Independent Project
6 days (June 2019)
User Researcher / UX Designer / UI Designer

Situation

The 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.

Action

To figure out the problems faced by freshmen and mentors, I conducted user research and synthesized the results into empathy map. This shed light on areas where I should focus on. Realising the huge size of the problem and time constraints, I decided to limit my thinking to problems concerning freshmen alone. Having findings from the research as foundation, I generated feature sets and designed high fidelity prototypes tying back to research insights.

Result

The outcome of this project is a mobile app that helps freshmen discover mentors based on their preferences, expectations and match with them without any commitment.

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 prefer certain choices if there was an option.

Discover mentors

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

By providing a chance for freshmen to select their mentors, the system 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 know about a mentor from their profile, and have the option to match  or unmatch. This gives a chance for them to find 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 and design a solution to tackle 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.

Gathering insights
from research

Empathy Map

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?

Feature Sets

User Flow

The app experience consists of three levels.

  1. Onboarding: Freshmen will be able to define their needs and expectations from the mentors. It helps them view and explore a set of mentors that align with their requirements.
  2. Discovery: Freshmen will be able to know more about a mentor through their profile. They also have the ability to message them and see if they'd be the right match. This helps them to self evaluate if they will be the right mentor for them. Freshmen can also unmatch them if they don't feel good.
  3. Engage: Once connected, freshmen can request message, schedule meeting or leave feedback. This eliminates anxiety which would've been otherwise possible when mentors are assigned randomly.

High Fidelity Screens

Research Insight 1: Allow riders to pay without being anxious.

Research Insight 2: Enable drivers to have cash for their daily needs.

High level
Mentor
experience

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.


  • Transfer Mentee: There can be an option to transfer a mentee. This comes helpful when the mentor graduates and if the mentee finds a suitable alternative.
  • Withdraw: One of the participants mentioned about how their mentee didn’t like to be a part of the program. There can be an option to opt out if the students prefer not to be a part of it.
  • Mentor Benefits: Incentives can be provided in the form of course credits or scholarships to students who put in considerable amount of effort. Mentorship program is something voluntary and people should be appreciated for their thought to bring a positive change in the community. This can be tracked through reviews, mentorship hours and the performance of the mentees.
  • Guiding Material: Many mentors felt there is a lack of structure in the mentorship program. This is addressed in the form of an general guiding material now. This can be researched and elaborated more.
  • Becoming Mentor: Students can be allowed to become a mentor based on some qualifying attributes.

  • Scalability: As of now, the app serves as a platform to discover and connect mentors and mentees. The app can be scaled to serve as a one stop place for a event updates, news and blogs.

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.