Earlier this year, I began working as a UX/UI designer for Thicket, a web app with the goal of connecting college students and professors with all academia-related content — assignments, research, questions, etc. Though it was recently acquired by Tikati, the founder will be using design work from Thicket on his Tikati products.
The Problem + User Research
While attending Occidental College, one of the most common complaints and running jokes amongst students was the terribly outdated platforms for assignment posting/commenting, email and grades access, research and other on-campus opportunities, and generally all academia-related material. There were THREE separate online platforms for these seemingly related topics, not to mention each of the three look like they were designed in the early 2000s and were never updated! After doing some qualitative research through both listening to fellow students and sending out surveys regarding the shortcomings of the current platforms, we concluded that the biggest weaknesses of the current options were the lack of usability and organization of the content.
Once we gathered the preliminary research and discussed possible solutions, we decided to build a web app that would put all academia-related content into one user-friendly platform — essentially a social network for academia. We decided that the content should be organized in an architecture based on branches, with each branch representing an academic department or other related categories. With this in mind, we did a whiteboarding session and drew a lo-fi user flow between login/home/branch pages (please excuse the messy handwriting and drawing).
After discussing what we wanted the visual layout and organization to look like, we decided to base the layout for the web app on Material Design, ensuring a familiar and intuitive interface for students and faculty.
While a mobile app was part of the longer-term plan for Thicket, I wanted to get a head start on it while the founder and other team members were in transition between school year and summer. I went to Sketch to create some of the primary screens users would see, from login to a homepage newsfeed.
As I mentioned at the earlier, Thicket became inspiration for future Tikati projects before it came to fruition as a full-fledged product. However, the experience of working as a designer in a small team with a startup environment was highly valuable. I definitely improved my whiteboarding and Sketch skills, and I got to collaborate with a cross-disciplinary agile team. I look forward to seeing the products Tikati builds in the next year and beyond!