him or her to see how the answers matched up with another person before messaging.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable project, and all of the work done was quite impressive given the timeframe these teams had to complete their deliverables.

Great job to all of the teams. We hope to do it again in the future.

Learn More About the Designers 
Check out the portfolios of the winners and see their projects for the Zoosk challenge.

Deepak Bhagchandani
Wenyang Dong
Dennis Ellis
Tiffany Jen
Tony Kennedy
Michael Moreau
Yizhou Pan
Angelica Rosenzweig
Yishi Yang