Design Project

You'll DESIGN, BUILD, and TEST your own crowdsourcing / social computing system.

Tips & Info

What do we do?

This is a team-based, semester-long design project, in which you'll create an original social computing application on your own. You'll work in teams of four people. More information about each milestone will be added to this page. Here is the timeline and grading weights for each milestone:

  • Team Formation (week 3): 0%
  • Ideation (week 5): 20%
  • Pitch (week 6): 15%
  • Low-fi Prototype (week 7): 15%
  • High-fi Prototype (week 12): 15%
  • Final Presentation (week 15): 10%
  • Final Paper & Video (week 16): 25%
Please note that all team members will receive the same grade for all the milestones.

Why do this?

Now that you've mastered the arts and skills of social computing, it's important that you apply what you learned to a problem you deeply care about. It's a great way to learn further, and potentially make impact.

Does my project idea qualify?

Projects are open-ended, so please be creative. But here are some requirements:
  • Your project should involve a VOLUNTARY OR INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED USERS, which means you cannot use paid crowds (e.g., MTurk, Upwork).
  • Your project should have some user interface. I'm expecting most projects to be a novel crowdsourcing and social computing system that can be tested by others (e.g., a prototype website or a mobile app). Data mining or analysis focused projects are okay, but there needs to be some visualization or analytics dashboard component that is accessible by others to understand your results.
  • Your prototype doesn't need to be a fully implemented platform, menaing that it needs to focus on the core crowdsourcing / social computing concept you're introducing, rather than to build all the database backend, login, etc.
  • Connecting to your own research is encouraged, but please make sure to talk to course staff early about how to make it happen.


Here are the project gallery pages from the previous years:

How do we submit?

We'll create an assignment in KLMS for each milestone.

Late Policy

For each milestone deadline, all members of your team will lose 10% for each late day. Submissions will be accepted until three days after the deadline. After then you'll get 0 on that assignment. Please note that late submissions for midterm and final presentations are not allowed.

Team Formation

Milestone 0: Team Formation

Due: 11:59pm on 9/13 (Wed)

What do I do?

You'll need to find teammates to work on an exciting project this semester. Each team should have three people by default. There may need to be a small number of four-person teams.

How do I find teammates?

Here are three methods you can use:

  • You can use Classum to post advertisements for finding teammates. Please use the "Team Formation" category when posting.
  • We'll give 10 minutes at the end of two classes for in-person team formation.
  • Use office hours to talk to us about project ideas so that we can make connections, and you can also run into other classmates.
Please try to have diversity in your own team: skillset, interest, and background.

How do I submit?

Please fill out the design project sign-up form.


Milestone 1: Ideation

Due: 11:59pm on 9/20 (Wed)
20% toward your project grade

What do we do?

In a team, you'll identify a problem that you'd like to tackle with your project, and brainstorm approaches to solving the problem.

Your report

In your report, please answer the following questions:

  1. What is the problem your team is trying to solve? (one sentence)

  2. How do you know this problem exists? Why is this problem important? Include both (1) external references (e.g., academic papers, news articles, or published surveys), as well as (2) internal investigation (e.g., results from making observations, personal experiences, or interviews with target requesters or workers). (maximum one paragraph)

  3. Why use social computing for the problem? Why not use machines or individual experts? (maximum one paragraph)

  4. How Might We (HMW) Questions: For the identified problem, discuss with your teammates what specific challenges exist. State these challenges as "How might we..." (HMW) questions. HMW questions serve as a bridge between the identified problem and solution ideas. They are short questions that should be broad enough to allow for open ideas yet narrow enough to set meaningful boundaries. Report at least 10 HMW questions for your team's problem, and pick top 3 HMW questions. The Design Thinking Bootcamp Bootleg by Stanford (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) should be a useful resource. For HMW questions, look at page 26.

  5. Solution Ideas: Solution ideas are your attempts at solving the HMW questions. Report at least 5 solution ideas per each of the top 3 HMW questions, and pick top 3 solution ideas overall. Note that these 3 ideas should be distinct from one another, covering a wide solution space. The best ideas don't necessarily have to represent each HMW; multiple ideas can belong to a single HMW.

