Launching Cync

Cync 2022: UGA Master’s Capstone

Natasha Busie, Kathryn Patterson, Belle Jones

Project Pitch

Thriving communities. 5-star school systems. Leisure and recreation for every interest. Career opportunities in the arts, entertainment, commerce, and skilled trades abound. This is the mission every family and business strives for within their community. Cync exists to help bring this vision into reality.

Hello Cync.

Cync is at your fingertips to serve as a simple tech solution to assist the rural Chamber of Commerce in creating a flourishing community ripe with opportunity. Chamber organizations utilize Cync as a tech assistant along their journey to actualize their goals for local communities. Designed to bridge the gap for residents and the Chamber, Cync is an iOS app that provides a fully customizable platform to foster information exchange and bolster economic growth. Features that offer value to rural Chamber organizations include information about the local Chamber, Events, Dining, and a Go Local section to encourage residents to stay local. All situated in one convenient app, Cync features provide Chamber information to residents and grow the local economy. We hope Cync can help communities like yours!

Cync Inspiration

Cync was inspired by a drive for community, technology, and innovation. The founders of Cync share a common passion and expertise in working within close-knit communities, specifically with the local Chamber of Commerce. Team experience with the local chamber granted our group with a unique set of tools to solve and provide insight into the unique challenges that rural communities face. Cync partnered with the chamber to assist local residents.

Problem

According to the Economic Research Service, recent trends point to relatively slow employment and population growth in rural areas, accompanied by increases in poverty. This translates to reduced economic stagnation — creating access and opportunity barriers for residents within the county.

The promotion of small and large business, industry expansion, and community involvement will provide solutions to economic stagnation and combat poverty in rural areas over generations. The chamber of commerce champions many of these activities; however, our team built off of an opportunity to support the local chamber to make a communal impact.

Solution

Cync is an iOS App that serves as a solution to bridge the gap between residents and the community by promoting local establishments and raising awareness to support the Rural Chamber’s economic growth and community engagement goals. Features combined, the app serves residents and the county by creating a one-stop-shop solution for ongoing local happenings.

Client Partner Overview

Cync partnered with The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce for our Capstone Journey’s development and user testing phase. Located in a rural North Georgia community just below the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Gordon Chamber exists to connect members and the community to promote economic growth and expansion. Serving as the source of inspiration for Cync, we worked closely with Gordon County Chamber reps to design an app that will be the desired solution for rural chamber organizations everywhere to help community expansion and reduce communication roadblocks.

Cync agreed to design and develop a customized tech solution to support the chamber and to provide key insights to help us through development and provide Gordon County users for our testing phase.

Technology

Ideation → Design → Development → User Research → Final Product

Outline of Cync Features

Advanced technology features such as the mapping, five star rating, homepage animation, iOS calendar, and external resource links are intended to lend a digital hand residents on their quest to easily navigate their local community. These features were innovated, developed and refined throughout the product development stage.

iOS Technology Features & Enhancements:

  • Nav Menu Bar — Advanced features such as the navigation menu bar with user-centric iconography enhance the customer navigation journey to orient the user with feature integration within the app.
  • Map Kit- The EventKit assists users with a convenient map integration feature to point users directly to their desired locale. This quick solution allows users to map events and community hotspots while providing them with locally sourced visuals, summaries, and a detailed map view.
  • iOS Calendar- The calendar feature helps users organize their events, which enhances attendance, supports event planning, and centralizes important dates for chamber members and residents alike.
  • Star Rating- The star rating feature grants users the ability to rate their favorite hotspots in the area and save their top rated results. Users can share their favorites list, which assists users in making informed decisions in local excursions. The favorites list fosters growth in the local community and businesses at large while granting the ability to collect valued user feedback.
  • Accordion Events List- The events accordion list is a hierarchical API integration that provides a quick and easy way to organize events in a layout users can easily consume. This accordion style layout allows users to have customized control over which events they want to explore.

Cync Development

Design Systems Style Guide is a comprehensive design system that serves to guide and direct the team on aesthetic and design decisions during development. Providing clarity on the details such as font headings, size, color, kerning, and line spacing, the brand guidelines bring consistency for the developer and the user and sets the overall tone of the brand. Once our design foundations were established, our efforts to build deliverables (App, pdf, medium journal, website, etc.) were more precise and streamlined, ultimately saving time and allowing for more capacity for other build outs.

UX Research

Ideation and research phase began in 7011 where we brainstormed three different prototypes for our capstone project. We were all aligned on the type of technology we wanted to build — an iOS App. During the ideation process, we answered the challenging question of ‘what problem does this technology solve?’ It didn’t take long for us to realize we needed to approach our ideas with a user-centric lens. It is vital to get into the user’s headspace before returning to finalize the development phase. Once we began ideating from a UX vantage point, the ideation flow became more fluid, and we were able to land on a few solid ideas for product conception.

UX research carried the torch through every stage of the development journey. The project justification was the start of a research-intensive process in order to implement qualitative and quantitative findings to uncover how our app idea would fit into a modern marketplace. We had to wrestle with development road blocks surrounding the need, value, and solution for our product in conception. By putting our heads together, we built a competitive product that stood out in a hot market. We learned how to turn challenge into opportunity by pivoting hard and fast and expanding our product wireframe when user input led us in a different direction.

After conducting user research in the UXRP, we compiled qualitative and quantitative findings that showed 75% of users found Cync easy to navigate, but those that disagreed said things along the lines of, “People may not be able to read the content until they scroll to the bottom of the page.”

