“Design an experience for new students to browse, search, and propose new student organizations. Provide your overall process, a wireframe flow, and one to two screens at higher fidelity.”
For this case study, my focus is on new students at Pratt. I have used Pratt’s student organizations for the wireframes. I will explain my reasoning behind my decisions step by step. After understanding the exercise, I brainstormed my ideas and defined two main objectives for the project.
Define a mechanism that can help new students find organizations effectively.
An intuitive process for the students to propose a student organization.
After that, I devised a design process to help me achieve my objectives. I divided the process into three main phases: Research, Plan & Frame [Analysis], and Create and Iterate. Each phase is further divided into activities that helpe me reach my final design solution.
I planned qualitative research to understand how new students search for organizations. I interviewed participants from my school and used the findings and insights to generate an empathy map.
Findings and Insights
A few popular organizations are introduced to new students in the orientation week.
International students have more difficulty in looking for the organizations because they are unfamiliar with the system and usually look for organizations that would help them in networking.
Organizations are divided into broad categories which makes it harder for students to find what they are looking for.
It is difficult for the management to keep track of proposals. They want to get involved only when students register an organization.
To understand more about their organizations and search methods, I looked into the websites of three colleges: Harvard, Stanford, and Pratt. Without logging into the portal, I found that:
Students can search for organizations only by category.
There are no filters for the organization
There is no option available for proposals
Who Am I Designing for
After learning the problems new students face, I created an empathy map to understand who am I designing for. I created an empathy map to understand what drives new student’s behaviors. The mapping gave me a direction towards a good design solution.
I learned from the research phase that:
Most universities let students search for organizations by categories. To give a good browsing experience, I needed to add more searchable parameters to each organization.
New students want to join student organizations but not all of them know what to look for. I wanted to design a system that can predict or help them find organizations of their interests.
The ‘Propose an organization’ feature doesn’t exist on most universities’ websites. So I need to explore scenarios where a student would want to propose a new organization.
These three uses cases helped me understand that:
New students may want to propose a new organization when they can’t find one that matches some particular interests.
A predictive system that can suggest organizations to students will provide an engaging experience with some added fun.
Adding more filter options will improve the search and browsing experience
Plan and Frame
In Plan and Frame, I created use cases, user flows, and information architecture. The purpose of creating these diagrams was to use the findings from the previous phase and turn them into meaningful information which can help me build initial wireframes.
From the use cases, I created a user flow:
I built my information architecture on the user flow:
Using the information from these diagrams, I divided my design solution into three sections
A student can search for organizations by name, categories, tags, and affiliations. I have added tags because users are familiar with how they work because of their use in social media sites. If users are not sure what to search for, tags can be helpful. Students can further refine the search by the number of members, and when the organization was founded.
2. A simple quiz game
"Which Disney princess are you?" is the inspiration behind the quiz game. My research shows that new students are confused and anxious, a simple quiz game can help them in exploring student organizations. The website will ask ten questions about the person's background, interests, likes, and dislikes. This information can help us determine what organizations the person might be interested in.
3. Propose a student organization
In my research, I explained that the option to propose an organization doesn't really exist in most university websites. Handling documentation for too many proposals can be a burden on the management. Proposals can be helpful when a student has an idea for an organization, and wants to gauge the interest of the rest of the student body, but doesn't really want to register it yet.
Students can propose an organization when they are unable to find one or when they have an exciting idea. The proposed organizations will be available for all students to see and upvote if interested. Upvotes can let everyone know if the idea is popular among the students. Any student can then register organizations that have been proposed. Management will get involved when students submit a registration.
Create & Iterate
I started this phase with paper prototypes and converted them into interactive wireframes on Invision.
Initial Wireframes and Evaluation
I transformed my ideas into wireframes and tested the solutions with two students at my school.I asked the participants to perform a few tasks followed by questions about their experience. I asked them to rate the tasks as well.
Identified problems and their solutions
'Students were confused between “Register an organization” and “Propose an organization” on the header.'
Solution: Instead of having two options, I added just one “New student organization.” By clicking on the option, the student will get a detailed screen with both “register” and “propose” options along with the signifiers.
'The search bar was only on the home page. And participants had to come back to the home page every time they were searching for something.'
Solution: I moved the search bar to the Navigation Bar so that users can search for organizations anytime they want.
'Students were confused about “Find your organizations.” The label implied that it is another search option'
Solution: More descriptive labeling for the quiz
Students liked suggestions on the home page. They gave a positive response to upvotes on proposals and believed that it will improve engagement among students. Upvote and proposal can encourage students to share their ideas. They also appreciated the filters on advanced search.
High Fidelity Prototypes
I have some interesting ideas to explore that could improve the engagement and interactivity of the platform:
Design flow for “Register organization” and integrate it with proposals
During my research, I realized that events play an important role when students are looking for organizations. Adding events to the portal, and letting students search organizations by events can improve the browsing experience.
To make the portal more engaging and helpful, a group chat or forum can be added where students can ask for help, discuss plans and exchange suggestions/feedback about different organizations.