Cotî: A web platform connecting young foreigners willing to practice German with german-speaking Seniors in Berlin.

Ironhack final UX/UI project

Marick Balay
7 min readFeb 4, 2020


I had been looking forward to working on the Bootcamp’s final project even before having started the Bootcamp. It was the opportunity to put everything we had learnt in 2 months in practice, in a 2 weeks sprint, to deliver a perfect user-centered design, supported by beautiful and well-thought, data-driven, interfaces.
Also, it had been quite a while that I had had the idea to connect young foreigners willing to practice German with native-speakers seniors living in Berlin, and that was the perfect chance to work on this project, together with my talented classmate Nesrin A.

During the Bootcamp, we had sharpened our presentation skills every week, as we had to present the projects we had worked on every Friday and convince the audience that our solution had provided the perfect answer to a pending opportunity. I was, therefore, more than ready to work intensely with Nesrin A on the final project and defend it.

The topic — A dear to the heart opportunity

I’ve been living in Berlin for 6 years and still struggle to speak German fluently. One of the main reasons for that is evolving in English-speaking work-environments, as well as Berliners’s ability to switch to English as soon as your German is not completely fluent.
I tried to do some tandems in the past, i.e, meeting with native German Speakers who want to practice a language, but it always resulted in frustration for not finding matching time slots or because of different areas of interest.

On the other hand, German classes are time-consuming when you work full-time, are quite expensive, and it’s always a challenge to find the level you belong to. It’s passing by a lonely senior house that it downed to me that speaking German with its residents would be a great way to practice and improve my German.

The first axis of research was, therefore, to understand if those pain points were shared by our potential users.

The second axis was to get to know if native-speaker Seniors were willing to spend time with young foreigners, have the patience to teach the language and share their culture, and if yes, how these meetings could be organised.

The research — understanding the context

Our projects had two sides: Young Foreigners and Native-Speakers Seniors, we, therefore, conducted our research process in two steps.
Young Foreigners and their struggle to speak German in Berlin
After refining what we needed to find out, we edited a survey in English and French and received more than 50 responses in 2 days.
We got confirmation that foreigners struggle to practice their German in Berlin and are not satisfied with traditional tandems.

Their main frustrations were:
- It’s hard to find good tandem partners
- They lack time to take regular classes or going to tandems (it’s difficult to find matching time slots)
- They do not feel integrated and fully living their experience in Berlin

As for their motivations:
- Being more integrated
- Getting out of their bubble
- Doing something for the community

Following those quantitive data, we proceeded to get qualitative data and conducted long interviews.
When we talked about the idea of meeting elderly people, a quasi totality of our interviewees declared that they were loving the idea, to feel more integrated, get out of their bubbles and do something good for the community, but they needed help with that, they needed to feel reassured, and get some impulse to meet the seniors.
At this point, we had already understood that we needed a design that was appealing for foreigners, that conveyed a sense of coziness, and was playful at the same time.

Simultaneously, we conducted interviews with social workers in senior houses to get their opinion about this project, and we soon realized that there were some logistics and ethics issues with bringing outside people to those places.

That’s when we found out about Neighborhood/Solidarity houses. Where old people, still independent, gather or just spend some time. We set up a couple of interviews and met representatives of those networks. While being in one of those places, we got invited to have a glimpse at the pre-Christmas party, where twelve ladies were gathered and enjoying cakes and Sekt (a kind of cheap version of Champagne made in Germany).

Non-contractual picture of our Senior Sekt Party

We immediately understood the full potential of those places and the informal interviews we conducted with the grandmas present this day confirmed that there was a sincere will to meet foreigners and speak German with them.
Regarding the social workers, they were definitely interested in the project but were reluctant to update yet another platform to promote their events or their open tables, as they were already updating their own website. We instantaneously thought about RSS feeds to pull that information and update our future platforms.

The elaboration — Defining a first solution

Based on the data we harvested from our research, we elaborated a first statement:

How Might We Statement

We defined a persona, Julien 28, from France. He had been living in Berlin for 2 years and was living in a WG in Schillerkiez. He was a call-center agent for a digital company. Based on our persona, we could elaborate our Empathy Map, a User Journey, and a User flow:

Empathy map based on our research about the user
User Journey
User flow

Simultaneously, we conducted a competitor analysis and a feature comparison.

Cotî’s position among its competitors

It was then time to define our brand attributes and work on the interfaces.
We defined our brand attributes based on our research and the needs of our users:

Cotî’s Brand Attributes

The brand “Cotî” came up naturally as it was conveying several meanings: “Co”, for Community, “Ti” homophone of “tea”, as a nod to the German tradition of “Kaffee und Kuchen”, that is sit down in the afternoon to share a hot drink and something sweet.

And of course, Cotî was a great reference to Kotti, the Berlin affectionate way of calling Kottbusser Tor, a very prominent neighborhood in East Berlin, where many young foreigners like to have a taste of the “Cool Berlin”


We were then able to start working on our moodboard:


That coincided with our brand attributes of funky, comforting, engaging, but never serious.

We were then able to produce a first style tile:

Cotî’s style tile

Iterations — Getting the most out of testing

We had designed low-fi wireframes when we had started to fully grasp the scope of the project and defined a user-flow. After assembling a rapid prototype and performing a short test, we designed mid-fi wireframes, conducted more tests, modified many elements and where those elements were placed to be sure to place the user at the center of our design. We were finally able to come up with a hi-fi prototype that we tested a few more times before deciding to present it to our peers.

Solution — A sum of starting over

After this intense two weeks sprint, we were ready to present the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to our colleagues and friends and I very proud to say that we were selected to present our project to the Hackshow the same night!
We received great feedback and support to develop this project.
The next steps would definitely to do more testing, ideate on a second user, for instance, an isolated senior willing to meet young foreigners and a few more:

That’s a wrap! Thank you for reading! I’m happy about any feedback :-)

Note: This was a case study developed academically. All pictures and illustrations are copyright to their respective owners.



Marick Balay

UX/UI Designer based in Berlin. I like to come up with fresh ideas to make people’s lives better, easier and more sustainable.