Shakira shares the experience of attending her first hackathon at #HackUX. You can check out her website, portfolio and blog here. Enjoy the article and we’ll see you at our next hackathon!

I went to my first ever hack day last weekend… it was a blast, I met some great people and even managed to win a prize! Hosted by Orange and Halo Labs we had a chance to develop an idea for a VR app or platform. We were given 3 briefs and I decided to pitch an idea for C…

c) Social Encounter
Devise a VR environment for a social encounter between 2 people. It could be a meeting, an interview, a negotiation, a date, etc… What would be suitable characteristics of the environment for the type of interaction? What artefacts could be available in the virtual space to facilitate the exchange between the participants (e.g. shared objects, passing tokens, presenting choices, etc.)


“The cost of renting is going up. It’s forecast that there will be a 24.4% rise in the number of people privately renting in London between 2000 and 2025.

“In London, house-sharing is at double the national average (15%). Inner London has the highest concentration of house-sharers, at 18%.

My Idea

I’ve had a lot of personal experience with finding house-shares in London. Viewings are time-consuming and it’s often difficult fitting them in around work and busy schedules. The most frustrating part is spending a whole evening travelling across London and on arrival realising you don’t get on with the people, or the house isn’t what you expected.

I’ve also been on the other side of the process –  interviewing people to fill a room. Sometimes as soon as you open the door you know… this person just isn’t right. But you have to show them around anyway wasting time that could be better spent making dinner or finishing all that work that’s due tomorrow. If only there was a better way…

My idea was to create a VR solution for viewing house shares and meeting potential flatmates. The target audience is students / young professionals living in the city and the client would be Spareroom.co.uk.


Our Process

People that were pitching had 2 minutes to explain their idea. It was a little nerve-wracking at first but also really fun talking about something I feel passionately about. We then started to form groups, I teamed up with 6 others that definitely felt my house-sharing pain! We had a little chat about everyone’s skills and what part they’d like to play in developing the idea. It was really important to ensure quieter members of the team were involved in the discussion. By the end of the first day, everyone was aligned on our plan, we’d designed a survey to send out overnight and our team had name AND logo – Homie 360!

Hackday Homies - A Day at #HackUX - Mobile UX London\


The Day

We all got together to look over the results of the survey. We decided to pick out a few key points to focus on:

  • A way for people to politely decline after an initial conversation
  • Getting a realistic feel of the space
  • Detailed room measurements and included furniture
  • Info about nearest local amenities e.g. supermarkets, pubs, clubs, parks with walking/biking times and price ranges

The team then split according to our skills: presenting, designing, looking at how to use the technology and creating user flows.

One of the biggest challenges was keeping everyone up to date on decisions that were being made. I found I spent most of the time explaining things to different parts of the team. We were constantly developing and changing things so it was important to keep everyone informed.VR - Hackday Homies - A Day at #HackUX

VR is a very different medium to work with. There’s so much to think about in a 3D space and the interactions are completely different from normal websites and apps. At the beginning of the day, we had a really interesting talk by Sjors Timmer. It made me think a lot about gestures and how we could use movement to navigate. The VR software we were using (Halo) is still in beta and the majority of the group was more UX than design so we found visually demonstrating our ideas challenging. We ended up using a mix of sketches, Photoshop mockups and a very basic environment in Halo.

At the end we brought everything we’d done into one presentation starting with the problem, explaining our survey and the user flow and finally showing the visualisations we’d done for each part of the journey.

After some deliberation, the judges awarded us ‘solution most aligned to the brief’. I came away with £100 Amazon gift card + the experience of working with some really talented people. It was great fun being creative without having to think about clients and budgets. I’ll definitely be getting involved in more events like this. To see the final presentations and for more info on the day visit the Hack UX website.


Tips on preparing for a hack day

  • Organise an easy way to share files and communicate. Not everyone in our group had Facebook. We mostly used WhatsApp but uploading documents on there was a little slow and annoying. I’d definitely recommend setting up a Slack channel.
  • Iron out your idea but don’t overdevelop it. You want your team to also have an input.
  • See what other people think of your idea, brainstorm a few and choose the one that gets the best response.
  • Think about ways to quickly test and research your idea. We settled on a Survey Monkey and a few quick interviews. It’s really important to get real user insights!
  • Share inspiration. I showed the Facebook Spaces VR which sparked discussion and others realised they’d also seen stuff they wanted to share. This really helped us to align our vision.

Facebook Spaces VR1 - HackUX
Facebook Spaces VR2 - HackUX