Let your relationship shine
Glow helps college couples who are in a long distance relationship foster greater intimacy.

Past research which examined the experience of college students who are in LDRs versus those in in-person relationships found that those who are in LDRs are significantly less likely to engage in self-disclosure, perceived significantly lower levels of companionship, and had less positive outlooks on the relationship. This both validates the difficulties college couples in LDRs experience with communication and suggests that this area is ripe for improvement. 



Matthew Lim, Grace Barkhoff,

Sara Lin, Jack Towery


UI/UX Designer, UX Researcher

Tools Used

Figma, Cognitive Walkthrough, Heuristic Evaluation, Affinity Map, Hierarchical Task Analysis, Semi-Structured Interviews, System Usability Study, Storyboarding, Wireframing, Prototyping

User Group

Undergraduate college Students at four-year universities with campuses in a long-distance dating relationship.


Problem Statement

How might we improve relational savoring in long-distance college couples?


The Solution

Glow is a relationship savoring phone application that enables long-distance college couples to create important milestones and send each other notes.


Preview memories & track your relationship

Preview media some of your partner's recent notes and track important timelines, like how long you've been together or when you'll be together next!

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Open notes from your significant other

Find out what your loved one appreciates about you and quickly write a note back. Be reminded of the things that make your relationship so special.


Create milestones & important reminders

Track important dates related to your relationship. Record anniversaries, past meaningful trips, reminders to write each other notes, and future meetup dates.

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Look through past notes to reminisce

Open your love jar to find all the notes your loved one has previously sent you. Watch videos and photos they have attached with personal messages.


Create notes with lovingly crafted prompts

Show your love for your significant other with our diversity of psychology-backed prompts. From lighthearted to meaningful, our app helps your relationship shine.


The Process

1. Defining the Problem

Literature Review, User Characteristics, User Goals, Task Analysis, Design Space Critique, Socio-technical Analysis

2. Gathering Requirements

Semi-Structured Interviews, Hierarchical Task Analysis

3. Ideating Alternatives

Ideating w/ Design Sketches, Storyboards

4. Wireframing and Prototyping

Figma, Wireframing, Prototyping

5. System Evaluation

Heuristic Evaluation (4), Cognitive Walkthrough (4), System Usability Studies (4)


1. Defining the problem

This portion of the research consisted of defining user characteristics that are both sizable and suitably focused and broadly understanding user goals through a literature review, in lieu of a contextual inquiry due to COVID-19 concerns. We defined the user as 18 - 24 years old, in a four year college, in a long distance relationship, and motivated to improve their relationship. This represents a sizable group as 75% of college students reported being in or having been in a long distance relationship. 

Using those goals and characteristics, we conducted a socio-technical analysis and a design space critique. The design critique allowed us to see what was already available and ensure our product was novel. 


User Goals

From our literature review of our user group, we generated the following user goals.

Improve Communication

Foster Non-Physical Intimacy

Reduce Uncertainties


Socio-technical Context

In order to be better aware of any ethical implications of our work, we researched the larger context in which the product would act, as the social/physical setting of college and the psychology behind romantic relationships.

College campuses cater to student populations, which have been surveyed to prefer WIFI over laundry and even utilities.

90% of public university students and 87% of private non-profit universities are under 25 years old.

Colleges provide stressors for relationships in the form of alcohol abuse, participation in college activities, loneliness, and academic stress.

Dating culture has more recently turned to digital means, with around 30% of Americans 18 to 29 using digital dating apps.


Design Space Critique

We also searched for applications in the problem space and evaluated how well they supported our user goals. Our team member, Jack Towery, put these tools to use with his girlfriend and provided feedback on these existing products. 


2. Gathering Requirements

During this stage we conducted user research in the form of surveys, semi-structured interviews, and hierarchical task analysis. From there we distilled the results, using affinity mapping, into insights and user needs which we framed as design requirements.


User research

User Interviews

We conducted 7 total semi-structured interviews of our target population. 3 were female and 4 were male. We asked questions about difficulties and benefits of their long distance relationship, communication methods, and how communication impacted their relationship.

Hierarchical Task Analysis

We broke down how users video call with their partner and perform a relationship check-in to better understand each process.


