Redesigning Pleasanton Tutoring’s Mobile App
Pleasanton Tutoring Inc is a private tutoring company in Pleasanton, California. They are the top-rated tutoring company for the area and have won numerous awards for the quality of their tutoring and customer service. They serve over 500 students and manage 45 tutors with only two full-time employees.
Their current app is a dated WordPress SPA that is reaching the limits of its extensibility.
My Role: UX Designer
Tools & Methods: User Research, Testing, Wireframing and Prototyping
I began with researching how the principle employee uses the app on a daily basis with in-person observation, extensive interviews and recording screencasts of her using the app. From that research I identified three key opportunities for improvement and sketched some wireframes of possible solutions. After the initial sketches I created interface mockups based on the Ionic framework and then created some user flows with InVision based on those mockups.
The current app may be dated but it does keep a very successful business up and running, and with a limited development budget the project scope will only encompass the most essential features that improve client’s experience.
From the beginning of this project I knew that the developer’s preferred framework for the next app would likely be Ionic. By favoring convention over customization this framework allows a small development team to create a powerful app in a relatively short amount of time.
Who are the users?
The current app has three categories of users:
The Client is the person paying for the tutoring and is usually the parent of the Student actually receiving the tutoring. Tutors work for Pleasanton Tutoring as independent contractors and manage their own schedules and client roster. “Employees” in this case is usually just one person who manages the daily flow of business and matches clients with their ideal tutor.
The current app has three permissions-based versions — one for each user category — with each version having varying levels of permission and functionality.
What are their goals?
The client’s goal is to improve their student’s understanding and test scores by getting the best tutor for their student. They need to the view and modify their schedule, pay their bill and purchase additional tutoring packages or classes when needed.
The tutor’s goal is to integrate tutoring into their lives as seamlessly as possible. Most tutors are full-time students or have other jobs outside of tutoring. They need to manage their schedule, approve new clients and track their student’s progress.
The employee’s goal is to match clients with the best possible tutor for their student. They need to be able to quickly look up client and tutor information, match clients to tutors, manage accounts, link tutors to clients and add new clients.
Since the employee uses the app more than anyone else I started my research with her.
I began with observing her using the app to complete various tasks as they arose in the course of her normal work day. This also included recording screencasts of her using the app. I then conducted several extensive interviews and then had all account types setup for myself to test and explore.
This is a critical part of the process since it allowed me to grasp how Pleasanton Tutoring’s business actually works and how they serve their clients.
From all the design issues I discovered in my research I chose three that could be resolved within the development team’s time and budget constraints while having the greatest impact on improving the user experience for their clients.
1. The UI and navigation is dated and ‘click-heavy’
This is the most obvious shortcoming of the current app. There is no Home button so every screen has to ‘backed out of’ to return to the home screen and every task must be initiated from that home screen.
2. There is no client-completed onboarding
The employee currently signs up each client over the phone using the app. This greatly affects the amount of time the employee spends in the app and on the phone since Pleasanton Tutoring signs up multiple new clients per day.
3. No App Tutorial
Currently clients just get access to the app and then learn how to use it themselves. The current app is simple so this isn’t a critical issue now, but with a major app redesign it will become far more important to include an introduction to the app and how it works especially for existing users.
I always begin with pen, paper and sticky notes.
I like to write out as many “WHYs” as possible in the beginning and put them on sticky notes up on a wall. I like to begin asking WHY because it encompasses the broadest assumptions made by a business — not just those about its app or users.
Why is the employee signing up clients? Why do clients come to Pleasanton Tutoring? Why does the employee link clients with tutors?
As I think of any specific feature, solution, or process idea I write them on sticky notes and put them up as well. I organize these into broad categories or themes as I work. I like to get as many ideas out of my head and onto sticky notes so they don’t distract me during the next step in the design process.
I then start sketching on paper to explore random ideas. I reference other apps and websites as I sketch to keep from getting tunnel vision about solutions.
After I feel like there is a solid direction I then move over to wireframes with Sketch or InVision.
Anytime I feel like the design isn’t moving forward or the process is becoming detached from the user’s needs I bounce back to the beginning of this process and reevaluate.
Issue 1. UI and Navigation
The Ionic framework allows for almost any standard mobile navigation convention. After consolidating client tasks and goals I decided on a simple tab bar navigation without a hamburger menu. All of the mockups below are built using standard Ionic UI components.
Issue 2. Onboarding
Moving to client-completed onboarding required restructuring the current onboarding process from a one page mega-form intended for use by an employee to a multi-page form with a clear sense of completion for each section.
Issue 3. Tutorial Slides
I see this as crucial component of easing the users into a new app. During this tutorial the app’s intended use can be explained and some expectations can be set on how the business works.
To test out client-completed onboarding a preliminary test using the current back end setup was implemented through Pleasanton Tutoring’s website. Even in beta this process has already reduced client call time by over 30%. This has allowed both clients and employees to focus on their shared goal of getting the best possible tutor for students.