A mobile app that helps undergraduate university students get the experience they need to be a successful graduate in their field.
This Capstone Project was one that came with a few notables in order to complete it within a 10-week timeframe.
InVision, POP, Sketch, Figma
Native app of choice, IOS
Time frame of 10 weeks from discover + research to handoff
The Design Process
The “Double Diamond” strategy helps bring structures to the problem-solution cycle, making it easier to define problem and identify solutions. I interviews some users and created user persona to understand understand the problem first and then create a problem statement to target the solution.
Discovering the Problem Space
After conducting a thorough secondary research plan, the following areas of the problem space in Canada’s post secondary system were discovered.
• Students are unprepared for post-graduation life, with record high debt, and a lack of job acquisition expertise (i.e. resume building)
To have students be aware of their work placement opportunities and strengthen their job acquisition skills
Validation Through Research
Noted below are some key findings for this problem space
“Students from 2009/10 still report at least 25% debt with 1 and 6 Canadians reporting bankruptcy.”
“More students are dropping out annually due to feeling academically unprepared along with
“Most Americans with student debt are young. But adults 60 and older — who either struggled to pay off their own loans or took on debt for their children or grandchildren — are the fastest-growing age cohort among student loan borrowers”
Market Current State
While elements of the proposed solution are found in other applications, such as those outlined to the side, there is no one application that targets students and streamlines all proposed services into one solution.
Mint App – Budgeting app, not specific for students/tuition
Banking Videos – Financial product (i.e. school loans) explanation videos provided by banks
University Apps – Directly correlates to the school at hand, but rarely, if ever, offers resume building, tuition breakdown, budgeting
Resume Building Websites – Teaches resume building and application skills
grantme.com – Informs students of scholarship opportunities
To prove my assumptions to be true or untrue
To understand a student’s pain points and view opportunities for a potential solution
To view if my hypothesis can be proven true or untrue
•Virtual User Interviews
•Recruitment Method- Network through connections and phone call
•Schedule of Interviews: Tuesday September 1, 2020; interviews
•Undergraduate student; ages 17-23
•Currently enrolled as a full
•Has completed a minimum of one full semester
•Can be interviewed via zoom or phone call
•Able to schedule 20-30 minutes for interview
All students interviewed met the research criteria and had expressed explicit pain points as a full time student attending a post secondary institution with feedback for their experience outside the classroom
There exist many areas of improvement for the student experience, ranging from unanswered finance questions to how to gain experience in their field.
Despite all the lack of knowledge, students still believe that university is the best way for them to achieve success.
How might we, help university students prepare for a career path after they graduate?
We can view the experience from touch points to emotions that our persona Zara would feel as she navigates through applying for a coop position with no additional resources from her institution.
Establishing Epics from User Stories
In order to establish what tasks a user like Zara would find the most value in for this app, user stories of what she would hope to accomplish were created. Once all possible options were noted, they were then grouped into categories called “Epics” to decipher between which choices would add the best value to her.
Identifying the Key Epic- Obtaining Professional Development Resources
It was made clear in our secondary research, interviews and user stories that two pain points someone like Zara were the frustration of understanding how to be successful in her career and what steps were available to her to help get her there.
This became the focal point to adhere to in the next phase of the design process and provided direction when going into the ideation phase.
Establishing A Core Task Flow
Now that the app had a task focus, the knowledge obtained from all research was then used to create a primary task flow.
This task flow demonstrates two different user stories from the Epic “Professional Development”: getting Online Resume resources, and Interview Feedback; the assumption that the student has already established a profile and has logged in to land on the co-op board page is in effect.
A Notable Pivot
The next step in the design process was to sketch out ideas and possible lo fi screens for the app. Techniques to quickly churn ideas were used to initiate the thought process such as “crazy eight’s” sketching. Once possible solutions were mapped out, a resume task flow was not going to be a sustainable task on an app. Therefore the task flow required an adjustment.
Sketches & Ideation
The next steps in the design process were to sketch out all possible ideas and to then create digital prototypes to test on users. After three rounds of testing and iterations after each round based on prioritized feedback with various users, the prototype was taken from a lo fi concept to a higher scaled mid fi in order to infuse branding with colors and illustrations.
Crazy 8 sketching for possible product ideas
Primary task flow for selecting a co-op
Version 1 to Version 2 Prototype
The most important take away from user testing round one, was the pivot the design’s tasks and identity of the app took.
The app was meant to educate students about financial literacy whilst simultaneously
assist with helping students track and manage coop experiences. This was identified as too broad and diluted the solution that the app could have focused on.