By taking a proactive approach, we learned as a group how to simplify features that offer quick and easy solutions for users. The app now provides updated information architecture and user experience solutions that grant the product a competitive edge in the app marketplace.

At the crux of the development phase, we put our heads together to bring to market an iOS app which fosters community engagement and chamber involvement. This comprehensive platform now has the unique capability to transform rural communities at the source.

Dev Resources

We utilized iOS, SwiftUI, Adobe Cloud and MapKit technologies in order to bring our app development ideas to life.

Alpha

We wanted to hit the ground running during Alpha. What was our strategy, you ask? We leaned hard into building the app based on a minimum viable product model during the development cycle. During our Alpha phase, we created our design system for Cync. This design system encompassed our style guide, complete with our logo and branding elements, our component and pattern libraries, as well as the tech toolstack. We curated an app with a user-intended design to attract a wide demographic of customers and validated the product features with the user in mind. By the end of Alpha, we were proud to have a fully functioning app. Adding advanced dev, branding, and content encompassed our Beta cycle. Click Here for Alpha Overview

Beta

During Beta, we refined the existing information, updated copy, reorganized the information architecture, and incorporated more advanced dev plus branding elements into our app. We finalized the categories with community data such as local dining, community hotspots, and events and continuously analyzed the categories through the lens of usability and information architecture. Our efforts to be comprehensive paid off in the end with a defined variety of community happenings and information for users to find quickly and efficiently. Click Here for Beta Overview

Meet the Team

The Faces Behind The Cync Product

Kathryn Patterson — Advanced UX Researcher & Developer

Kathryn is a passionate UX-er, designer, researcher and product developer who revolutionizes the design at every stage. Fashioned with an emerging tech tool kit, she assisted the development journey with new age tech solutions armed with real world application. With a unique skill set, she assisted in each phase of the Capstone journey in order to further the overall team mission. This contributed to an enhanced user experience flow that enabled creative product bandwidth within the realm of technology.

After receiving her Bachelor’s in Journalism, Kathryn has spent 4 years as a professional marketer, researcher, and online merchandising analyst. From her experience volunteering at the local Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce, she has developed a deep passion and understanding for the community.

Belle Jones — Graphic Designer & Head of Marketing

Belle worked on several aspects of our capstone journey, from brainstorming, logo design, branding, research, assisting with app development, but overall she handled the majority of the marketing related tasks. Belle is looking forward to utilizing her newfound knowledge from this program and is thankful for her experience at UGA.

Belle received her B.S. in Public Relations and decided to jump right into her master’s degree just a short six months after graduating. She has a passion for utilizing social media to help grow brand exposure, and she loves working with various Adobe platforms. After graduation she will be joining The Buckhead Club as their Member Experience Director.

Natasha Busie — UX/UI Designer & Developer

Natasha has fulfilled many roles along our capstone journey, from Cync ideation, concept development, research, product design, branding, partner collaboration, user testing, and development. She genuinely enjoys the process of solving complex problems and learning new things.

Armed with a B.S. in Sociology, nine years as a professional marketer, five years of volunteering within her community, and being a mother of four to boot — Tasha has a comprehensive understanding of established social structures, challenges, and opportunities ever-present in rural communities. It is her community that served as the inspiration, test location, and partner collaboration for Cync.

Lessons Learned

Preparation is key to success. With so many moving parts, quick turnarounds, and jam-packed schedules, we learned quickly starting in the 7005 course the success of our capstone project rested on having a plan and innovating the final result.

We learned that there are many excellent solutions to explore and ideate upon, and sometimes those pivots are better than the original plan. For example, the original idea was to cater to local residents, but we were able to pivot and also serve local chambers. The technology is also feasible for counties other than Gordon, and when tested with local chamber members the product was described as “ revolutionary in its conception.”

An important lesson we learned is that the smaller details are important as they make up the bigger picture. We realized this mainly during the curation of our Style Guide. The takeaway was that all of the smaller moving parts such as color pallets and typography come together in a big way. Having a strong brand voice for your product makes telling the user a cohesive story easier along the way.

Emerging Media Overview

All three members of the Cync team came from very different backgrounds, but we were able to come together to create an amazing new product. We each chose to pursue our education at The University of Georgia so that we could be “one step ahead” in our targeted fields. In regards to professional endeavors, several of the skills learned will be utilized as we embark on our career journeys. Since starting the program, Kathryn Patterson has joined a UX/UI technology team, Natasha Busie has advanced as a Marketing Director, and Belle Jones is beginning a new role in Marketing.

To the NMI Cohort:

We enjoyed getting to know you all over the past school year and are thankful for the connections we made with the New Media Institute. We hope that you enjoyed seeing all that Cync has to offer, and that we were able to showcase how valuable this product can be in local communities.

Tasha — Plan early and plan often. Build, design, write, research, create, to your skill level, then rest a minute and go back to make it better. There are many tools and solutions out there to take any part of your capstone to the next level. Find them and use them to make excellent designs and make something you can be proud of.

Belle — Understand that sometimes your dreams are not achievable and that’s OK!! Be prepared to make big and small pivots, and trust the process! Keep a list of these pivots so you are able to see your progress from start to finish. Be sure to utilize the tools the program provides such as the NMI Experts to enrich your capstone experience.

Kathryn — The EM journey has taught us to dream big but build small. Come up with an idea but prepare to scale it down. It’s essential to plan the technology end game with the user in mind from the start and work backward to scale. Brainstorm with users on innovative features to bring the idea to life.

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