Every CMU student has an ID card that they are issued when they move in, and they are expected to look after it for their 4+ years here. As a user, it's like an extension of your body as critical as a phone or set of keys – it functions as a building and room key. You can use it to pay for food and other goods and access printers. It also serves as an identification card both on and off campus. However, it's not perfect.
I, along with Matthew Nam and Eric Wong, sought to re-design the ecosystem surrounding the ID card for it to better serve CMU students. By defining the essential functions and stakeholders as well as collecting observations and satisfaction metrics from ID users, we created a proposal for a service that would not only address the issues we identified but also increase the value of possessing an ID.
To fully understand the scope of the ID card, we first identified primary categories of functions.
1) food and health - purchasing food, OTC items, and checking into health services
2) transportation - using public transit with the ID as a pass
3) bank/finance - accessing an on-campus PNC ATM
4) CMU access - entering campus buildings and residences
From there, we made a territory map and defined stakeholders in the system, combining these insights into a flowchart of the ID card experience.
The types of physical interactions involving the ID card were also identified by going around campus and photographing the many different types of terminals in use. The number of unique form factors which the ID card interacts with exceed 6, each utilizing a different form language and sequence of interactions.
Finally, we ran an online survey and interviewed ID card holders to gauge their opinions on how people carry and use their ID, what issues they've experienced, and what additional functionality they would like their ID to have. We presented these results in a preliminary poster:
Two key points: the majority of respondents who didn't store their ID in their wallet carried it with their phone. Over 80% have forgotten their ID, and over half have lost theirs (requiring a $25 fee to replace).
After gathering insights on the existing implementation, we formed small focus groups and asked participants to design their ideal ID card. They were given blank cards and tasked with designing their ideal card. By seeing multiple versions of the ID created by those who use it, we could gauge what features users would want in a physical card as well as inform the redesigned layout.
Requested features included the ability to use the ID as a method of payment. Currently, the card can be used to withdraw cash from on-campus PNC ATMs given that one has a checking account, but it cannot be used as a debit card. Additionally, respondents asked for greater integration with SIO, the online system that manages and shows grades, finances, and course schedules. SIO is also where all university-related bills are accessed and paid for. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents asked for an ID card companion app – the most-requested feature of the survey.
informing a designed solution
Weaving together all of the components thus far, we identified 5 main problems that our proposed solution would aim to resolve.
1) The card itself is one more item to keep track of and remember to bring. It’s easy to lose.
2) For those that use the card to access their bank account(s), the loss of an ID is an even bigger deal.
3) Inconsistent interactions across campus (swipe, tap, tap and enter PIN) complicate the relationship one has with their ID.
4) The piece of plastic itself has a short lifespan, losing its functionality over time.
5) It’s ugly.
Greater mobile functionality is desired by many cardholders as indicated in the survey. However, the current mobile component of the ID is incredibly limited: a third-party application, CBORD Mobile ID, ostensibly enables the unlocking of residence and building doors without the need for a plastic card. However, survey respondents said it was unreliable ("The CBORD Android app is almost unusable it's so terrible," one response read), and over a third did not know it existed or had not used it. (As a sidenote, the app currently has a 1.6/5 rating on the App Store.)
We first started with redesigning the physical card to be simpler and more communicative of its functionality. A clear hierarchy elevates a cardholder's name, role, and photograph. Complex and cluttered background graphics have been replaced with a plaid background representing CMU. Magstripe, chip, and contactless payments augment existing building access functionality, eliminating the need to carry a separate PNC debit card.
For smartphone owners, we envisioned a service that would allow the replacement of a physical card with a digital one. Inspired by Apple Pay's onboarding and use process, a user can scan the physical card they receive on their first day with their phone camera to link their ID with their device(s). A separate SIO application hooks into the phone's native wallet app to provide up-to-date information on meal plans, account balances, and on-campus rewards programs, as well as streamlining the SIO service on a mobile device.
To enable contactless access in all buildings as well as provide consistent interactions and form language, I designed and modeled matching door and payment terminals that could be implemented across campus, replacing the many different models currently in use. Both have LCDs to guide new users and provide responsive visual feedback when authentication is needed, succeeds, or fails. Numerical keypads are provided in case a PIN is needed to complete a purchase or enter a dorm room.
Our goal was to overhaul the CMU ID card system for a modern, seamless experience across campus. By improving the existing paradigm of a physical ID, designing a simple-to-use digital card available on one's smartphone, and streamlining physical interactions with the ID card with new terminals, we hope to not only address the major complaints of users today, but create a new experience that is as easy as it is delightful to use.