Crucial elements such as confusion with icons and the
navigation bar were the first symbols to be redesigned
Version 2 to Version 3 Prototype
As demonstrated in the images, a visual familiarity and a refined UI by Apple standards was taken into account for the next iteration.
Since the concept of the app with its tasks was now well received, with a 100% success rate, the next focus for this prototype was then to refine the UI elements.
All pages were grid aligned, all icons were resized to appropriately fitthe pages and cards they were placed on and upon request, all hotspots or navigation prompts were made larger, and clickable.
Visual Identity & Brand
Our first step was to gain inspiration for the feeling of this app. What did we want a user to experience? What did we want our app to say?
We took some out of the box methods in creating some inspiration and finding key areas of excitement and encouragement to draw from. If you look closely, some of the main areas of inspiration were taken from some childhood classics.
We want our app to be described as:
•And mostly, useful
Iteration to branding
Once the concept and direction had been decieded, it was time to start building a brand. The first step was to think of what was important within the communication of this app.
•What did we want this app to say?
•How did we want to ensure user’s felt when exploring it?
•What value can we add to an undergraduate student?
•What DON’T we want to include?
Defining the brand-more A than B
At this point of the iteration process, we did not want to be like any other app experience. We brainstormed the brand’s best values
WE WANT OUR APP TO BE
WE DON’T WANT OUR APP TO BE
•Less encouraging of individuality
•Less focused on current students
•Less seniority focused for jobs
Word Mark and Brand Naming
With all the inspiration and hues of purples and reds, we wanted to ensure our app brought a little magic to our students. Toying with names like “Abra-Cadabra”, “Cadabra”, “Abra”, “Pocus”, we finally found a name that would be simple, striking and carrying out our message to always have inspiration
The emerge of DABRA
Here from left to right, from initial sketches to iterations of a word mark, we ran with our new name.
UI Inspiration board
We also took to other apps with minimalistic layouts, such as wealth simple for an ease of onboarding in their process, as well as various card component designs from dribble to enhance our prototype to ideate a modern, minimalistic and inviting experience for a busy student.
Here we are going to start with app specific features that would ideally be great sources of inspiration and components to use within the app. The colors chosen are to strategically be placed throughout various components of the app. Ideally, accents of red and texts of purple will be demonstrated to continue the values of excitement.
Here is the continuation of the mood we are going for with Dabra, instead of a corporate blue, we want to take inspiration with an accent of red and purples, to continue the theme of creativity and whimsy.
Here, a huge inspiration for me was the foundational gaps students in their undergraduate degree face. Sometimes, they feel abandoned, like Zara, when she realizes she will need to gain experience on her own before she graduates
Now with a color palette, brand, and minimalistic focus in mind, we set out to create our hi fi prototype.
We designed it specifically for students like Zara in mind, who are frustrated and we wanted to be a great difference in a student’s experience compared to a platform like LinkedIn. Our aim is to be engaging, not corporate.
Once versions one and two of the marketing site for both mobile and desktop were sketched, they were tested on three users and iterated on each time from prioritized feedback received.
see the full screen here
Our first step in creating brand awareness with our product was extracting inspiration from our product, what elements we wanted to still communicate, and further challenging ourselves to find additional inspiration.
see Dabra marketing mood and UI board here
I don’t think this app would cause anyone to lose their job. If anything I think this digital solution would be an avenue for recruiters to focus on undergraduate candidates who are not treated as their own category.
I believe this product would replace LinkedIn for students searching for coop positions as this would be a tool that they can have personalized to them in order to tailor their job results to further develop their desired career path.
In a longer term of this product’s existence, I believe that this would be an industry disruptor for companies to create separate hiring policies and procedures specific to handling candidates in an undergraduate program
Tarrot Cards of Tech
Since an electronic ecosystem is a standard for users like Zara, the next design step would be to create Dabra’s experience on an iPad for her to be able to use during her commute to university or otherwise on the go.
Over a 10 week experience, I was able to learn and apply design principles from ideation to completed hi fidelity design prototyping. There were many key takeaways and lessons, along with the vast amount of knowledge and understandings I can reflect on. A few notable ones would be ;
“Embrace the ambiguity of the design process.”- Sometimes when there are assumptions and biases that are not discarded immediately, a viable solution won’t be able to emerge throughout the design process.
I also learned that design is about rationale, strategies and tools to help a creator navigate through steps so that they are able to better create for their users in mind. This has definitely expanded my way of thinking as well as inspired me to take the initiative to design and continue to iterate solutions that can help problem spaces I am passionate about.