TYPE

iOS Mobile App

TIMELINE

Jan 27-Feb3, 2020

ROLE

UX Research & Design

TOOLS

Illustrator, Figma, Principle

Design Challenge

University of Maryland (UMD) wants to strengthen the community by encouraging experienced students to connect with new students and help them adjust to campus life. Design an experience that allows mentors and mentees to discover each other.

Solution 

Problem 1: Inconsistent mentorship program across the university

The signup process allows UMD students to log in to their UMD credentials, enter their UID and sync their Google Calendar to the Elms Canvas.  

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Problem 2: Mismatched personality & conflicting interests

The onboarding matching process based on academic information, personality, goals, and hobbies will help both mentors and mentees discover like-minded individuals.

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Problem 3:  Inconsistency in meeting the goals

Solution: Provide a support system  to increase student success, retention, and sense of belonging and support students by focusing on their future goals and emphasizing students’ priorities, sharing events, and addressing their concerns

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Problem 4: Lack of communication & mentor isolation

Solution: Senior students struggle in finding ways to meet, discuss & teach on a regular basis due to the busy schedule: Ensure mutual respect between parties regarding time commitment, and time coordination between parties.

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PROCESS

I incorporated the Design Thinking Methodology over the period of 5 days. This method helped me generate a holistic and empathic understanding of the problems that students face.

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DAY 1: EMPATHIZE

RESEARCH & KEY FINDINGS

Initial research questions:

  • What does discovering a mentee or a mentor mean to each other?

  • What are the pains, goals, moments of delight in being a mentor or mentee?

  • What are the important traits a mentee looks for in a mentor and vice versa?

  • What constitutes a good mentor and a mentee relationship?

  • What are the metrics (quantitative/qualitative) that define a successful relationship?

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Interviews

I conducted a total of 4 semi-structured interviews with new students and experienced students to understand the underlying problems and to see what their thoughts are.

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Data-Driven Insights from Mentee’s side

Needing for like-minded mentors
 

New students with pre-assigned mentors think that they are not like-minded individuals and they wish they could change them.

Flexible schedule

New students who chose their mentors based on common interests still think the mentors are not a good fit due to lack of availability and busy schedule.

Consistent mentorship program across the UMD Campus

Some of the programs offer mentorship and connect students with seniors, but most of the programs don’t.

Data- Driven Insights from Mentor’s side

Healthy Relationship

Maintaining healthy emotional boundaries is challenging. It’s important to not play a parental role in this relationship.

More expectation than academic advisor

New students don’t have problems in making academic plans because they are already assigned to an academic advisor.

Have access to all resources

Users don’t know there is a helpline on campus for new students and they wish they would have known this earlier.

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Surveys

Besides the interview, a survey was created using Google Form and distributed to students at the University of Maryland. I choose the survey method because of the project time constraint (1 week). I created a mix of closed-ended and open-ended.

Data-Driven Insights from Survey

New Students’ Main Priorities

1. Strong academic performance

2. Find an on-campus job

3. Get career advice 

4. Access health-related resources

5. Find suitable housing

6. Healthy work-life balance

7. Teamwork & work ethic 

8. Shuttle & city transportation

9. Campus discovery

DAY 2: DEFINE

ANALYSIS & SYNTHESIS

I analyzed my observations and synthesised them so as to define the core problems.

Define Problem Statement

New students find it difficult to connect with the RIGHT mentor (who helps them realize their goals while maintaining a healthy emotional relationship).

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Understanding the Users

Persona, Empathy Map & User Journey

An Empathy map, Persona, and user journey helped me understand your mentor's and mentee’s needs whilst developing a deeper empathy. 

DAY 3: IDEATION

HOW MIGHT I?

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After establishing requirements I started brainstorming different ideas. In our ideas list, I wrote down anything that came to mind to get ideas flowing and could potentially be pushed further into a design solution.

STORYBOARD

Knowing Jame’s story from the personas, I decided to do a storyboard on his experience to explore his experience and emotions visually.

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DAY 4: PROTOTYPE

USER FLOW

The initial wireframe flow made the solution easy to understand. I tried different variations and explored many possibilities in this phase before narrowing down. I experimented with how to group the functionalities of the app in a way to be intuitive to both mentors and mentees.

LOW & HIGH FIDELITY PROTOTYPES

Sketching out screens to focus on the functionality of the application and mocked these up for user testing.

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DAY 5: TEST


The Think- Aloud method has a host of advantages for me. It allowed me discover what users really think about my design. I then turned misconceptions into actionable redesign recommendations.

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Data-Driven Insights from Usability Testing:

• Users misunderstood the chat icon to be an Email inbox or a messaging chat
• Users liked the app functionality and the simple workflow
• Users found value in the matching strategies to find like-minded mentors
• Users felt a bit overwhelmed by the abundance of matching questions found in one page.
• They felt it could cause cognitive overload and lead others to discontinue the process.

LEARNING

This solution initially made me confident because of its simplicity. However, I was really thorough with my design process and at the end of the day, design is about the process. I did a lot of user research that gave me valuable insights into the problems that students face throughout their time at college. I am confident in that research as well as a simple solution that emphasizes the needs of the user and usability, over complexity and aesthetic.


Thank you for reading my report!