Design Challenge
6 days
User Research, User Experience, User Interface

Prompt

Your school 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. Consider the needs of both mentors and mentees and show how to connect them.

Outcome

The outcome of this project is research and ideation of a mobile app that focuses primarily on freshmen to discover the right mentors, based on their preferences and expectations.

Key Features

Set needs and expectations

From the research findings, I came to know that freshmen’s wants can be classified into short term and long term. Needs are things they want to know from their mentor on the first day and expectations are things they expect their mentor to help them with throughout their college life.

Set preferences

The research findings stated that some freshmen weren’t fully satisfied with the information they received from the mentor as they were from a totally different program. Some also felt that they'd choose preferences if a choice was provided to them.

Discover mentors

From the research findings, it was found that mentors were assigned randomly to freshmen and this causes a lot of unfortunate misunderstandings and a lack of rapport between them.

By providing a chance for freshmen to select their mentors, reduces anxiety and assures a comfortable feeling for freshmen on their first day to college.

Match a mentor or unmatch later

Freshmen get a chance to read more about a mentor from their profile and match them or unmatches later. This gives a chance for them to see if their interests align with that of their mentor’s.

Messages

Interaction between a mentor and mentee through messages before the day of the college breaks the ice and reduces the anxiety level of freshmen.

Design Process

Process

Goal

The goal is to find answers to the below questions through user research and design a concept that tackles all the problems.

1. What are the problems students and mentors face in the current mentorship system?
2. What are the needs of the freshmen and mentors from mentorship programs?
3. How do mentors and mentees discover each other?
4. How do mentors and mentees connect with each other?

User Research

To reflect the users’ thoughts on the problem, I conducted guerilla user research with 8 of my friends. It was an informal interview with 8-10 open-ended and non-leading questions. The User Research Methods course in my master’s program helped to frame the deep focus questions.

Empathy map from research findings

From the research results, I synthesized the notes to an empathy map put myself in the shoes of the freshmen and mentors. This helped me keep my personal opinions at bay.

Who should choose whom?

The most contrasting findings from the research were the participants' thoughts on who choosing whom. Is it a mentor choosing their mentee OR a mentee choosing their mentor. Although the sample size was less, a little not so difficult graph helped me find that most participants preferred freshmen choosing their mentors for various reasons listed below.

Framing the problem

After the user research, I realized that the scope of the problem is too huge to cover within the deadline. Hence I decided to focus only on the freshmen side of the problem which is based on questions,

1. What are the things that new students look for to avoid the overwhelming feeling when they enter college life for the first time?

2. What sort of help do students expect from a mentor to provide them support throughout their academic life?

Persona

Matt did his schooling entirely in Omaha. He got admit from DePaul University at Chicago for his bachelor's. However, he is anxious about his life in a new place. He feels he needs someone to help him get settled.

Ideation

Major design implications drawn from research

User flow

High Fidelity Screens

Onboarding
Discovery
Engage

Touching Mentor’s experience on a high level

Since the scope of the problem was too huge to cover within the deadline, I touched the mentor side of the experience on a super high level.

1. A participant from the user research shared that mentors are recruited without any credibility. Hence senior students or mentees can be allowed to become a mentor only when they qualify certain attributes.

2. Another problem is matching mentees to mentors more than they can handle. This will only result in friction and the program may fail to achieve what it was created for. Hence mentees can be allotted on the number of hours the mentors can contribute their towards the program.

3.  From the research, it is clear that mentees prefer to meet in person. Hence the mentors are required to provide feedback in person and not through app. This would foster a good relationship.

Future work

Since the scope of the problem was too huge to cover within the deadline, I touched the mentor side of the experience on a super high level.

1. A participant from the user research shared that mentors are recruited without any credibility. Hence senior students or mentees can be allowed to become a mentor only when they qualify certain attributes.

2. Another problem is matching mentees to mentors more than they can handle. This will only result in friction and the program may fail to achieve what it was created for. Hence mentees can be allotted on the number of hours the mentors can contribute their towards the program.

3.  From the research, it is clear that mentees prefer to meet in person. Hence the mentors are required to provide feedback in person and not through app. This would foster a good relationship.

Takeaways

It has been a long time since I worked this intense on a mobile design project. The design challenge helped me apply learnings from my academics. Especially with User Research Methods. It made me move out of my comfort zone to reach out to people and to get them participate in the research. I personally felt I contributed a major amount of time for user research, wanting to design the experience user focused and functional. I usually spend a lot of time on designing interactions and reiterating but this was a new approach for me. I will plan to conduct usability testing to see if the experience has really turned out functional and smooth.