"The BAS program was a great experience. I've grown a lot as a designer and really enjoyed our cohort."
Robert is a seasoned mechanical designer with 15 years of experience but is transitioning to User Experience Design. One of his intuitive qualities from early in his career was working with others to ensure his designs were easy to make and implement after finding the plans had pain points. His desire for self-motivated continuous improvement through iterative design lead him to pursue a design degree to get a job in UX Design. During the BASD program at LWTECH, he enjoyed all the design aspects taught and spent his spare time reading books to further his understanding of the UX process and disciplines. Robert found that he enjoys creativity mixed with systematized approaches to making better products for users. During the last two years, he’s found a passion for a career he knows he’ll enjoy and excel at.
A UX RESEARCH & DESIGN PROJECT FOR A MENTORING APP
I pursued an idea that could help people find mentorship through a phone app. During the pandemic, I've seen photographers who do in-person workshops turn their focus to online one-on-one sessions to make ends meet. Online education is also growing, and companies like Creative Live and Skill Share already offer a curated learning experience. However, there isn't a good mentorship platform for one-on-one training in the Apple App Store. I wanted to make something to connect people, offer affordable options for people to pay for services, for people to earn additional income, and create a community. The experience should be easy, fun, and engaging for people to want to come back. Due to time constraints, I made a list of future releases, and online workshops, seminars, and mixed reality are on that list. Last, this needs to be a profitable business that doesn't survive on ad revenue alone, so the conceptual company would take a small percentage of earnings to keep the platform running.
I learned that design isn't the final product but the road you take to release a product that you often continue to iterate on. So I wanted to use the skills and tools I've learned to develop a good design, a product people will want to use. This is why my ultimate goal was to document my process in a case study to show potential employers of my design methodologies.
My research started when I began to vet my project. I used SWOT analysis to find my competition's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. With SWOT, I discovered that there wasn't a good product in the Apple App Store for mentoring. I also conducted a same, near, and far diagram to find companies doing the same thing, similar, and completely different. I discovered that there's still an opportunity for this conceptual business. Next, I conducted a thirty-three-person survey to determine what people do for work and hobbies, if they want help with these activities and if they would pay for it. Around half of the surveys came back, and they wanted help and would pay for it. This insight leads me to know there's a vast range of people to cater to, and people are willing to invest money to educate and grow themselves. Armed with a KWHL diagram (what do I know, what do I want to know, how do I find out, and what have I learned), I had research that I knew and research I needed to conduct. I did five qualitative interviews and came back with a vast host of new insights from these interviews, like this app should not be a social media platform. With the research complete, I compiled and organized an affinity diagram to help manage the direction of the design.
Based on the research, I developed an empathy map and three personas to define a small segment of the audience. Next, I created an ecosystem map to help me wrap my head around an entirely new platform with all the functionality required. This ecosystem map helped define the user story map. The user story map was a considerable undertaking detailing all the interactions throughout the platform. The next step was to break the user story map into a most viable product, which helps schedule design releases. For my phase one MVP, I focused on what I could reasonably accomplish for the capstone project and still get my product concept across to people who had never seen the app. Information architecture was also created; however, this should have come before the user story map in hindsight. Finally, I wanted to define a visual identity for the platform before I began sketching, so I created a pattern language table to help identify the look and feel through visual logic and experience. Sketching consisted of doing ten crazy eight sketches and creating eight ideas in eight minutes. This process enabled me to develop many ideas and piece together the best parts. With sketches in hand, wireframes were developed in Figma and ran through Maze to do user testing. Errors were found, fixed, and then the name, color pallet, and images were implemented. The second round of testing was conducted through Maze, and I discovered that there are still issues with the usability, but three people who left quotes liked the concept, and one person wrote, "Yes, I could've used something like this when I was first starting college. I like that the tutors/teachers on this app have specific specialties, such as design and branding." This leads me to believe that this could be a good product with further research and refinement, but it also just made me feel good to know I designed something people like.
My final deliverable for this project is a Figma high fidelity prototype. The Figma hi-fi has 32 frames, and each frame flows to the next. I intended to make a prototype that people could test from start to finish and get a good sense of what the conceptual app is all about. I think the most significant area that could be improved is the home frame, and I feel it lacks interaction and should be the center point for the whole app and act as a dashboard. There are other areas to tweak and improve, but I’m overall pleased with the final product.
This project was a lot of work, but I loved it. I like the idea of a mentoring platform, and the project vetting got me excited about the possibilities of this design challenge. I feel I exceeded my goals of applying the knowledge I gained over the past two years. The research portion excited me about the possibilities, and then tested those ideas during qualitative interviews. Initially, the design process was intense, and I found the ecosystem map invaluable in laying out the system. The user story map was also a critical tool during the design process to lay out everything and then widdle down what was realistic with the time I had. There were some moments when I realized I didn't necessarily need an empathy map, or I should have done the information architecture before the user story map. These minor errors are just a good experience for the future, though, and I'm happy I found these mistakes. Sketches drove the Figma designs, and I'm pretty pleased with how they came out. User testing with Maze was significant, and I got actual results that I could apply to improve my design. User testing also yielded good quotes about how testers enjoyed the app and would use it if it was an actual product. If I were to continue developing this product, I would keep testing and refining what I have now. I would want an excellent design based on user feedback. After the current frames are locked in, I'd like to expand on the remainder of the most viable product backlog.