My roles: Product Designer, UX Researcher, UX Strategist, Visual Designer
As the Lead Designer on this side project, it was my responsibility to determine and define the user, opportunities surrounding the problem, help define the business goals, work alongside my design mentee and guide them through the process, create and test prototypes with users, synthesize that feedback, establish the style guide and visual designs. This was done alongside the client, a small team of engineers and a junior designer I was mentoring.
Currently, college students looking to build connections or get mentorship go through a career center with their university if they want to connect with alumni. This is often an inefficient, time consuming process and the matching process is often poor in making the right connections. Students also do not have clear insight into who is available in terms of mentoring, what they’re offering and how to book a meeting with them.
AlumCoffee seeks to address this by creating a place of connections for mentors and mentees associated with specific universities and industries.
We determined that there were 3 potential users here: the university, the mentor (alum) and mentee (student). However, the relationship between the university and the product is going to be facilitated manually for MVP so we are focusing primarily on the mentor and the mentee at this time.
The client had already conducted a good bit of research surrounding the user and the problem space so we were able to take that and use it to begin building personas as well as move into ideation and solution validation.
Creating user flows
The client originally had outlined simple task flows for each of the primary users (original flow below). They were a great start for collaboration and unifying the team on possible paths for these key groups. I wanted to help connect the flows though and explore possible overlap so I iterated on it (iterated flow below) and then shared with the team to discuss and get feedback. Both were created in Whimsical and alongside my design mentee who I also collaborated with frequently throughout the project to offer guidance and answer questions.
One key area of exploration we discovered early on would be the facilitation of the connection between the mentee and mentor. How might we help mentees to find the right mentor for them?
Discovery started initially with the client driving some of the design ideation. I took his original designs and iterated on them, seeking ways to address both business and usability opportunities. Designs were weekly (at least) reviewed by the entire team (myself, design mentee, client, three engineers) and feedback was regularly considered, requested.
I led interviews with 6 mentees and 2 mentors, collecting great insights about needs on both sides. My mentee and the client also attended these sessions and my mentee pulled insights from the experience into an affinity diagram which we both reviewed and categorized together.
Some key insights we learned through this experience:
- some students were concerned about how to initiate the conversation with mentors, they weren’t sure what to say, ask or where to start
- mentors expressed that getting feedback about the value they provided was essential. They were already working full time and doing this as a way to give back. If they weren’t providing value, it was perceived as not being worth the extra effort
- nearly all students expressed that they would prefer to either “ghost” on a mentor or report an experience that went poorly rather than share that feedback
- students want the ability to locate mentors not just by university but by industry and location (in the event a meeting in person was possible)
For the visual design, I wanted something that felt light, bright and youthful, but also professional and timeless. Initially I intended to go with photo imagery to provide a personal, human touch but decided to go with illustrations to add youthful appeal and a clean, modern and minimalist design.
I am working with my mentee on a style guide and next steps will be exploring the university’s side of the project as well as potentially administrative UI.
Holly Reynolds is Product Designer who occasionally relaxes by baking, knitting or reading for hours. Problem solving, crafting great experiences, travel and chocolate are some of her other passions. She lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband and two hairy German Shepherd rescues.