Hiroo Aoyama


An app for college students to earn small pocket-money without a part time job

Co-Founder | Product Designer



Knoc app


Duration: 2015-2016 @Emory University, Brandeis University, and University of Michigan

Summary: Knoc "uber-izes" idle resource in colleges (ex. knowledge, skills) and connects students based on their needs and their ability to help. Watch the video above to learn more.

My Role: As the Cofounder and Design Lead, I led user research and gathered information on demands from users. After that, I was in charge of product design of iOS version. I built wireframes and prototypes on Sketch and Invision to communicate with engineers and to test with users on feature usages. With several iterations, I came up with full UI and interactions on Sketch and Framer.js and together developed on Swift.

Method and Tools: User and Market Research, Persona and Scenario, Wireframing, Low-fidelity Prototyping, High-fidelity Prototyping, Sketch, Invision, Framer.js, Basic Swift, User Testings

Check it out on Kickstarter



The Problem


While some students, like myself, are lucky enough to receive help from their parents to pay off the egregious costs of obtaining a college degree, some are not. Instead of exploring college through extracurriculars or on-campus events, they spend most of their free time working a part-time job. Often times this job infringes upon their study time, too. This process puts these students at an academic and social disadvantage, and in general, it’s simply unfair. It's unfair, and that’s where Knoc comes in –– it provides students opportunities to earn pocket money by completing simple tasks on a flexible schedule, giving them the best of both worlds.



Brainstorm & Research


College students are in constant contact with one another, and more often than not, they tend to follow routines that mimic those of their friends or classmates. The idea of Knoc came to me during one of these moments; I was leaving Starbucks, heading to the library where I was meeting a friend. He texted and asked me to bring a coffee for him on the way. 

Interviewing twelve students from 3 colleges, namely Emory University, University of Southern California, and University of Michigan, I received some valuable information about what tasks college students are willing to pay for:

  • Someone's hall-mate buys grocery for 4 other people. According to the anecdote, he just buys in bulk each time he needs to do a grocery shopping, and he gets paid $7 per person.

  • It's a very common complaint that Starbucks or Peet's Coffee is far. 92% of people said a service to request coffee would be awesome, and all of them said they are down to pay an average of $1.8 + Coffee Price.

  • Some people think it's waste to drive to airport or other places alone. 3 people mentioned that they are willing to drive others if the destination is on the way to their own and if they get paid a little.



Information Architecture


The wireframe sketches made several directions clear:

  • Main screen needs an efficient filter system so that students can request and look for tasks immediately. I have implemented 3 categories: recent, location, and interest.

  • Requester requests. Helper gets notified. Our research and thoughts concluded that the platform should show "I want Starbucks" rather than "I can bring you Starbucks". The user experience is much smoother this way, and we are not overcrowding the platform.

  • Payment needs to be clear and safe. We need to constantly think of the worst scenario: what if the helper bails on the requestor, and requestor already paid the helper? We decided to have Knoc as the middle man to have the power over when to pay who.

With the above discoveries, I designed a simple user experience roadmap and a more detailed wireframe:





With this flow in mind, I went on to create the a simple UI on Sketch and InVision to send out a Beta version to 50+ students at Emory University.



Beta Testing


After sending out beta version, I found out that a lot of categories were unused. In fact, we could potentially narrow down Knoc so much to the point where it only has Driving and Small Tasks. Miscellaneous included those that did not generate any revenues. The two miscellaneous categories are: school event ads and trading goods. Although they don't generate direct revenues, we could potentially collaborate with school organizations to allow imbedded ads within Knoc from time to time.


I also found out that +1 feature was being widely used. People love the idea of requesting with somebody else to lower the cost per person. Helpers also love the idea of helping multiple people at once to earn more money per task. In future, I plan to give +1 feature a more visual impact.


With great iterations like the ones above, our team was ready to create the full prototype.





Below are three main screens with bullet point explanations of several design decisions. The goal here was categorizing our huge list of tasks and presenting the request information in the most simple way. I also made the conscious decision to tone down on animations for our developers to focus more on coding the main interfaces. 

Main Page - Recent.jpg

Main Interface

• Top Bar: Find the request one second faster.

• Comment: Tag your friends, reach out to more.

• +1: Request together for a cheaper fare/ person.

Request Screen.jpg

Request Interface

• Keywords: Bold your location and price.

• Built-in Maps API: Tag location while typing.

• Smooth UX: Request process has been iterated.


Chat Info Interface

• Info Screen: The bar of milestone is shown.

• Clear Layout: Switch between chat and this.

• Intuitive Payment: Getting $ easier than ever.



Interaction Designs


Sketch + Framer.js





Founding an app as a designer is super cool. You get to do all the User Research, all the UI Design, and all the testings of UX. Our next step was to make a promo video and posting our app on the Kickstarter, in which produced a huge success:


Kickstarter was a great success; a lot of people backed our project, and many has emailed me saying it's an awesome idea. This first fully-built app was a great learning experience and I've learned a lot: to survey and ask for qualitative data, to implement the research through a clear UX map, and to evolve by getting constant feedbacks. It's pretty awesome to imagine Knoc being used at hundred of schools; I hope people can use the app to earn money without going out of their routines and make their life easier.

Skills & Lesson learned:

  • I learned how to work well with Software Engineers using Sketch, Invision,and Framer

  • I learned how to do simple front-end development, including to create mock website using Html/CSS and to create simple mock UI on Swift

  • I learned that great ideas need to be backed by many user stories and researches, and some of the inputs can guide to a better path.

  • I learned that I love this. I love thinking and making my thoughts come to life. I love thinking as the users and designing critically. I love every step of making apps from conception to completion.


But for now, I have to put this aside as our team members are all college students and we have to focus on internships.