Sketch / Invision
As fewer and fewer high school students are choosing to pursue a college degree directly after graduation, direct employment or training are an increasingly common path for who are known as “alternative path” students. With 40% of high school graduates unemployed right out of high school there is no popular platform today helping teenagers in their transition to adulthood. Yolobe would like to change that. Yolobe defined themselves as “LinkedIn for students” and came to us with an idea and an app prototype.
To design an app that had a fun, youthful way to connect users to organizations that could help them success, and reach as many young people as possible.
Explore and Learn
An early-on whiteboarding session taught us several key insights as to the expectations of the client. This helped open up a free-flowing dialogue and level of comfort between the team and the client and got the wheels turning before sitting down to work out a plan of attack aka research plan.
In starting our research we had assumptions and overall research questions, which guided our interview questions and research methods. The research focused on graduation rates, social media usage, and teen motivators.
- What are the social media habits of teens?
- How are teens going about finding employment or trainings or a degree?
- How are teens figuring out what to do after high school?
- Will teens use an app to find career opportunities?
- What are “alternative track” or “opportunity student” teens perceptions of themselves?
- How do teens define success in life?
- When are teens emotions positively and negatively affected?
There was a gap in the market for a platform to help a user in a variety of areas from career assessment to support, path help, job search, resume and applications. This told us filling these gaps with one app could be successful at attracting and maintaining users and get real results.
The client connected the team with two subject matter experts, and two groups of users. The first group was students in the Lawrence Hall program and the second, John F. Kennedy high school students enrolled in the Career and Technical Education program for Chicago Public Schools. The goal of the interviews was to gain insights that would contribute to finding the answers to our research objectives.
Subject matter experts
- Many job opportunities available to students are going unfilled due to a lack of applicants.
- Students aren’t checking their school emails, where often applications are sent.
- A messaging and professional network app that facilitates communication between current and former students and networks available for career help would greatly improve post graduation employment rates
- To feel motivated by others, young people need to feel like they are part of a community, have a sense of consistency and trust, and feel respected, like their opinion matters.
- The Lawrence Hall program helps teenagers create resumes, prepare for interviews, understand how to behave in the workplace, and help with their self-esteem - the program shows a very high job placement success rate
- Lawrence Hall students give positive feedback after going through the program
- The Lawrence Hall program has a high net promoter score
- The Lawrence Hall students have lifestyle goals in the far future without a plan or an understanding of how to achieve what they want.
- The students from the public high school have very tangible education or job goals and put in a lot of work to ensure success.
- Both sets of students want a career, to attend a school, or have a lifestyle that was similar to or recommended by someone they knew.
- The students are heavily affected by the exposure they have, or don’t have, to specific circles of people.
A rewarding addition to the access we have to the school during the project was the ability to open a window into our field and share our knowledge with so many young people at John F. Kennedy. I helped the team facilitate a workshop with the students. We first spoke with the students about the UX field and next held an affinity diagramming workshop. This workshop helped with our research to gather insights about our users and gave a hands-on approach to educating students about UX.
Responses during interviews were analyzed and arranged into an affinity diagram to identify patterns and trends about who we would be designing for, what their needs were, and how to create an effective tool to solve those needs. Our affinity diagramming allowed us to uncover empathy tools in the form of proto-personas we could keep coming back to, as a guide to keep our design one that is serving the users.
Empathy tool development
Based on our findings during affinity diagramming we identified a specific problem statement that would guide our design principles, making a framework for our concept design.
Although there are resources available to help high school graduates in moving forward with their careers, there is not an effective way of facilitating communication between the two. Current students as well as graduates are aware of available resources while in school, but most students aren’t utilizing them because relevant information is not being communicated through relevant channels.
Coming out of ideation I had a concept revolving around enabling users to select their desired future outcome and then visualizing the steps in that path. Users could then interact within the app to accomplish the steps necessary to achieve their goals. The goal of the visual path concept was to empower and encourage users to pursue something and not only have a better understanding of what to do but feel like it’s possible; and through our application, the path would feel manageable. Two more concepts were chosen among the team and the next step was to take concepts into concept validation testing.
We tested on-site at John F. Kennedy using paper prototypes with the goal to understand what concept was most desired, which features were well-received, and room for improvement in our flows and designs. In correlation with one concept focused on a career quiz, students were prompted to go through an existing career quiz while being asked questions, observed, and using the think-aloud method. Furthermore we ask what kind of information users would want to know during career exploration.
Concept validation insights
- Students want the capability to quickly see a visualization and support of an achievable path
- Students value personalization and suggestion
- Students want career exploration
- Users want to feel they're able to use the app quickly
TEST AND ITERATE
Based on feedback from testing and keeping initial research and client concerns in mind we moved forward with the path concept, incorporating elements of a career quiz and career exploration. The newly evolved concept was sketched and developed into a clickable prototype to show to the clients and test.
A Site map is developed taking three main perspectives under consideration: previous research synthesis, client feedback during the second presentation, and the outcome of a UX professional consultation with a resource available to us.
Converging the concepts proved to be challenging and it was quickly realized we had too many options for users to move around in the app. There were also barriers to getting the user in the app as certain steps had to be taken before the user could take advantage of the opportunities provided.
We went back to the whiteboard and worked out a new flow. The app ends up trimmed down and streamlined. Interest choices were eliminated, and career suggestions would be based solely on quiz results, or by entering a career name.
We made our third visit to John F. Kennedy high school to get the prototype in front of our target audience. Testing strongly suggested needs for clear, friendly, and guide-centered interactions.
In response we carefully iterated with changes tailored to addressing the usability issues and user feedback we saw in testing without disrupting what was already working about the mobile application.
Product Lifeline Recommendations
- Conduct further research into most effective copy for the target user to relate to and understand
- Find ways to increase feeling of mentorship for users
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Getting stakeholders on board often and early with simple, direct communication establishes an open channel of communication. Whiteboarding up front with the client created a communication style and trust between us that carried through the life of the project.
Get your hands dirty
Going on-site for interviews and tests enables the interviewees and users to be more comfortable and open during tests and interviews. It was important to see how users were interacting with our product in their natural environment.