Just a few months ago I came to the University of Waterloo as a new international student. Although I was born in Canada and had lived there for more than 8 years, coming back I had so many questions that I needed answered about how to adapt to the way of life here.
How will I survive the freezing winter?
What are the best libraries to study at?
How should I maintain a good relationship with my professors?
I became increasingly anxious as the days before university started began to disappear and my questions weren't being answered. I would have really benefitted from an experience that connected me to an experienced student who could mentor me as I started this new chapter of my life. This is exactly the experience that I aim to highlight through this exercise.
I designed an experience that would allow mentors and mentees at the University of Waterloo to connect with each other. This would answer all the questions mentees have about starting university and reduce the anxiety that is involved with starting university.
The experience also promotes more collaboration and support between upper year students and new students and fosters the community at the University of Waterloo.
I interviewed over 60 students at the University of Waterloo to really understand their Pain Points when they were first year students and as potential mentors to highlight the best path to make the experience.
I also ensured that this experience would not only be used in the first few months of university, but would be used as a continuous support system and connection through out students university experience.
Product Designer (solo team)
• User Interviews
• Competitive Analysis
The first thing that I do whenever I receive a new project is to make a brainstorm so that I can put down all of my ideas. For this design exercise I decided to jot down all the different elements that I would need to consider in order to ensure that the experience connects experienced students with new students' in all stages of the experience.
I think the most important element that I will be focusing on in my brainstorm and in making my solution is ensuring that the experience is accessible for all students, no matter what learning disability they have or what language they speak. After making my proposed solution, I will measure it against the 3 E's model to see if the goal of the project is being met throughout all 3 stages of using an experience: Entice, Enter, and Engage.
KEY FINDINGS FROM INITIAL BRAINSTORM
• must think of a way to retain mentors and mentees users of the platform (through incentives, rewards, gamification)
• match mentors and mentees based off personality types and interests (for best experience for mentees)
• must be accessible to all types of students (consider colour blind, handicapped, non-English speaking students)
• this experience should be marketed before and after students come to university
• should conduct some type of screening of mentors
• the feel of the experience should imitate the feel of campus
This experience is a multi-sided platform with both experienced and new students as its users. However the demographic of the users is all similar as they are all students attending the same university (in this case the University of Waterloo). In order to ensure that the experience is well-fitted for the audience it is serving, it is essential to conduct research not only about the demographics of the user-base, but finding out their current pain points Demographics of students at the University of Waterloo.
• 41, 000 students at the University of Waterloo
• 40% of students are international
• 70% of students are enrolled in the co-op program
• 19% of disabled students
• Students typically aged between 18-24 years old
Pain Points that new students at the University of Waterloo Face when it comes to adjusting to campus life
In order to learn more about the specific pain points that students at the University of Waterloo experienced when they first came to the university, I conducted interviews outside the university library. By talking to over 40 students I came to the conclusion that the following 3 are the main pain points that students experienced in integrating on campus.
3 Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive Goals
1. The application should strengthen the community at the University of Waterloo
2. The application should be accessible to all students
3. The application should ease the transition into university for new students
There are currently three main resources available to new students entering university who are in need of a mentor. The UWaterloo Mentorship Program and New Student Faculty Advisor are both specific to the University of Waterloo, however most universities have very similar programs. Mentor Loop is an online platform which matches mentors to mentees.
Therefore, it is evident that the current options available to students do not meet their need of transitioning into the University of Waterloo in a way that builds their community and is accessible to them. Hence, according to the user pain points and competitor analysis, there is a need for an experience that connects mentors and mentees at the university.
Customer Journey Mapping
Takeaways, Constraints and Tradeoffs
Based off of the user interviews and the customer mapping journey, it is evident that one of the worst parts of their journey, and one of their biggest pain points is that all the current options available for support are not personalized. Students feel that the solutions are generic and cannot solve their personal problems. I used this pain point as an opportunity for the application to stand out.
The app would also help students between the 'identify' and 'explore' sections because with this app and the support that comes with it, they wouldn't find it so difficult to make decisions.
I would have liked to do more customer journey maps for students with different backgrounds. For example, it would be interesting to see how the struggles of international students differ from local students. Furthermore, I would also like to explore more about having different language options for different students within the app. However, due to time constraints these are tradeoffs that I made but would love to explore at a later stage.
After users login via their school credentials on the Welcome Screen, they must also select if they are using the application as a mentor or mentee. If they are a mentor, then the application will determine if they have been approved to be a mentor or not. If they are a mentee, they will automatically be directed to the questionnaire
Based on the student number, the application will be able to determine if the student has been approved as a mentor or not. This screening process includes the interview and checking done the student services office. If they haven't been screened they can sign up for that process - however if they are screened they get directed to their profile and questionnaire
Once a mentor and mentee have been matched with each other, they can communicate using the chat features. In order to ensure safe conversations, bots will be looking out for certain prohibited words.
