Our inspiration

As busy university students, making plans with friends can be a dissatisfying experience due to mismatching schedules, lack of spontaneity, and difficulties in coming up with fun activities to do together. LinkUP is our answer to this problem! We created a platform that allows you to share a hobby or activity that you’re about to start with friends in your network who can then join you (remotely/in-person). With LinkUP, you can also see what your friends are up to throughout the day and join in on their activities with little to no prior planning. Likewise, you can choose to host your own activities, which friends can choose to join in on. Overall, LinkUP aims to encourage genuine social connection.

What LinkUP does

LinkUP is a social media platform that connects friends through shared hobbies or activities. A user can use LinkUP in two ways: (1) simply set their activity status when they’re about to start an activity (e.g. cooking, playing a game of chess, going for a run, etc.) and allow friends to join the activity with them either remotely via call or through an in-person meetup; and, (2) see friends’ activity statuses and request to join the friend to participate in the activity together. LinkUP keeps interactions natural and spontaneous through timed activities, in-app messaging, and video-call options using Vonage API. We used Cockroach DB as our database and registered our domain with Domain.com. By bringing people together through their hobbies and activities, LinkUP hopes to encourage meaningful interactions and genuine social connection.

How we built LinkUP

After fleshing out our initial idea geared towards improving mental and physical health through positive social interactions, our team decided that we wanted to create a transformed social media platform aimed at encouraging meaningful interactions. We made a list of important features and used that list to design our mockup on Figma using UI/UX design principles. The UI design was an iterative process that took mentors’ and team members’ feedback into account. Then, our team’s frontend developer took our vision from Figma and turned it into a web application using HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap. Meanwhile, our backend developer worked alongside our frontend developer to choose a compatible framework. We used Node.js for our framework and used Express for our web server. We incorporated Vonage’s SMS sending and receiving APIs, Cockroach DB, and Domain.com into LinkUP. Vonage’s API will improve user interactions on the app by sending text alerts when friends want to join in on activities. Cockroach DB was important for securely and efficiently storing our application’s user information and message data.

Challenges we ran into

Our first challenge was fleshing out our project idea to ensure that it was specific and focused enough to build an app around. We had many ideas during the ideation stage, but we returned to our initial idea of working on a project that encourages social connection. Next, we faced challenges with the user design as we had limited prior experience with Figma. It was a fun challenge as we learned a lot through putting ourselves in the shoes of our target demographic. On the front end, we faced challenges with trying to make sure that everything aligned and was well-positioned with the UI/UX mockup. It was also difficult to make everything responsive when working on different layouts and screens. On the back end, implementing Vonage, Cockroach DB, Domain.com each presented their individual challenges but we overcame these challenges by speaking with mentors and learning from them.

Accomplishments that we’re proud of

We’re most proud of our teamwork throughout the hackathon weekend! None of us had worked with each other before, so we didn’t know what to expect when we started the weekend. However, we found out that our skills really complement each other and we’re happy that we created a product that works! On the frontend, we’re proud of the Figma mockups that we created and the corresponding working website. On the backend, we’re proud that we were able to incorporate APIs from Vonage, Cockroach DB, and Domain.com!

What we learned

(1) Teamwork: We coordinated this project according to our strengths and we learned how to work well in a team. Since none of us had worked together beforehand, we learned to adapt to each other’s work styles. We worked across 2 timezones to make this project work! (2) Technology: We were new to Figma, bootstrap, building a webapp, and using the Vonage and Cockroach DB APIs. We really pushed ourselves to learn and to try something new this weekend. (3) Authenticity: Throughout development, we learned that we can create a great product when we try to think about what feels most authentic to us. We focused on authenticity from the product concept to the UI/UX design, to the APIs we incorporated into our project.

What's next for LinkUP

Over the next 2 years, our plan is to improve and expand this application would be to (1) implement in Android/iOS, cross-platform integration, (2) conduct UI/UX design testing, and (3) include video-calling and voice calling using Vonage.

Github | Web App Hosted on Heroku App | Web App Hosted on Domain.com | Figma | Youtube Demo

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