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Next Steps

Navigate post-graduate life successfully with professional support from alumni

— ROLE

UX/UI Designer

UX Researcher

Project Leader

— INFO

  • Class Project
  • Spring 2020 – 6 weeks
  • Fully remote

— TOOLS

  • Figma
  • Balsamiq
  • StoryboardThat
  • Zoom

— TEAM

Nazanin Barnoon

Alison Compton

Angeline Alihan

— CONTEXT

In the wake of the pandemic, my group was tasked with tackling how we might help the slice of millions stuck at home. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, ~16.6 million students enrolled in postsecondary institutions in fall 2018, and this number is expected to increase by 2 percent every year. Motivated by these statistics and our community observations, my team decided to focus our design on helping students. 



Note: There were limits to this project as it was a remote class with time constraints and strict deliverables. Furthermore, since I had the most experience with user research and prototyping, I stepped up as project lead and guided my group members through the course.


— PROBLEM

Our research narrowed in on graduating students. Due to a lack of resources, seniors lost motivation to apply for jobs and were experiencing financial stress. This resulted in other consequences, such as declining mental health and further emotional stress.


— SOLUTION

My team designed an application that allows students to connect with alumni in a mentee-mentor relationship. The mentor provides professional support to help the student navigate post-graduate life successfully.

— IMPACT

Due to positive feedback from students, alumni, and the teaching staff, I believe our product would benefit all schools nationwide. If our solution were to be executed, we could expect the following metrics of success: 


Increased motivation to apply for jobs, as students can now more conveniently access and message alumni for professional support, and gain advice from the tips and reviews feature


Persistent use of the application due to incentivizing mentors with badges, and energizing students with multiple resources on the app


Decrease students’ stress by building a strong and encouraging school community where students can feel supported


— DISCOVERY RESEARCH

We were interested in helping the student community, so we began by researching online platforms to identify specific sentiments and challenges. Many posts and memes were centered around the current struggles of undergraduate seniors and high school seniors.

A video meme in the “Zoom Memes for Quaranteens” Facebook group. The balloons labeled “Job Offers” are released and explode from the telephone pole wires.

A Reddit screenshot. A graduating senior expresses their lack of productivity and declining mental health due to the pandemic.

— MAJOR FRUSTRATIONS

We wanted to gain more insight into the current struggles of all graduating seniors: high school, undergraduate, and graduate school seniors. Our survey received responses from 10 high schoolers, 46 undergraduates, and 5 graduate students. We interviewed 1 high schooler, 3 undergraduates, and 1 graduate.


One issue stuck out the most, and mostly surrounded undergraduates:

— DIVING DEEPER

Due to the online posts about the lack of job offers, I was also interested in seeing if our respondents and interviewees were taking advantage of the opportunities within their school's alumni network. I received emails from UC San Diego's alumni network and discovered that they provided valuable career opportunities.

Even though many respondents and interviewees were having a hard time finding a job, they weren't taking advantage of alumni network resources. We thought we could dive deeper into this issue.

— ADDITIONAL FEEDBACK

Using rapid iteration methods, we came up with a “How Might We” question and a corresponding storyboard.

We then asked 2 undergraduates and 2 UC San Diego alumni for their thoughts and feedback. We learned that:

Backed by this evidence, we decided to move forward with this solution.

— PROBLEM STATEMENT

How might we help graduating students find more job-related resources given the current state of the job market?  


Our mission is to help graduating students find more job-related resources by connecting them with their school’s alumni network.


— AN UNEXPECTED COMPETITOR

I came across UC San Diego’s Alumni Network website, Tritons Connect; alumni and undergraduates could connect as mentors and mentees. It shocked us to find there was already a website geared to our goal — we had never heard of it. Most of our respondents were UC San Diego students as well, and none of them had mentioned this application. Thus, there was an issue of marketing, reachability, and potential usability with the current platform.


We wanted to improve upon some of Triton Connect's features, while also taking inspiration from professional support applications such as JumpStart, LinkedIn, and Handshake.


We agreed that our design's primary purpose would be to allow undergraduates to customize the process of finding mentors (alumni).


— SKETCHES & LO-FIS

Due to Triton Connect's lack of success as a website, we decided to implement our solution as a mobile app. Since people are spending more and more time on their phones, we thought a mobile app might encourage more users to utilize the program.


In initial sketches, we juggled ideas of making the app a part of Handshake or the school's app (e.g., UC San Diego's app) for easier reachability.

Lo-Fi Prototypes

After conducting user testing on our low-fidelity prototypes, we continued to iterate on our designs before creating a high-fidelity prototype.


— SPLASH OF COLOR

We created a moodboard to represent the application’s theme of friendly, professional, and inviting; this also inspired the design of our style guide.

A mood board was created to represent a theme of exciting, helpful, professional, friendly, social, bright, and inviting.

Another team member (Nazanin) and I designed the app's style guide.

— ITERATIONS & TESTING

We led usability tests with 2 undergraduates and 2 UC San Diego alumni to improve our high-fidelity prototype. Below are some of the insights we learned and the design decisions implemented after testing.

Badges — Incentives for Alumni

We initially had “mentor request” as a "premium" or paid attribute to incentivize alumni. A user mentioned that this might not work as students can find other free ways to contact the mentor. Mentors can now receive hearts from mentees and earn badges; they can brag about their status on their resumes.

Mentor Request v.s. Quick Advice

During testing, users mentioned that the difference between “quick advice” and mentor request was not clear enough. Our redesign distinguishes quick advice as asking general career advice for a short period, while a mentor request establishes a more long-term and in-depth relationship. 

— FINAL DESIGN

Here are some of the app's primary features!

Finding a Mentor Process

The process for finding a mentor involves a filtering feature. Students can filter through the alumni's graduation year, major, mutual groups, location, and specialty.


Badges — Incentives for Alumni

Mentor badges represent the number of hearts they have received from mentees, from hosting an event, or from posting in the tips & reviews page. They can brag about their status on their resumes.

Sending a Request to a Mentor

When sending a mentor request, the student can identify the help they need and how long they need the mentor.


Quick Advice

To contact a mentor, students can either send a mentor request or ask for "quick advice." The latter option is available if the student does not want to commit to having a long-term mentor or only wants to ask a quick question. 

Messaging a Mentor

This feature enables alumni to "end the session" after they have successfully helped the student. The student can thank their mentor by sending them 1-4 hearts. 


Tips & Reviews

Tips & Reviews allows alumni to share their tips and reviews about a specific company or school. Students can connect with alumni who work at or attend the company/school they are interested in, and it also helps students gain information about the institution.

— TAKEAWAYS

While designing Next Steps, I realized how important it is to make the application easily accessible to users and how essential it is to incentivize users to utilize the product. I identified these significant issues in UC San Diego's current alumni mentoring program, and we were able to upgrade some of the features to be more convenient and user friendly.


If I were to go back, I would have spent more time analyzing our survey responses to formulate more insightful interview questions. Our interview questions mostly echoed our survey. 


If we had more time, I would have loved to interview users who have used Tritons Connect and other alumni platforms to pinpoint usability issues. I would also ask students and alumni how they would like to communicate to further differentiate our design from existing applications. In addition, I would do additional user testing to validate our design decisions, and better refine features (such as the difference between quick advice v.s. mentor request).