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Fixit: Facilities Maintenace Tool

My Challenge

The impetus for Fixit: an SJSU Facilities Maintenance Tool

"Your school wants to improve the upkeep of campus facilities by creating a new system for reporting any facilities that may need maintenance or repair. Design an experience that allows students to report building or equipment issues on campus. Consider the process of those filing the report and of those receiving and taking action on the issues."



Researching University Facilities Maintenance

The first step was to understand what types of problems are handled by facilities maintenance and how current universities report them. To answer this question, I chose to research five university facilities management websites.


  • University facilities management departments handle a large number of different types of maintenance problems

  • Different maintenance problems require different information, especially when inputting the location of the problem

  • Facility Maintenance staff need to know the location of the problem, the problem type, and its severity to be able to take action


Surveying my users

I chose to conduct a survey because I wanted to gather more quantitative data on the average behaviors and opinions of students. This data can be used to determine how receptive students would be to reporting maintenance problems on campus and how much time they would be willing to spend doing so. I conducted a survey using SurveyMonkey and posted on San Jose State University social media boards. The following insights are based on the data I received from the 50 student responses.


  • More than 75% of students state that facilities maintenance is important to them.

  • Over 50% of students have encountered facilities maintenance problems on campus.

  • 96% of students did not know how to report maintenance issues.

  • On average, students stated they would be more likely to report urgent maintenance problems than routine maintenance problems.

  • 84% of students stated they would spend less than 2 minutes reporting problems that were routine.


User stories, Personas, Journey Map, and User Flow

Insights from the user survey and facilities maintenance department research were combined to establish the user stories,  user personas, a journey map, and the user flow. These research deliverables were chosen because they create the basic grammar necessary for the user experience and outline the steps and screens that will be necessary for the product to function. 


Simple - Visible - Robust​

Based on the foundational research, I determined that the design should be simple so that there is limited cognitive load necessary for reporting issues, visible so that students are aware of the tool and ​can easily access it and robust so that students can easily report all types of problems. The following points represent the foundation of my design:

  • In order to improve facilities maintenance on campus, it is necessary that the app focuses on high-frequency low priority maintenance issues. These are the issues that are most likely to go unreported. Urgent matters, on the other hand, are most likely to be noticed and most likely to be reported. 

  • Rather than creating a standalone application, the facilities maintenance tool will be built into and be accessed through the widely used SJSU "Sammy" app. By doing so, this will increase the visibility of the tool and keep the barrier to entry low for reports.

  • Students are unlikely to be familiar with facilities maintenance jargon or maintenance specifics, therefore the tool should handle most of the work when it comes to classifying problems and determining their severity. 


Low fidelity sketching and mid-fidelity prototype

I researched applicable design patterns for inspirations and possible solutions. I used rapid sketching techniques to flesh out different ideas. The design patterns that worked the best were combined int a mid-fidelity prototype, using Sketch and Invision,  for user testing.

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Vertical Stepper

I chose to use a vertical stepper based on the human factors principles of feedforward, recognition over recall, and efficiency. The vertical stepper provides feedforward by indicating to the user of exactly how long the process will take and will help prevent students from abandoning a report due to task length. Secondly, the vertical stepper provides recognition over recall by keeping the information from the previous steps visible and allows the user to go back and edit if needed. Finally, the process is efficient because at the end of the reporting process, there is no need for a recap screen. The report is built from the top-down and the user can view all the information and submit without the need for an additional screen.


Problem Search

The original sketches required users to report a problem by first identifying its type among may categories such as electrical or plumbing. The students then would use a scroller to select the problem. I decided to change this and use a problem search that relies heavily on backend knowledge of facilities maintenance problems. This allows students to use plain language to report a problem rather than trying to understand facilities maintenance jargon.


Reporting the location of a problem

Because maintenance problems vary widely and could be located anywhere, it is important that the design uses conditional logic to determine what is needed in order to specify a location. This requires first that the user specify the problem. If the problem is something that is inside a building, the location specification would request building name, floor and whether the problem is located in a hallway, bathroom or classroom. If the problem is something that is outside, a GPS pin system will allow the user to quickly estimate the position on a map. Finally, problems that are located inside large open buildings such as the library may utilize a combination of the two previously stated methods.


QR codes for equipment

To increase visibility and decrease reporting time for equipment, the tool will utilize the QR code scanner built into the "Sammy" app. Small stickers will be placed on university equipment that will contain a QR code that contains equipment details and the location associated with it. 



Usability testing and analysis

I conducted a formative usability test with five participants. Users were given a scenario and asked to report it to campus facilities. Afterword, participants and I openly discussed the proposed solution and brainstormed ways to improve.


  • Problem search could be located on the maintenance tool dashboard

  • People thought they would click on the camera icon rather than the button

  • Users suggested that they be able to see the progress of repairs and estimated completion time

High Fidelity Design

High Fidelity Design Justification

Insights from usability testing evaluated and utilized in the creation of a high fidelity mockup. The following will discuss the design decisions and provide next steps.


1. Search from the dashboard

It was pointed out that the first step in the "new report" process could be added to the facility maintenance dashboard. By doing this, I was able to consolidate one step in the user flow and simplify the overall task load. 

2. My Reports

Students are able to see past reports and a snapshot of the current repair status from the facility maintenance dashboard.  Selecting a given report will open up a full review of the maintenance problem and also give the student the ability to edit the report.

3. Suggested details

When adding more information about the problem, it was determined that the system should pull data from past experiences with a given type of problem and give users suggestions for likely details to include.  This will reduce the cognitive load necessary to explain what the problem is.

4. Report details screen

Rather than giving users a report confirmation, I decided that users should be taken to a report details screen. This screen will allow users to an overview of problem details as well as live updates on repairs. The user can also use this screen to update report information. 

The Way Forward

Reflection and next steps

In this project, I researched the types of problems that campus facility maintenance departments deal with and how students could go about quickly reporting them using their mobile phones. I was challenged to think outside of the box in order to fully understand the scope of the issue. I conducted online research, surveyed students and conducted usability testing. The result is a high fidelity mockup that would be incorporated in the existing SJSU application. The design, however, is still in its infancy and would need several more rounds of iteration before it would be ready for implementation. Future product research should work closely with campus facility maintenance staff to ensure the product works seamlessly with existing maintenance management software. 

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