Growing up with tech-illeteriate parents and grandparents can be tough: especially when you’re involved in computer science and tech as heavily as we are. Many social media platforms have grown and developed functionality far beyond what most people use, but none are nearly as guilty of this “bloated design” as Facebook. While Facebook is an amazing website that has an immense power to connect, it can often seem inaccessible or confusing to many users, especially the elderly, and can end up driving away the exact people who would benefit most from its services.

What it does:

Simpl. takes the best of Facebook and presents it in an easy-to-use format. With an emphasis on Facebook’s messaging and photo-viewing capabilities, Simpl. aims to make the user’s experience more focused on the things they care about the most: their friends and family. Rather than being greeted with the now-infamous newsfeed, three large buttons for navigation are the first things a user will land on.

How we built it:

Simpl. is built with Bootstrap, jQuery, and good ol’ HTML. Under the hood, it runs almost exclusively with Facebook’s Graph API. It is hosted using Microsoft Azure’s services with Express.js and node.js.

Challenges we ran into:

No one on the team had much front-end development experience, despite our project being entirely focused on UI/UX! This lead to a very long day (and night!) for our two (fledgling) front-end developers. Cam handled the back-end stuff like a boss though. :)

Accomplishments that we’re proud of:

In addition to all truly believing in the mission of our project, we’re all very proud to have wrangled with front-end development and come out on top. One of our group members, Megan, made us logos and other assets for the project, and that was pretty darn cool.

What we learned:

Good design TAKES TIME! It’s great to go into a project with a plan when you can though, and that will certainly help. Nothing beats having experience with the kind of work you’re doing, but the only way to get any experience is to just dive in! Also: market research helps. We sent out a survey regarding Facebook useage (specifically with the elderly) early on in the design and are pleased to know that we built the project with those considerations in mind.

What’s next for Simpl. for Facebook:

More UI/UX revisions are in the works. Two functions we’d also love to add include better access to notifications and a type of “admin” system that would allow a caretaker or loved one to edit some basic privacy settings of another paired account.

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