Global Degree Academy Website Redesign

Background

Global Degree Academy (referred to as GDA in this article) enables students to combine travel and education and provide them with an around-the-world learning experience while completing online studies in any subject. Their mission is to make their students “global citizens” by immersing them in educational travel and by connecting a community of students embarking on the same learning journey.

Challenge

Address the website and reshape it to deliver what the user needs to apply for a Global Degree program.

My role

At the start of this project, I had the opportunity to conduct interviews and user research while managing the timeline and setting up team communication and collaboration on Abstract. From then on, I helped guide the team ensuring consistency throughout all projects deliverables, including managing the design system, creating research documentation and putting together prototypes of low, medium and high fidelities.


Does it work for its audience?

Our first task was to figure out where the strengths and weaknesses of the current website are. We tested the process of discovery about a program and the application process ourselves and a few of the questions we had were still left unanswered even after submitting an application.

We were able to work with a marketing report that had been done shortly before our project started. The report guided us into getting in touch with the right demographic for our project. It also helped us identify problems that had been solved before and the history of what GDA was still trying to solve.

Through the interviews we conducted, we learned about users’ interests and pain-points of possibly signing up for a program like this.

By combining our own feedback with some of the interviewees’, we identified the following success points and pain points:

. Personas

We took the existing personas in the marketing report and adapted them to match the most recent data we gathered through the interviews.

We decided to add the parent persona, George, as the parents are often a stakeholder in affording this type of program and making sure the student will have what they need to spend time abroad.

. Domain Research

Mostly as international students ourselves, the team decided to look at not only the travel aspect of the GBA service but also at how people are driven to study abroad. This opened our eyes to how learning institutions manage to take students in from all over the world and what is at play in this type of situation. A lot of what we discovered resonated back to the values and concerns of the interviewees and, therefore, our personas.

We looked at how the discovery and application process was done in the websites of RED Academy, Lighthouse Labs, BrainStation, General Assembly, Remote Year, and The Nomad MBA and saw what was working and could be applied to our case and also what was best to avoid.

. Competitive Research

The competitors we looked at were Remote Year and Nomad MBA, as they offered a combination of informative and engaging websites revolving around the same idea: to continue working/studying while you travel to multiple countries.

Both examples deliver the content necessary to get the user to apply with similar methods, laying the ground for them to understand what the programs are and reinforcing the trust by answering the questions they may have and supporting it with previous user reviews.

Planning our approach

When thinking of how we could improve the experience for the user, we chose the same method that Remote Year and Nomad MBA use to deliver content to the user. Some of the things we needed to work on the content were:

  • Hierarchy
  • Content reveal at the right stage
  • Sequential structure
  • Apply to responsive layout
  • Self-explanatory content vs. content that needs further explanation

We applied the competitor methods by mainly refining the “How it works” and “Where we go” destination pages. We defined what needed to be delivered at what stage according to our Customer Journey Map so to not overload the users and discourage them. And we also focused on delivering small but relevant information for the user.

Room for improvement

Through the testing of various fidelities prototypes, we refined the user journey and the site navigation by tweaking the design and content delivery according to the feedback we received.

Basic User Flow of the main pages the user would need to visit.

. Low Fidelity

  • Shorten “How it works” page and improve curation of information
  • Include explanation around filling out forms (Why do this? What happens next?)
  • Make “bite-size” pieces of information throughout the site for the user to understand the service
  • Improve layout and content sequence for “Destination” page

. Medium Fidelity

  • Sort footer links and add “Subscribe to Newsletter” component
  • Addition of pop-up just before form submission to increase the program’s cost awareness
  • Clarify “What’s included” section and create a brief section of what is not included as a disclaimer
  • Change date format in the itinerary (09/04 → Sep 04)
  • Incorporate video to “Student Reviews” section
  • Add “Apply now” to top of the page for people who are come-back users

. High Fidelity

  • Turn itinerary destinations into a dropdown list format
  • Breakdown the form into a step-by-step process and simplify screen by taking away regular header and footer
  • Also, inform the user of how far along they are in the application form
  • Optimize single student review visualization
  • Include examples of what type of courses are available
  • Improve iconography used in the content

Interactive Prototype

A snippet of the final design

Final Thoughts

This was a very valuable experience for me in terms of being able to practice my UX skills in a project that at first seemed mostly UI driven at the start. It enabled me to identify certain aspects of a website redesign that I could apply user-centric design and also apply some strategy into the problems we solved.

Given another opportunity in the future, it would have been great to continue exploring deeper into the needs of the business and users. Both in the front end of the website and in the back end of the service by improving the admissions process and making it a painless experience for both the future students and the staff. I would have liked to be able to expand on a more in-depth content audit and develop a content strategy GDA would have been able to build a solid information architecture on top of.

That being said we were able to gather insights to inform the client of changes they could do to improve. For example the merging the two types of programs they have into one to minimize confusion and unclarity, and also the simplification of the application form.