User Experience Research On Improving the College Application Process

John Rodrigues
Mar 4, 2019 · 6 min read

The goal of the project was to improve the college application process for the students. Through this project, we learned how to identify the opportunities in the defined space, define the problem statement and implement various research methods in order to draw insights from the user research and most importantly work as a team.
I had a pleasure working with Jamie, we took this challenge and ran into different directions and eventually designed this app. Through this article, I am going to walk you through our process

Role: UX Researcher | UI and Interaction designer

Google Design Sprint

We followed Google’s design sprint process to understand the problem and develop a solution/Idea in a short duration of time
Google’s design sprint is a process of answering critical questions through design, prototype and testing ideas with customers. This method is one of the greatest hits of business strategy, innovation, behaviour science, design thinking.


To understand the user's goals and frustrations we decided to talk to students who were in their application process. I and Jamie also shared our personal experiences and observed the approach of applying to the university varied from one country to another country and we listed down our application process journey. we decided to interview other students to understand their process of application well. We also looked into the university website, and noted down our observations.

We created the user persona to understand the user's journey, goals and frustrations well.

Ally’s user persona
Jen’s user persona

User-centered design means working with your users all throughout the project- Donald Norman


From the data we collected from the user interview, our personal experience and observations we went forward to define the problem

we implemented rose, bud and thorn research method, in order to clearly define the pain points and opportunities.

Rose Thron Bud Research method

Finding from the rose, bud, and thorn

By doing rose, thorn, and bud we learned that, because of the familiarity in browsing the internet, students are able to find the information they were looking for, however, few did have a problem with it

-All the information they needed was there on the site

-Most of the students struggled with keeping track of time and other application process timeline.

-The potential opportunities were in improving the communication and helping students to keep track of the timeline

To further refine the research we implemented affinity clustering research method

Ideation: Proposed solution

One of the problems both students and the admissions office was the communication, the admission office was getting the same questions every year over and over again, and the student always did not find the answers to their specific questions, exploring through various technologies out there , we came across chatbot which we could design to solve that problem, which could also be integrated on the website.

While doing the parallel research on this we found that Boston based startup AdmitHub was developing chatbot apps for Georgia State University, ASU, West Texas A&M etc. We decided to pivot from and explore more problem areas from our research.


The solution is already being developed and been implemented by other companies, we decided to pivot from this in order to prevent from duplicating the efforts, however, the opportunity here lies in improving the user experience of the existing solution.

We decided to go with solving the pain points of students regarding the timeline and help students to keep track of their application process and create a personalized solution.


Our focus Area

Narrowing down our research, we decided to focus on the timeline problem students were facing ( we validated it by conducting the survey)

we sent the survey out to 22 students from the focused group and looked into what were the main problems student were facing.

Data from the survey

This approach helped us to validate some of our assumtions

Problem Statement

Students are facing difficulty in keeping track of their deadlines during their application process and some did not know the deadlines, finding the deadlines from the university is hard

Some Students have missed out the application process because of not able to keep track of deadlines.

Proposed Solution

A mobile app centered on application deadlines with the ability to sync with their personal calendar of the user’s choice.

I am Jamie brainstormed on the app flow and improving the navigation to help users keep track of application deadlines in an effective way.

App screen brainstorming
Me lost in sketching the wireframes

We sketched various wireframes and tested them out and finally finalized on the interface

Fail fast, iterate quickly,

Mapping The User Journey

we mapped out the user's journey to reach his/her goals in a most effective way, this helped us to improve the app flow.

Mapping out the user's Journey


After understanding the user journey and defining the features we sketched out a few concepts on the paper and finalized the app interface

Low Fidelity Wireframes

Mid Fidelity Wireframes

Took the sketches we made on the paper and made the mid fidelity wireframe

Mid-fidelity wireframes made in Sketch

High Fidelity prototypes

I quickly thought myself adobe XD and made the high fidelity wireframes and added the interactions to it to test the app flow.


Here is the screen recording

screen recording demonstrating the app interaction


In this project, we learned how to start with a problem area, do the observations, talk to people, implement the google sprint in order to define the problem statement and develop the solution around the defined problem.

Written by

John Rodrigues

M.S In User Experience and Interaction design| Industrial designer| B.E in Mechanical Engineering| | lead ambassador at


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