Design Challenge


    Key skills



    1 week
    (Feb 2020)
    Individual Project
    A new way for college students to seek answers to diverse problems
    What is I/U?
    I/U is a platform that enables students to access and share information and personalizes their experiences
    User Problems
    The current mentorship programs are less accessible because they scatter based on the topics. Furthermore, some students are not comfortable with the direct mentoring way of communication.
    How does I/U help?
    I/U serves as a one-stop platform for students to direct or indirectly exchange a wide range of contents through forums and a mentorship system


    WHY and HOW do students seek help from peers?


    Conducted a mixed-methods study to understand users expectations and the gaps

      Competitor Analysis

      5+ IU mentorship programs and 5+ off-campus mentorship programs

      Exemplar Collection

      Services that enable users to meet others or exchange ideas

      User Interviews

      7+ participants who vary in subject, gender, race, and mentorship experiences


      • Flows and mentorship schedule
      • Matching criteria 


      • Features
      • UI


      • User behaviors 
      • User needs
      • Pain points
      Read more about the interviews and the results
      Show less
      User Interviews

      Interviewed 7 students to figure out how students seek help or provide support

      I selected diverse participants to ensure a representative sample, including 6 students and 1 alumnus to understand their experience of asking/accessing information and participating in mentorship programs. I also hoped to figure out how students seek help or provide support.

      To ensure a representative sample, I selected diverse participants

      I made efforts to vary their subject, gender, race, and the mentorship expereicnes. Based on their mentorship experience and identity (mentee, mentor, or general student), I asked different questions. Here are the interview outlines:

      Sample Interview Questions

      I synthesized interview results and from 2 aspects: mentorship program and information accessibility

      Top Findings

      2 themes emerged after conducting an affinity analysis of the research data

      To solve concrete issues

      For example, how to use the course system is more easily answered by an online resource or another peer.

      To solve abstract issues

      Some issues such as student-parent responsibilities and career development are less accessible.

      Key insights about the 2 themes:


        Wants to know how to plan her future career as a student in an online program

        😥  Pain points

        • Participates in a structured mentor program but can’t match with a suitable one
        • Has no idea about how to start and end a mentorship


        Needs to search course selection rules and housing information

        😥  Pain points

        • It takes time to collect trivial information that is scattered everywhere
        • School policies are lengthy and hard to understand


        How might we make experienced students accessible for different topics?

        Learned from exemplars

        With the scenarios to the two personas in mind, I reviewed services either from the previous research or those mentioned by the interview participants and identified a few of them that exemplified my design goals. 

        Design Principles of the platform

        After understanding users and competitors, I summarized 3 principles to guide the following design.


          The platform should be easy to use, improving students’ efficiency in seeking information


          The platform will enable people with diverse needs to share/access information in the way they feel comfortable


          The platform helps people bond together

          Utilized information architecture to structure main functions

          I thought about more details to add to the interfaces. For example, I included channels and tags in the forum, which enable users to find the information they are interested in. Moreover, considering the pain points of structured mentorship programs, I enabled users to have a flexible duration and interaction type.

          Evaluated the different design with users

          I created 2-3 versions of a feature and quickly tested them. Therefore, I could make better decisions. Take the Forum as an example:

          Sketched out the ideas and created the low-fi prototypes

          I quickly drew down interfaces on paper to plan the user flow.  Next, I used Sketch to draw wireframes to present the main functions.

          User testing and iteration

          Peer Profile - Emphasize and prioritize the information that users care more about

          View 2 more iterations
          Show less

          Connection Request - Make the functions clearer

          Notification - Improve the visual elements

          Final Design

          Manage your profile to meet your needs

          The app recommends information and peers according to the account settings, such as Identity/Status and the topics here. It also allows users to unlink their profiles if they have concerns.

          When the problems are more concrete...

          The shares on the forum can help students with similar questions at once. Users can also access official school policies.

          When the problems are more abstract...

          Users can ask questions about complex issues such as student-parent or culture adaptation.

          Get started with a mentoring agreement!

          In the chat room, users can also set up a mentoring agreement. In this way, they can understand the goals and expectations of each other and agree on the length of the mentoring.


          What did I learn?

          If I had more time, I would ...


          Providing a more complete experience

          Either from the interviews or the exemplars, I noticed that some functions may be helpful for peers to connect, such as groups, group chat, or follow a peer. Moreover, some functions would make users efficiently manage the information, such as “My posts” or “follow a channel”. If the project continues, I’ll prioritize the functions and iterate my design.


          Leverage emerging technology to better the matching experience

          Users talked a lot about matching with suitable peers and mentioned diverse factors, including topics, motivation, interests, and languages. The platform could use machine learning algorithms to suggest ideal peers and identify the important factors of each user.


          Take content and privacy into consideration

          I/U is a user-generated content platform where people can share their experiences and information. As a result, there are some unique considerations, such as offensive content, bullying, or copyright. To prevent legal issues arising, I could add a "report" function and provide terms and policies.

          From this project, I learned...


          Balance research and design and be careful about time management

          I was requested to finish this project with deliverable within a week. Although I had planned a schedule at the beginning, it turned out hard to follow because I always wanted to do more and think more. In my past experience, I often act as a UX Researcher so I tend to generate a framework to explain users’ behavior and needs. However, a timeline is a vital thing to stick to especially at the workplace. I learned how to work more efficiently and move on when necessary.


          Learn the design trend 

          ​I appreciate this opportunity to study the app design trend, especially about color, typography, and spacing.  This project also allowed me to review my skill sets from scoping to making an interactive prototype. 

          🔆  I'm Ya-ching, a product designer with 2 years of work experience! Let's get to know each other!

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