I only was given a week to complete this design sprint and given losing all of my design progress due to a computer crash by forgetting to save my work, I still rallied — even if I only had essentially 3 days to complete everything. It was nevertheless, a great experience for me to be put under such a high-pressure environment, mainly because the stakes are just so high.
In 3 days, I managed to aggregate a bunch of user research from college students and use that to finish a complete InVision prototype.
To everyone who has supported me throughout this entire process and to everyone who participated in my survey — thank you. The words of encouragement really helped me push through.
The 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. Consider the needs of both mentors and mentees, including how someone may become a mentor and how to connect mentors to mentees.
Dissecting the challenge
Our goal is to create an experience where experienced students (mentors) can connect with new students (mentees) to help them adjust to the culture at university. Here, we have to consider how mentors and mentees are going to be able to connect with each other, incorporating elements of how someone can become a mentor and how mentors and mentees can get connected.
After working on KIT, I learned a lot about the importance of fostering meaningful connections with others. People only feel encouraged to reach out only if they feel a sense of belongingness, and a good way to do that is to build community-centered environments that are tailored to each individual. These reinforce personal connections while making new ones with similar interests, encouraging people to feel that inclusiveness coming into college as a freshman/transfer student.
Understanding user needs
Fortunately, Google gave a lot of leeway in what they expect from the design challenge, as they simply wanted us to find a way for mentors and mentees “to discover each other.”
New mediums on Medium
Medium is, if not, my most favorite mediums (ha, get it?) for any sort of insightful information on virtually everything, so naturally, I did a lot of user research from various articles regarding mentorship. After hours and hours digging through articles, I found three things that really marked a successful mentorship:
- There must be a mutual understanding of every part of a mentor/mentee relationship. Understanding one’s motivations, goals, and weaknesses give valuable insight into what a mentor can bring to a student.
- Consistency is key. A driving factor on why students value mentorship so much is because they’re an opportunity to ask questions, get regular feedback, and gain more insight into the things they’re passionate about.
- You have to actually like your mentor/mentee as a person. Mentors want students who are similar and like-minded as themselves, and in doing so, the relationship will build itself.
These were the most pressing issues that were difficult for mentors to want to develop a more meaningful connection with their mentee, and from this, I created a preliminary problem statement that sought to give an overall foundation before designing.
Both students and mentors want to be connected better with each other, but finding someone that shares strong career aspirations and similar qualities or interests can be difficult.
So I asked some students.
Because of the limited timeframe I had in this project, I decided to set out 2 days to aggregate the majority of my user research. Through Google surveys and Qualtrics data analysis, I managed to reach out to my network of freshmen and transfer students to get over 100+ survey insights from college students about their personal views entering college, as well as how they view mentorship.
- More than half of freshmen and transfer students felt out of place, awkward, or alone (65%).
- Professional interests (73%) and shared hobbies (75%) were the top two highest qualities that mentees wanted to find in their mentors.
- Freshmen and transfer students want their mentor to have taken similar classes to them (89%) and to have taken leadership roles in organizations that they might be interested in pursuing (87%).
Additionally, I managed to conduct some user interviews with the freshman population who were a part of UCLA One, a mentorship program that connects alumni with students, where many students were discouraged to reach out to their mentor due to a variety of issues like mentors not being consistent or even showing up to scheduled meetings, failing to actually connect even at the surface level with their mentor, or at worst, not even being accepted by a mentor.
“She just didn’t provide me with any tangible benefits because she didn’t know how to help me due to the fact that I had such a basic understanding of my career.”
It’s important to take this with a grain of salt as these are alumni, but translating this to student mentorship, I deduced that students just want someone who understands them but more importantly just wants a friend that is there for them. Especially as incoming freshman and transfers, a lot of students wanted to bridge that gap transitioning from home to college but also not fall back on their academic career.
Information architecture & wireframing
For me, the most important step is planning — everything else will fall into place once everything is set in place. So I developed a user journey map to help guide and organize my design, tweaking it, and adjusting accordingly when a new feature was added.
The information architecture of this user journey map has a beginning-to-end user flow that I wanted to implement prior to designing. This is the final journey map with all of the additional features incorporated.
To build a product based on real-life user input, I tested and designed the interface in iterative steps. Through a rapid prototyping process, I produced some low-fidelity mocks to lay the foundation and tweaked according to user research and further usability testing.
Finalizing the designs
The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the high-fidelity designs!
I added a few extra features that were not in the low-fidelity prototype that was able to successfully answer Google’s prompt of how someone can become a mentor.
In the low-fidelity prototype, it lacked the ability to change mentorship preferences, as the only way to have done that is through the onboarding process. I incorporated a feature in settings that allowed for this adjustment and made the process super easy for any user to make the switch from mentor to mentee and vice-versa.
I also did some user interviews, where users really encouraged having a favorites section, as they wanted to have this app sort of act as a holy grail for everything happening at university.
Here, users would be able to save mentors, mentees, and events by starring their profiles (in case they want to connect with them or these events later on and don’t have the time).
You can view the final prototype here:
Overall, I really enjoyed this project — it was something really rewarding finishing something that seemed almost impossible to do, but being able to turn this sprint in made me feel on top of the world. I think the only thing I would do differently in the near future is press CTRL + S as many times as possible the next time I do a project this intensely and to not save to Cloud.
Never depend on Cloud.