Student designs face of service app

Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers with Cynthia Augustine.

A UCT student got to put her studies into practise while designing the overall look and feel of an app which will allow the public to access information on government housing assistance.

Cynthia Augustine, a second-year digital media and informatics student, placed third in the Western Cape Department of Human Settlement’s HomeWise Youth Competition – which called on young people between the ages of 16 and 35 to design the mock-ups, prototypes or wireframes of the app, which is the user experience and user interface (UX and UI) and not the development of the entire app.

Cynthia, from Pinelands, thought the competition would help her enhance her UX/UI design skills and also compliment her coding skills.

“I want to specialise in UX once I have completed my degree and this was a great platform to do it. I knew I would be able to add it to my list of experiences, whether I won it or not. Secondly, being able to help citizens with gaining access to important housing information is very fulfilling as it enabled me to strengthen my ties with the community and solve a real world problem. Knowing my design would be incorporated in the final mobile application and that it is going to be used by thousands of citizens in the Western Cape is a great honour to say the least,” she said.

Cynthia said the HomeWise Mobile Application would play an integral role in disseminating information as well as building a bridge between citizens and the department. This information includes details about subsidies, programmes and support for citizens to access housing opportunities.

“The application will aid in informing and educating citizens about the various initiatives and service offerings. The mobile application consists of a myriad features that will allow for the user to navigate seamlessly and intuitively. Each category is strategically compartmentalised for easy access and displays information relevant to that category.

“A key factor that was incorporated in the design process was the target audience for the mobile application. The target audience is citizens from lower income households who seek to be informed of various housing opportunities, hoping to better their circumstances. The application will be of good use to them when they wish to view important details as well as clarifying any queries they may have,” said Cynthia.

She said the competition allowed her to fully immerse into the concept of the user experience and taught her how to empathise with the users who she was creating the app for.

“This is an important skill to have when being involved in the User Interface design process, as you cannot design a product if you don’t have a deep understanding of the users. Throughout the design process, I was able to solidify my understanding of visual design which looked at the layout, colour combinations, typographies, buttons and more.”

Cynthia said she was excited to see how her design would be incorporated into the final mobile application, which would be launched next year.

“This was my first time being part of the UX design process for a mobile application. I am looking to further develop these skills by doing internships at various companies. I hope to be part of many more app development projects in the near future. I am also a budding entrepreneur and have various app ideas of my own that I would like to pursue in the future,” she said.

Annabela Bekker from Constantia placed second in the competition, while Anesu Malisa from Bellville took the first prize.

Human Settlements MEC, Tertius Simmers said when he took office at the end of May, he adopted a radical approach in how the department deals with human settlements.

“As a firm believer in using technology optimally, particularly for the advancement of our people, I requested that an app be developed, so that our citizens can easily access information on government housing assistance. As we believe in inclusive governance with our residents, we extended an opportunity to the youth of this province, through a competition, to assist us with the development of this app.

“This is a proud moment for us as a department, as we’ve been able to engage with some of the best and pioneering young techies in this province. Initially our intention was to only award the winner of this competition – however, we have since decided to handover prizes to the top three,” he said.