Making the transition into York University smoother
January 18 - January 21, 2020
The large jump from high school or out-of-school into York University can be jarring, and hard to handle if you don't know where to start.
New students often struggle during the transition into York University. Either a high school student, or someone who has decided to go back into school, they often have trouble making new friends, connections, and dealing with the new responsibilities that come with University life.
A DESIGN CHALLENGE EMERGED...
How might we make the transition into university smoother by connecting new students with experienced students, while strengthening York University’s community?
YUConnect is an easy to use application that connects new students to experienced students, creating a mentee-mentor relationship. Tools within the app allow students to be matched with others of similar interests or in the same program(s), making it more likely for them to be compatible and thus a successful match up.
I began by brainstorming the possible pain points and needs of both mentees and mentors, then conducted a survey amongst friends to understand their needs.
I surveyed a total of 8 mentees, comprised of 2 senior students from different high schools and 6 in their first year at University. While doing so, I also surveyed 7 mentors from York University, all in different programs. This was comprised of 3 second year students, 3 fourth year students, and 1 fifth year student.
The questions I asked the mentees were:
Why do you want a mentor?
What gets in the way of you finding a mentor?
What concerns do you have regarding your mentor?
Anything else you want to mention?
Similar questions were asked of the mentors.
I took a look at apps and websites on the market that connect people with a shared motivation.
Some specific things I noted about each app were:
✓ Connected those who had questions to those with answers
✕ Did not create an ongoing relationship between the mentee and mentor
✓ Connected the user to people that fit their preferences, and had tools for making each profile more personal
✕ No limit to how much you could accept or reject people
✕ Dehumanizing, being able to look at an infinite amount of people promoted the wrong part of the application, which was creating a connection with people in the messages.
✓ Connected users
✓ Provided prompts to aid users in beginning the conversation
✕ No limit to how many people a user could "swipe" through, thus promoting the wrong part of the application.
After conducting market research and a competitive analysis, I identified key pain points for both mentees and mentors, then created user personas based on my research:
Students don’t have enough time to pursue a mentee or mentor relationship
Students don’t know where to get started
Students are too shy or are unable to meet in person
Students have a fear of clash in personalities
Students want a mentee or mentor specific to their program
Based on my research I planned out user flows, and used these to form my initial sketches. I made multiple iterations of the app and made changes along the way as I noticed things that could be improved upon.
For brand consistency, I first played with York University's red, but found that this didn't suit the fun, friendly interface needed. In the end, I decided to make the primary colour of the app purple, as it is a bright, fun colour, and is also associated with wisdom.
The typeface of choice was San Francisco Pro, as it is an IOS application, and most people with a smartphone will be able to recognize the typeface.
The logo is just "YUConnect". I altered a pre-existing font, rounding some corners and adding subtle visual elements to emphasize the "connect" part, and to give the logo a friendlier look.
Pluto's companion app is designed to enable owners to get an overall view of their pet's health. By tracking different aspects of their well-being, it allows Pluto to notify pet owners when abnormalities occur. Reports can also be downloaded to share with veterinarians.
Make meaningful connections
Let other students know how you communicate, and what you're looking for through your interests. YUConnect will take this, your program, and keywords in your bio to match you with mentors or mentees that share the same motivations, increasing the chances of you finding the help you need and creating a meaningful connection.
Connection with a human touch
Bios allow users to display their character to possible mentees or mentors, increasing chances of compatible personalities. For mentees who aren't sure of what they're looking for, or are too shy to engage a conversation, prompts aid them in sending a mentor request. Mentees are only shown 10 mentors a day, preventing dehumanization and getting mentees stuck in the dashboard when they should be in the messages.
As this was my first experience developing an app in such a short time span, I learned a lot within 4 days. Due to the time-sensitivity, I did not spend as much time designing the user interface as I did the user experience. Knowing the importance of user empathy, I spent more time getting to know the user from different perspectives, finding the core needs and pain points. Although this is the case, I was still unable to research as much as I would have hoped. If I were to do this again, I would try to include mature students in my survey, and a larger sample altogether. I would also liked to have done user-testing, and more in-depth competitive analysis. Application-wise, I would like to add more features, and tweaks in general, such as:
An endorsement feature for mentees, instead of only mentors
Badges that mentees and mentors earn according to how many endorsements they receive
Links to each students social media (if they are willing to share), to aid in creating a stronger York community
A "Top 3 Tips" section on mentor profiles, so even if mentees don't match with the mentor, they still have the chance to take away something from each profile
A way for mentors and mentees to indicate how often they are willing to meet in person, if they choose the "in person communication" option
Overall, I am satisfied with the final product. The app addresses all pain points I found in my research, and does so in a way that makes it an easy and delightful experience. Although there are many ways it can be improved upon, I am content with the outcome.
It's important to spend the proper time doing user research. If you don't have adequate research and insights, the design will be lacking.