Sketches & Wireframes
The additional information box at the end will allow for mentors and mentees to mention any accessibility issues that they may have in order to ensure both parties can accomodate them and both parties have the best experience.
A loading page is important after filling out a questionnaire, as if the results show up immediately, users will feel as if their answers were not carefully taken into account. The screen will have prompts and tips for communication once the mentor and mentee have been matched for the best experience.
Low Fidelity Mockup
Takeaways, Constraints and Tradeoffs
Although the current user flow is ideal, I am working with a <u>constraint</u> of not being able to implement the screening process. This would require the app to have a management team and to be partnered with the university which would make the launch of the app more complicated. Therefore, the screening is one tradeoff that I made. However, in order to still keep the app safe I have added the QUEST ID and student number authentication to ensure that only students can use the app, and they know that their records are connected to it.
One of the best features that I retained to make the user experience very good is implementing the load screen after someone takes a survey, and adding the notifications so users continue to use the app.
05. POLISHED PROTOTYPE
In order for students to become more familiar with the University of Waterloo while interacting with the application, the experience will be based in the universities main colours. These colours have been pulled from the university website, logo and merchandise.
The primary colour will be yellow, and the secondary colour will be red with highlights in black and white. This interface will have minimalistic colour scheme in order to not overwhelm the user and make the experience seem easy and not overwhelming.
Making Colour Scheme Accessible to Visually Impaired
Because one of the main goals of this experience is to make it accessible to all users, the colour scheme is chosen in order to make it accessible to visually impaired and colour blind users.
Both red and yellow are appropriate colours that do not conflict for those with colour blindness.
Furthermore, the two graphics on the right demonstrate that white writing is not legible on a yellow background, and black text is not legible on a red background. Hence these combinations will be avoided through out the experience.
the importance of using design systems.
Initially I had designed the screens on the right as my final iteration. However, after getting more user feedback I was told that the app looked very custom made and that it didn't have the same finishings as most of the apps people use today. This highlighted for me
I continued to iterate on my design using sample design systems from Figma to create my final product.
Was I able to effectively meet my goals?
Whenever a user opens their app, they will be greeted by this home screen. The image in the background shows excited students and emphasizes the importance of community at the University of Waterloo. The image is also consistent with the branding of the entire app.
Both mentors and mentees are able to log in to the app using their Quest ID to ensure the security of the app.
The messaging screens have quite a minimalist style so that they are not overwhelming.
The main tab has an option to search through messages to make it easier to navigate them. Furthermore, the actual chat screens ahve the ability to add voice recordings, photos and videos to them.
Mentees go through a survey in which they outline what they are seeking from a mentor. The process tab at the top ensures that users know how many questions they have left and reduces the bounce rate. The bold colours of the survey differentiate it from the rest of the app as a USP.
The second screen is one that I thought was crucial to make the experience of using the app even better. Having a loading screen after filling out a survey makes the user believe that their answers are carefully being considered before they are matched. If the results come immediately they can doubt how well their answers were considered, and how customized the app really is.
A key screen that I designed for the app is the 'profile screen'. This screen is so important as it is the first impression that someone gets of you when they are connected with you.
The profile screen consists of an image and bio, but also allows the user to view their notifications, settings, and logout if they want. I decided to make the notifications a very clear element as notifications will usually be what will drive users back to use the app.
Since one of the goals of this application was to engage users, I thought that it would be crucial for the app to also make use of notifications to draw users back to the app. I decided to extend myself and design what the notifications would look like, and also design the app icon.
Channels through which the experience will be marketed
• since the core audience is Gen-Z / millenials it is most appropriate to create a mobile application
• market the experience on Facebook pages / ads so that students know about the opportunity
• create in paper advertisements to be put around campus
When logging in for the first time, mentors and mentees will have different experiences. Although both will initially log in using their school ID, mentees will be directed directly to the 'Mentor Finder' questionnaire, while mentors will be taken to their profile which they can update.
Mentees will be motivated to remain engaged with the experience as they will receive notifications on their phones about potential topics and questions that may interest them. This will remind them to constantly adapt to university life and to answer any questions they may have so that they can settle in as soon as possible.
Mentors will also be motivated through gamification. They will be rated by all the mentees they've helped mentor, and each certain number of points can help them unlock some sort of prize. A similar method employed by DuoLinguo proved to be very successful in motivating people to continue using an application.
If I were to do this task again, I think that I would spend more time on making the wireframes for my application. I found that I did not account for all small details such as the settings page or the edit profile page.
I would also spend more time looking at applications that do something similar, and see how to minimize the number of taps and clicks to get them to their required screen.
Lastly, I would also consider how to gamify the application in more detail, and how to encourage students to stay on the app. I would consider adding additional features such as deals from nearby restaurants to make the orientation process for mentees a better experience in many different ways.