Helping international students unlock a new city with Study Melbourne


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There are over 200,000 international students living in Victoria, with 35,000 in the City of Melbourne alone. International education is Victoria’s largest services
Export, and international students have become part of Melbourne’s social fabric.

Study Melbourne, an initiative of the Victorian government, recognised that many international students struggle to transition when moving to Australia. Language and culture barriers can make setting up in Melbourne stressful and isolating.

Today concepted, designed and built a mobile app to help international students get their bearings and feel welcome in our city.

Key Features


Co-design with students

We used universal needs and drivers for international students uncovered through design research to complete a landscape analysis. A number of the needs identified by students were already being solved by other apps in the marketplace. We defined a series of clear territories for new and novel solutions.

We refined what we learned into divergent app concepts, which we then prototyped in low fidelity as simple paper sketches, and tested these with international students. We learned what was most compelling, what people needed the most help with, and how to make our concepts both accessible and engaging.


Meeting an unmet need

We got a sense of the real world need through interviews with Study Melbourne staff, social workers and international students. In one testing session we asked a student if they wanted to add anything else. They just said: “thank you for doing this”.

It validated the need for the product, and the impact getting this app into the hands of students could make. While its early days, as users come on board we will see both an uplift in their use of the app, and in the feeling of confidence they have in their new city.


Fun, interactive and useful

Since we were building an app that we wanted people to use every day, we put a lot of effort into crafting beautiful micro-interactions and a strong game like ‘app feel’.

Use of universal web technologies

The app was engineered entirely using universal web technologies, with a Node.js powered Content Management System and push notifications that prompt users to ‘unlock’ the next step in their experience.

The Study Melbourne team are able to publish new content in the app in real time, with no need to push new versions to the app store.

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