GOOGLE x uWaterloo

GOOGLE Design
Challenge

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.
MY ROLE
Product Designer
(Solo Team)
METHODS & TOOLS
User Interviews
Competitive Analysis
Figma
Sketch
The Problem

New students don't have enough support in university

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
SOLUTION
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.
APPROACH
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.
01. Brainstorm

Mind dump of all the potential approaches the app could take

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 5 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 Inital 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)
  • should conduct some type of screening of mentors
  • this experience should be marketed before and after students come to university
  • the feel of the experience should imitate the feel of campus
  • must be accessible to all types of students (consider colour blind, handicapped, non-English speaking students)

3 Mutually Exclusive and 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
02. Research

Findings from user interviews, market research and customer journey mapping

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

User Interviews

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.  

58%

of students found that they didn't have a support system to answer their basic questions when they first came to university

73%

of students wish they got to talk upper-year students in order to make their transition into first-year smoother and have advice that they would give to first-years

34%

of international students found that they didn't have enough support in their mother-tongue 

Market Research

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. 
The UWaterloo Mentorship Program a program in which prospective students are matched with an upper year students so that they can ask them questions and learn more about their course. As can be seen from the table above, this program does build a community and ease students transition into university, however it is not very accessible to all students. Communication is predominantly in English and there is no set platform to communicate. 
The New Student Faculty Advisor  a mentor who is currently a faculty member at the university. This does not build a community is communication is solely with this faculty member, however their support does ease the transition into starting university. Unfortunately this platform is not very accessible, and students can only book an appointment meet their advisors in person in order to get their questions answered. 
Lastly, Mentor Loop  an online platform which matches mentors and mentees based on their stage in life and interests. This platform is not only confined to university students, but anyone who is interested in becoming a mentor or mentee. Although it is accessible, it does not help students ease their transition specifically into the University of Waterloo, and is more helpful in career decisions. 
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.
03. Prototype

Determining the best user experience


User Flow

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 & Wirefames

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

04. Evaluation

Takeaways, Constraints and Tradeoffs


Although the current user flow is ideal, I am working with a constraint of not being able to implement the screeing 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

Creating a final product that meets all three goals

Colour Scheme

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. 

Final Product

Home Screen

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.

Messages Screens

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.

Survey Screens

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.

Profile Screen

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.

Notifications

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.
06. Reflection

What I did well, learned and would do better next time

Was I able to effectively meet my goals?

Entice

Channels through which the experience will be marketed


Enter

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. 

Engage

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. 

Learnings

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.