Elizabeth Lin

Refresh app two screens as header image


APP design, UX/UI


Quarantine is a spontaneity killer; Refresh is the solution. Refresh is an app that helps users reduce their frustration during life in quarantine. An algorithm based on their preferences generates a unique daily feed for each individual, offering different activities each time they use the app.

Jump to the solution

Mar – Apr 2020
Research, Ideation, UX/UI Design, Prototyping, User Testing, Case Study

Jump to the solution

The Unprecedented Quarantine Struggle

Many individuals in quarantine have experienced a drop in mental health because of the stark contrast to regular life. One reason in particular is the lack of spontaneity, leading to days blurring together, and becoming frustrated by the repetitiveness of daily life, feeling “trapped” in the home.

Refresh app overview of 5 screens

Understanding the Problem

Research Strategy

One group looked at in particular were university students, whom many were laid off due to Covid-19 and forced to pass their time differently than usual. As such, the research goal was: How do university students approach their time during quarantine?

Refresh app target market user story

Research Takeaways

Individuals found themselves in a typical rinse-repeat cycle of wake up, eat, school/work, eat, then sleep.

What are other noticeable behaviours?

Insight #1

If something is too predictable, it becomes boring.

The app should display different activities every time and if similar content is to be repeated, changes should be made to the presentation to “surprise” the user and provide variety (ex. varied illustrations/photography).

Insight #2

Users rather rely on algorithms to generate their feeds instead of searching.

In competitor apps that are used to pass time (ex. Instagram, Tiktok), users rarely search for content and are happy with their algorithm-generated feed. This eliminates a need for a Search function in Refresh and filters can be used as a less intimidating tool for indecisive users.

Insight #3

Setting accurate expectations maximizes the greatest potential for enjoyment.

It is important to create expectations to help users make decisions. Tags and information about an activity can be previewed to help users understand and make more enjoyable choices.

Mapping Out the UX

User Testing Insights

Visual Concept

Colours, typeface, and shape decisions for Refresh were all chosen to keep a soothing, but lively look. The combination of these elements helped Refresh relate to the target audience and keep up with modern UI trends.

Refresh app branding languageRefresh app branding typographic scale using Eczar and Work Sans fontRefresh app branding components

Solution: Sparking Spontaneity


Algorithm Feed

The app will show users 3 activities based on their interests. As users interact with activities, such as completing, clicking, or bookmarking, the algorithm will continue to learn and recommend similar content.

In addition, every so often a user’s feed will suggest them an activity that is outside their set interest categories, but similar enough to spark spontaneity and give a delightful “surprise”.

Refresh home screen and activity card examples


Adapt to unexpected user goals

One of the main challenges that came with Refresh was the abstract user goal: to spark spontaneity. This required an unorthodox solution—redirecting users' focus away from their phones—and the ability to think outside the box. Thus, identifying user goals through research early-on was crucial. To guide users' attention, many design decisions were tailored to focus mainly on the activities so that they wouldn't become distracted by the platform itself.

Future iterations

While Refresh tackled the main issue with a lack of spontaneity at this stage, there are also more ways to help individuals struggling in quarantine. In fact, other individuals can be the biggest source for spontaneity. If I were to continue this project in the future, I would focus on devising a way for users to feel connected—the other major mental health need people were missing from quarantine life.

Refresh app mockup with 4 screens in perspective

Want to work together or chat? Come say hey at hey@elizabethlin.ca!