Distilling Insights

We created an affinity map and "Walked the Wall" digitally to find insights. Find our digitized affinity map here.


Key Insights

Created from groupings on the affinity map.

1. Asynchronous communication is vital but not as good as synchronous communication.

2. People use a variety of platforms to communicate a variety of information.

3. Alone time is a big benefit of long distance relationships.

4. Partners are  aware of each other's "love languages".

5. Partners need a variety of fun and serious conversation topics.

6. Texting leads to frequent miscommunication.

7. Video calls create a "shared experience" where both partners are doing the same thing at the same time.

8. Not planning for physical meetups in a long-distance relationship leads to breakups.


Generated Design Requirements

Users can send asynchronous messages

Users can save memories to view at a later time

Two users are part of a private group

The product should make the users feel safe


3. Ideating Alternatives

In this stage we brainstormed ten ideas and filtered them down to two after sketching out what their use might look like. From the two, we produced storyboard from each and further filtered them down to one.


Brainstorm Sketches



After sketching out brainstormed ideas, our team filtered the ten ideas down to two that best met the design requirements and storyboarded them. These are shown below separated by white text over black by idea. Click right to see more of the storyboards.


4. Wireframing and Prototyping

For this section, we created a wireframe of our final product and a visual design language for an eventual prototype. Once this was completed, we developed the wireframe into a full prototype.



Work on the final prototype itself was lead by me and Grace Barkhuff. It consists of both the account creation as well as the normal function of the application. Find it here.


How Glow Meets our Design Requirements


Users can send asynchronous messages

Users can send and receive notes whenever convenient. The app allows users to delay the arrival of messages for special occasions.

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Users can save memories to view at a later time

All notes sent by your significant other are saved in the application and can be found in the "love jar". The love jar supports search, filter, bins, and grid/list/card views.


Two users are part of a private group

The setup process works as a key exchange that enables the secure and private connection between two users and no one else.


The product should make the users feel safe

Our prototype incorporates confirmation modals throughout and the ability to preview notes before sending them. Notes can even be returned if the significant other has not opened them.


5. System Evaluation

We conducted a discount heuristic evaluation and system usability survey with expert evaluators on our prototype.


Evaluation Methods & Results


System Usability Scale

The system usability scale survey was conducted after the heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthrough. The resulting system usability score calculations were 67.5, 62.5, 95, 87.5. The average score for system usability scales is 68 and the average score of our system was 78.

Heuristic Evaluation

Evaluators went through a list of ten usability heuristics and described issues with the prototype. The results were recorded and grouped on a miro board.

Cognitive Walkthrough

The cognitive walkthrough was done in conjunction with the heuristic evaluation to allow the user to view several functions while evaluating the system freely. The tasks required by the cognitive walkthrough were: 

  • Set up your account 

  • Send a love note

  • View a message you have previously received 


Conclusions & Future Work


Lack of Established Mental Models

Those evaluators that immediately recognized the "love jar" and had previously used a real one in a relationship quickly understood how the use Glow, while those who did not have this mental model struggled to understand the app. This may explain the gap in usability scores.

Larger Groups & Friendships

A common complaint was this application could be used for other relationships that were remote, or even in person. We may want to expand our user research to include these groups so the application can support relational savoring for a larger userbase.


The application idea was conceptually appealing, with users and even expert evaluators suggesting they would use the platform. This suggests that our user research was grounded. However, the prototype and wireframes received significant fine-tuned feedback with regard to misinterpreted information and efficient navigation.

Future Work

We want to include a short tutorial with the application to explain the mental model of a "love jar" as well as fix the plethora of small issues with the prototype's navigation and UI. We aim to receive feedback on this iteration and then improve further.

Presenting our project

At the end of the year, I presented our project to other students in our program as well as faculty. Given that many of us were remote, we used Mozilla Hubs. That's me! The candycorn. I think this photo encaptures how strange communication in 2020 was!

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A special thanks

Of course, this project was a collaborative effort and I want to thank my team: Sara Lin, Jack Towery, and Grace Barkhuff. It was truly a tremendous effort in a difficult time. Please check out their portfolios linked by their names.