A mobile game concept; building real-world and online communities through virtual community farming.

Oct - Dec 2018 | UXD Project

Student Designer

Research, user testing
User journey and mapping
Visual graphics
Prototyping, UI design

Team: R Christmas, J Kerr, A Slawson


Online social networking vs. social inclusion and belonging.

The current state of the online social networking space does not look at social inclusion & belonging through the act of contributing to something together.

How might we create a platform that doesn’t focus on just bringing people together, but encourages them to work towards something together?


To explore a community-centric solution with gamification principles.

The goal of Sanctuary is to help people forge connections by engaging with physical spaces and forming relationships.

The basis for this class project, which was developed from the CHI 2019 design prompt (weaving the threads within the social fabric), was looking at social inclusion and belonging from the angle of marginalized communities. In a paper by E. Hall, marginalized communities (i.e. people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health illnesses) were able to find support and create communities to belong to through initiatives like community gardening and theatre troupes.

Data collected from preliminary interviews and questionnaires about this particular problem space led my team and I to map out and identify major themes. Using these, we created a persona, Stefan, as well as determined what he needed, why he would use Sanctuary, and what Sanctuary should be.

Prototyping & User Testing

We ran 2 rounds of user testing: once to test out preliminary features of our low-fidelity paper sketches, and another one of our mid-fidelity mobile app prototype. Our mid-fidelity prototype incorporated feedback from our first round of testing.

We gathered some metrics, which we used to rate the success of our app from a retention standpoint, as well as to gauge if we had achieved the needs highlighted during our research phase. Some of the comments we also received highlighted that Sanctuary didn't quite work the way we had hoped it to. Our attempt to hit our goals was flimsy; our testers were hesitant to interact with new people and the task-based games did not boost self esteem the way we had hoped them to.


While the class project ended with the mid-fidelity prototype, I wanted to envision what it could look like if it were an actual app. Please note that I didn’t change the logic or flow, but only translated the screens into high fidelity mockups.


Sanctuary had very different roots, and it was equally rewarding, painstaking, and fascinating to see it evolve.

My team and I struggled a lot at the beginning and I do truly believe that because of our initial struggle, we were able to uncover more depth and more ideas than if we had just sailed smoothly from the beginning. It went from potentially being a bridge between mental health and campus resources to an anonymized communal garden, to a community-wide farming game.

That being said, I cannot say that I'm particularly proud of this project for a number of reasons. I think it was a good learning experience, but it really shone light on some issues that weren't necessarily related to the design process, such as teamwork, soft skills, project management, and scope creep. If you look closely enough, Sanctuary falls apart. We prioritized gameplay and not necessarily solving a problem, and it shows. But given the time constraints (8 weeks), I'm satisfied with our output.