  6. Storyboards: Create 3 storyboard sketches, one for each of the top 3 solution ideas. A storyboard is a set of comic-strip-like drawings that visually walks through a concrete scenario and a task that your persona experiences. Show the challenge the persona encounters, what environment the persona is surrounded by, what motivates the persona to use the solution idea you're suggesting, and how your solution idea actually addresses the challenge. The storyboard shouldn't be about specific system features or UI elements. You don't even need to show the detailed screen layout of your UI at this point. Focus on the concept and context, rather than pretty UIs or sophisticated system features.

    Make sure to hand-draw your storyboards, with a thick pen so that sketches are visible when digitally scanned and excessive details are not included. Using a pencil or a thin ball-point pen is not allowed. Here are some good examples (Verbivore and Let's Read), except for the fact that some of them are not drawn with a thick pen. Also, Amal Dar Aziz's guide to storyboarding is a highly recommended resource.

Your Report

  • Final Team Name
  • Problem statement
  • Problem background
  • Motivation (Why social computing?)
  • HMW questions (at least 10)
  • Top 3 HMW questions
  • Solution ideas for your HMW questions (at least 5 x 3 HMWs)
  • Top 3 solution ideas
  • Storyboards (3)


  • Problem (10%)
    • Clearly presented in a sentence?
    • Unique?
    • Non-trivial?
  • Problem Background (15%)
    • Clearly presented in a paragraph?
    • Convincing evidence or references presented?
    • Importance of the problem highlighted?
  • Motivation (15%)
    • Clearly presented in a paragraph?
    • Suitable for social computing?
    • Convincing reasons for using social computing presented?
  • HMW (10%)
    • 10+ HMWs submitted?
    • Scope not too broad or narrow?
    • Distinct, broad, and creative?
    • Selection process clearly described?
  • Solution Ideas (20%)
    • 5+ solution ideas submitted for each HMW?
    • Distinct, broad, and creative?
    • Selection process clearly described?
  • Storyboards (30%)
    • 3 storyboards submitted?
    • Flow easy to follow and understand?
    • Easy to read (thick pen used)?
    • Not solution-driven but user- and scenario-driven?

How do we submit?

One report per team. Your report should be submitted as a zip file. The main report should be written in Markdown (please use the .md extension). Storyboards should be scanned in png or jpg, and need to be in a directory called images. We're going to publish your reports on the course website. Submit your team's report on KLMS.


Milestone 2: Pitch

Due: in class on 9/27 (Wed)
15% toward your project grade

What do I do?

Now that you've identified an interesting problem, a set of concrete tasks you want to support, and a set of possible solutions, it's time to turn these into a convincing pitch!

You'll have 5 minutes to do the following:

  • Motivate the problem. Present convincing references and evidence.
  • Present the identified tasks and explain why they matter. The tasks are what you identified in Milestone 1 as you made storyboards. Please feel free to revise your original tasks as your idea develops.
  • State what your proposed solution is, and why it'll be able to solve the problem and support the tasks well.
  • Share your plan: (1) In your team, who'll be responsible for what? (2) How will you find the crowd or users to use and test your system?

After the pitch, you'll have 2 minutes for Q and A.

Note #1: We'll enforce a strict 5-minute time limit by cutting off the presentation. Please plan and rehearse.

Note #2: Note that all team members should present at least once between the pitch and the final presentation. This means if your team decides to have only some members present in the pitch, the remaining members should definitely present in the final presentation.


  • Organization (10%): Overall structure and flow of the presentation.
  • Problem (20%): Well defined? Is it a real problem? What's the evidence?
  • Solution (30%): Novel? Feasible? Quality control / aggregation / motivation... thought out?
  • Plan (10%): Who does what and deployment plan.
  • Visual aids (10%): Design and readability of the slides, use of effective visual aids and examples.
  • Overall (20%): Delivery and clarity of the presentation. How engaging was the overall talk? Handling Q&A went smoothly?

Your report

You'll present in class and submit your slides after the class, which are due 11:59pm on the day of presentation.

How do I submit?

Your team's slides should be submitted as a PDF file, via KLMS.