A Chatbot Service Designed to Provide LGBTQIA+ Youth Community Long-term Support

Date: January - March 2020

Team: Lucy Hu, Jean Jiang, Mengxue Bi


  • Service Design

  • User Research

  • Ideating & Insight Synthesis

  • Prototyping

  • Storytelling

  • Stakeholder & Ecology Map

  • Service Blue Print


Hopelab sponsored my service design studio class at Northwestern University to work on project designing a chatbot service experience for LGBTQIA+ students at educational institutes who seek for a reliable, long-term virtual guidance whenever they need. We conducted rounds of early-stage secondary research and interviews with students and in-person professional service providers on campus, insight synthesis, storyboarding, prototyping and testing, and storytelling to explore this potential area and dig out the opportunity for introducing new service.  



NU Compass is a chatbot service that allows Northwestern University (NU) customization to provide LGBTQIA+ students with 24/7 resource navigation. This includes access to in-person professional services on campus, therapists in the area, and learning about communication methods in hard situations (eg. communicating pronouns, changing name in Illinois...etc.). Through NU Compass, universities can offer resources conveniently and students can receive all support and help in one place.


University Customization

Educational institutions will be able to customize the service according to the resources available to their students.

Unmet Need: Professional organizations need specific information related to queer resources on campus that is not conveniently accessible.

All-in-One Resource System

Students can access information from a wide range of categories, including nearby therapists, name change processes, communication tools and other resources in one spot.

Unmet Need: Queer students struggle with finding all resources that are comprehensive to their needs, and do not receive enough support for complex processes.


Mapping & User Research

We started our project with mapping out the stakeholders and ecology that this service will have an impact on to get an idea of where to conduct early-stage research with. Then, we conducted 6 interviews (4 are in-person interviews and 2 are phone interviews) with LGBTQIA+ students and professional service providers on campus from Office of Equity and Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to understand the current problems that need to be further addressed.  

Hopelab Journey Map.jpeg

Insight Synthesis

Through mapping our the user journey from two sides: in-person professionals and students, we synthesized our insights from user research and formed up our point of view. We came up with three key insights leading up to the directions of design. The insights have covered the under-staffed and under-resourced situations on campus for LGBTQIA+ service and students' need to get access to establish long-term relationship with professionals who have similar experiences. 

Prototyping & Testing

With directions of design, we started to storyboard the storyline that users are expected to go through with our service and developed in-context prototypes on Figma to conduct task-based testings with both in-person professionals and students to collect feedback on the concept and usability.  

Service Blue Print

Based on the feedback to polish the service design concept and journey map on initial research, we came up with our service blue print to contextualize the user journey with the key stakeholders involved, which identified the relationships and interactions among different stakeholders and pointed out the clear storyline through stages. 


We presented our findings and proposed solutions to our client with a provocative storyline that developed from the beginning to vividly show the users' needs in seeking for a complementary service in addition to the in-person professional services on campus. 


How to conduct research and design with a sensitive theme

From this project, I started to pay more attention to the pronouns people use and think about the daily life situations on how hard it would be to certain groups of people when it’s easy to me. I get to know that empathy is a gem to have but not easy at all, especially to empathize with the group of people that their experiences are different from myself. It’s easy to say “I feel you”, but it’s hard to actually understand and feel it when you are not part of it.


In addition, through the initial research, interviews and user testing, I realize that queer is a concept that is sensitive to many. Things that seem minor to me might have a big impact on those. I started to pay closer attention to the phrases I used, the pronouns I referred to and the descriptions I delivered, because I understand if I used it in a wrong way I might hurt the feelings of our target audience. This is an important lesson to learn, to understand every individual might be different from one another, and to strive for a future that everyone is comfortable to speak up and be with each other.

How to work towards an ambiguous topic with both the small team and entire studio

At the first two weeks, ambiguity is my top concern towards the project. We started to gather information around the topic, but it seems too broad with the stakeholders that might get involved and ecology relationships that the project scope might cover. We had no clue where to begin with and focus on. With the project going on, we constantly clarified the confusions and had new problems waiting to be solved, and for me I adjusted my status and realized it’s okay to embrace the ambiguity.


The confusions not only come from the topic area we’re working with, but also the communications among over 20 people. We gradually made ourselves more comfortable taking on different roles to work together as a studio, and know how important it is for everyone to be responsible for their share of task so that we can piece things together in the end. It’s a chaotic struggle when I experienced it, but when I reflected upon, I could finally see how they all came together and the sense of accomplishment is gold.