Case Study: Trinity Connects

Designing the user experience for an alumni networking site

Trinity College, in the University of Toronto, approached RED Academy as a community partner to create a solution for the alumni request to have better access to the Trinity community for networking and mentorship.

Deliverables: user research, competitive analysis, persona development, user flow, user experience journey, wireframes, hi-fidelity user interface and clickable prototype

My Role: UX/UI designer (team of 2)

Getting started

With no product currently in use by Trinity College our first two tasks were to complete interviews with current students and alumni to look at pre-built options that Trinity has chosen not to use.

I was able to draw on my past experience working in the alumni office at Trinity College to create assumptions regarding this issue. After looking at LinkedIn, 10,000 Coffees and Graduway, which Trinity have not moved forward with, we made the assumption that one of the missing pieces was the ability to have a true hub for news as well as year-rep communication around reunion.

Research

The Trinity community is very engaged responded quickly to interview requests allowing us to interview 11 alumni and students in a 48 time period. We also received access to a lengthy report done on the state of mentorship at the College, including the results of an early 2016 survey with 355 respondents.

We looked into LinkedIn, 10,000 Coffees and Graduway and why they did not meet Trinity’s needs.

What we found

Trinity identified that Graduway was excluded as an option because it is too big a platform for the College to manage. LinkedIn and 10,000 Coffees did not offer enough Trinity branding and exclusivity.

Interviews and data research revealed that alumni and students did not connect on LinkedIn for three primary reasons

  • A feeling of imposition: students and young alumni did not assume others were putting their profiles on LinkedIn with an interest in alumni connections
  • Difficulty finding people: Trinity is a very common school name and finding the right alumni was too time consuming
  • Starting the conversation: Whether students and young alumni were looking for a quick coffee or to find a mentor, they were unsure of how to start the conversation

We also learned that it needed to be mobile friendly but that people did not want an app, they also wanted to access this on a desktop.

Personas

Within the alumni and student pool there were two key persona’s that took shape. It turned out that the split was not between students and alumni, but instead there were two different things people were looking for.

The first group of people were like Lauren. Lauren is very interested in the stories of other people regardless of what they studied or what their current career is. She doesn’t expect to be offered job opportunities from people she meets, but is looking to explore and understand different paths and wants to meet a variety of people.

The second persona is someone like Charles. He chose Trinity College because it was the hardest to get into and he likes the exclusivity of it. He feels very strongly that Trinity students and alumni should help each other through formal mentorship and he naturally looks to the Trinity community when he needs something because he feels he can trust their knowledge and skills.

The need

With this information in hand we were able to recognize our earlier assumption regarding the central hub and space for year-rep class communication as false. By providing a space where all alumni would have to participate to be informed of College events we would be making who wanted to network and find mentors work harder to find the right people to talk to, diluting the main purpose of the solution. Instead, it was determined that the initial solution needed to focus simply on connecting students and alumni with one another and break down the barriers to communication.

Developing the solution

Key features

  • Invitation only sign-in
  • Create a profile
  • Search for students and alumni
  • Find a mentor
  • Send a message

The sign-up and profile building

Encouraging someone to sign-up and complete a profile was the most important part of this design. Without completed profiles from students and alumni there is no ability to build connections, so we focused on this and the basic user flow first.

Whiteboarding the profile page and basic user flow

Continued sketching, wireframing and testing resulted in multiple iterations of the profile portion. This continued to evolve through the hi-fidelity design as well. The process was shortened to bite sized chunks to fill out and items were rearranged to highlight the individual over their accomplishments. The editing page was also shortened so it didn’t feel overwhelming when starting to complete the profile. The sign-up process was modified to have people put in their Trinity education as a common denominator but to allow them to skip the rest of the profile process and come back to it later.

Profile Editing Iterations

From here we continued to make sure that it was easy to accomplish the following tasks

  • recognize what type of relationship someone was looking for
  • send a message to someone
  • start a conversation (introduction of icebreaker question element)
  • find a mentor

Continued Testing

Usertesting.com was used to review the clickable prototype and some questions were raised regarding amount of information included in an individual profile as well as the inclusion of grad years. We know that Trinity community members describe themselves as overachievers and also focus on grad years with year-reps and specific communication. As such, these are valuable pieces of information that need to be tested with the Trinity user going forward.

Summary

Trinity Connects is designed to allow Trinity students and alumni to connect with each other, whether for informal conversation or a more traditional mentorship relationship. It needs to be simple to use, easy to identify what type of connection people are looking for and break down the barriers to communication. The Alumni Office is currently working to present this project as a proposal to the College Provost for approval to develop. As they go through this process the prototype will continue to be tested and refined.

Designed mobile first, the clickable prototype is available here: https://invis.io/9V8W1P6AN

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