Planet: Connect and Unplug

CSE 440 Staff
6 min readDec 14, 2023

Team Big Toe: Christian Estrella, Jasmine Chi, Maia Song, Naoto Uemura

Meet the Team!

Christian Estrella — UX/UI Designer, Research Specialist

Jasmine Chi — Communications & Writer, Researcher

Maia Song — UX/UI Designer, Research

Naoto Uemura — Ideator, Researcher

Disconnected Connections: Finding Our Way In the Paradox of the Digital Age

As we find ourselves in a world where being or even appearing online has become the new norm, are we truly more connected, or are we drifting further apart?

To answer this question as we conducted our research, it highlighted a significant challenge: the struggle to balance digital presence with meaningful real-life interactions. Being able to manage our social media and online usage while trying to maintain genuine connections can often lead to a contradiction in feeling together yet alone. In a time where our online connections often overshadow our face-to-face interactions, whether that’s in college or post-college, there’s an increasing need for a balanced approach to how we connect with one another. While the digital world gives us the blanket of convenience, it’s often at the expense of our real-world connections as we juggle the balancing act of maintaining a healthy social life in a world where we feel like being online almost all the time. The conveniences of online interactions often lead to a dip in real-world connections creating the sense of being “connected” yet also feeling isolated.

How We Thought to Planet

To combat this challenge of balancing digital connectivity with real-life interactions, we designed Planet to help try and bridge this gap hoping to help users balance their digital and real-life interactions. Planet helps users manage their social media presence while encouraging and facilitating real-world meetups and interactions. It features a user-friendly interface that allows users to easily create events and schedule gatherings with friends, emphasizing real-world connections. To enhance user connections with one another, Planet not only brings people together but also gathers and utilizes their interests to suggest common activities or hangouts. This feature is especially helpful for users uncertain about planning their get-togethers so that plans are less likely to fall through at the last minute in case people can’t decide what they want to do. Not only that but users can also enter their weekly availability so that their friends can see when they’re free to meet up. Their friends, after viewing their profile and seeing what times they are free, can then propose or plan meetups during these times, knowing that the user is likely to be free so the process of organizing get-togethers can be streamlined with less back and forth on deciding times. Additionally, Planet includes smart notifications that ping users when they might be spending time unproductively online, prompting them to engage in real-life activities with their friends who might be free instead. These functionalities position Planet as a solution to not only help with social planning but also for promoting healthier digital habits!

Process of Making Our App Useful, but More Importantly, Usable

To ensure the usability and usefulness of our mobile app, we created a paper prototype that outlined the key features of the app, designed to test the two main tasks — setting up an availability calendar for the users’ schedule, and scheduling a hangout and sending out to the target friend group. We conducted the usability test on three potential users, which made us aware of several significant flaws in our design. One major confusion was caused by the missing call-to-action button on our home page, which led to our second task not being clear to the users whilst being the main feature of the app. We resolved this problem by creating a more visible “create event” button on the home page. This improvement, along with many other small tweaks such as creating a button that says “added” to indicate that the person has already been added as a friend, drastically improved the user experience of our app, making the app more usable.

Figure 1. Initial Paper Prototype of Planet used in user testing process

Final Digital Mockup of Planet

Check out our final digital mock-up of Planet!

Scheduling an event/hangout with friends

Figure 2. Planet allows users to add friends so that they can create an event and plan a hang out together. Users can select which friends they would like to invite and Planet will send an invitation to those added to the event which they can then accept or decline.

One of our primary tasks Planet tackles is to help users consistently maintain contact with friends away from digital devices by allowing users to schedule events or hangouts with friends. The users can input their interests and availability into their Planet profile and then Planet will provide suggestions for activities based on shared interests among friends that the user can either choose to do or to create their own. The users can then choose an activity to do and send an invitation to their friends for the selected hangout activity. Friends can view the event, check mutual availability, and confirm their participation. This process not only encourages real-world interaction but also supports users in building stronger, more personal relationships outside the digital sphere, helping create a more engaged and connected social life with those close to them.

Updating your availability to hang out

Figure 3. Users can input their weekly availability so that their friends can easily view when they are available from week to week making planning hangouts and events easier to coordinate!

Another task that we wanted to focus on was to help users be more self-motivated to spend time away from digital devices, especially social media. To address this, Planet allows users to update their availability on their profile, which their friends can view. This feature enables friends to see when each other is free encouraging them to plan out real-world activities. Users can suggest or choose activities, promoting time spent away from screens. This approach not only encourages users to take breaks from digital devices but also promotes in-person social interactions contributing to a more balanced digital lifestyle.

Planet Forward

Feeling connected online doesn’t always equate to feeling dialed into the real world. We’ve seen the dual nature of our lives online — its ability to unite us under a common virtual umbrella, yet simultaneously lead to feelings of isolation. Our app Planet is our solution to this modern problem. By simplifying how we plan our real-world meetups and encouraging us to spend more time with friends, family, and those in our community, Planet helps us to balance our online and offline lives seamlessly. Through Planet, we’re not just connecting people online; we’re hoping to instill tangible, fulfilling social experiences, as we change how we perceive and interact within our social circles and community. We aspire for Planet to be a partner in your social journey, making every connection more meaningful and every moment count. We hope that we can Planet with you :)



CSE 440 Staff

University of Washington Computer Science, Intro to Human Computer Interaction