Designing an experience that strengthens the Tufts community by allowing more experienced students to connect with new students.
Interaction Design, User Experience, Visual Design
Tufts wants to strengthen the community by encouraging students to connect with new students and help them adjust to campus life. Design an experience that allows mentors and mentees to discover each other.
I was motivated to design Cobalt because recently, a few freshmen and sophomores have reached out to me to ask me about my experiences in product and interaction design. However, the current process for underclassmen to discover upperclassmen with similar career and academic interests is highly fragmented and unintuitive.
What are underclassmen struggling with? How do underclassmen currently seek help when they have career-related, school-related, and social-related questions? Are there existing cases of mentorship around campus? What will motivate an upperclassmen to become a mentor?
To gain insight into these questions, I decided to speak to two groups of target users: upperclassmen, especially those who have been involved in ambassador or tutor programs, and underclassmen, to identify the core questions that they need help and guidance with.
"...it was a way for me to give back to the community because I liked my experience so much."
"I give them advice based on my experience because I remember being lost back when I was an underclassman."
"What are careers for IR and history majors that aren't just consulting or law?"
"It make sense to seek for advices in fields I don't understand that well (such as searching for internships and what classes to take)."
Underclassmen struggle most with career-related and class-related questions.
There were two key takeaways from the user research: first, underclassmen struggle the most with career-related and school-related questions, followed by social-related questions. Second, upperclassmen are more likely to reach out to underclassmen who are from the same geographical area, and visa versa.
After synthesizing the user interviews, I wanted to research existing platforms that are either widely used by Tufts students or support mentor-mentee interactions outside of the Tufts community.
Analyzing and referencing these existing services and products allowed me to develop a new visual system and a set of key interactions for Cobalt.
Inspiration - th-oughts, Tufts Polyhack, cofolios
Create a responsive web application that allows mentors and mentees to discover each other within the Tufts community.
Utilizing two distinct color schemes enabled a visual system that separates the mentor experience from the mentee experience.
The usage of overlapping semi-transparent circles conveys a sense of intersection, as well as the coming together of different individuals within a community.
One of the first steps in my prototyping process for Cobalt was to determine the set of information that would displayed on a mentor profile; in particular, it was important to distinguish the required information from the optional information.
This process allowed me to design an onboarding experience for mentors, in which all of the necessary information would be inputted. Based on user research, where the mentor attended high school is an important piece of information as it would allow mentees to sort the list of mentors based on a geographical location that is relevant to them.
After the information architecture of a mentor profile was established, I went on to create prototypes for the mentor discovery experience. This is where mentees can browse the list of mentors on Cobalt, based on attributes like name, year, major, where the mentor attended high school, extracurricular activities, and past work experience.
The basic information of a mentor is captured within a single card, and opening a card would reveal more information about the mentor. A message form is also located within the expanded view, in which the mentee can write a message to the mentor.
Since there are many communication channels between students within the Tufts community, I decided to leverage existing communication methods instead of creating a new messaging system. Once a mentee reaches out to a mentor within Cobalt, the mentor would receive an email containing the mentee's message. A reply will then be sent to the mentee's Tufts email address (mentor and mentee accounts are registered via a Tufts login verification system).
Going forward, I would want to further elaborate upon the search interaction within the discovery experience, and to iterate on my existing designs through usability testing.
Without guidance and without a support system, it is easy to feel lost within the college experience. This design exercise has taught me that with the right tools, students have the potential to create more meaningful and enduring relationships with one another.