THE NO-STRESS FRESH
The No-Stress Fresh is an initiative and website/mobile experience that better connects freshman with their university’s resources to help them achieve and manage their academic + personal goals. Thus, creating an opportunity to build a community between students, as well as a stronger bond to the university. My initiative addresses student user’s pain points by centralizing essential class information and university resources into one place.
Role: UX Researcher & Designer
Time Period: 1 Week
Tools: Figma, Miro, Xtensio, StoryBoardThat, Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, Paper & Pencil
BACKGROUND + DATA COLLECTION
I have experience as an administrator working in higher-ed/at a university. I work directly with students, faculty, staff, etc. across the board and have connections to those whose duties deal with ensuring the success of incoming freshman and transfer students.
I was passionate about this project, as we were all freshman or in a similar transition period once and have all been that awkward/fumbling new person just trying to fit themselves in. I still have distinct memories of agonizing over my class schedule and having to hike a mile across campus from my calculus class to my biology discussion session in 9 minutes.
Experiences like those have not changed much from generation to generation. In fact, it may be more difficult because of all the resources thrown at at students and they don’t know how or when to use them.
At the end of the day, we just want to feel like we belong. Whether that be academically, socially, or personally. We want to be confident in the decisions we make, because that means we believe in ourselves.
Method of Collection: Email
Why? For the the university's Faculty/Staff: they don’t want to click a survey link in an email because it’ll make them weary (esp. if we are not as familiar with each other) of some third-party website.
Already get so many surveys from UT in general. Have to explain the data collection, which seems too formal/inappropriate for the occasion.
Familiar with most of them and email is our main method of correspondence anyways- already on their email during the workday and it is quick, easy, and informal for them to reply. Will do email over phone call.
For Friends: I am familiar with most of them and have their emails is our main method of correspondence anyways. It is quick, easy, and informal for them to reply (most of them already have an email app on their phone).
Easier collection: email template, copy + paste, had all the emails handy/easily accessible, can easily document + sav
Who? 8 Faculty Members/Area Chairs; 17 Staff, 5 previous acquaintances from college.
Age Range: 20s-60s.
Why: Wide range of experiences and expertise: advisors, leaders of student success initiatives + new student services, administrators, front office workers, curriculum/registration coordinators, and real-life recounts of experiences of former freshmen.
What I wanted to focus on:
"Networking/socializing" - especially in the conditions of a pandemic. It is essential in staying positive and motivated. Deep connections -> priceless. You rely on your peers/collective sense of “we’re all going through the same thing”
"Need a lot of academic guidance"- for many freshman, this is their first time on their own without their parents. As awesome as that autonomy and freedom feels- you remember that you are there for a reason besides partying. There’s a lot of pressure to make most of your time there. It flies by and by the end of 4 years not only do feel like you should have a career; you should’ve spent most of those years working your way up. Ex. Taking the right courses, meeting the right professors in order to achieve that. It is not just a piece of paper in your hand, that diploma- it’s symbolic.
"Other lifestyle pressures" - you have to worry about eating. You have to forage for food across these acre of unfamiliar land and then make it time for class. If you’re lucky, there might be a bus system in place but anyone who’s taken public transportation knows that it’s not always the most reliable and you just have to work with it.
Freshman have a lot of trust to give and they want to make sure it’s in the right hands. Very little wiggle room when you’re on a degree plan and most students will try and find out from their friends who is the best teacher, who’s the easy A, who’s the most fun or engaging. You can take the class who’s subject matter you’re completely in love with it, but if it’s not from a competent teacher. The semester is going to be rough for you. Not only with grades but your own motivation.
WHO IS OUR USER?
INITIAL CONSIDERATIONS + GOALS + USER PERSONA + EMPATHY MAP + USER NEED STATEMENT + STORYBOARD
Questions to Consider + Answers
Who/what are the different types of users? Freshman students
Who/what are the clients/stakeholders? Universities + colleges- they want and need their students to succeed, as they make up the literal backbone of the college. We also cannot forget it’s finances (they’re a business too and rely on tuition money). And, on a smaller scale: parents (their money and time).
What is the user trying to do?
Get oriented to be successful in their academic and social endeavors.
Choose courses that are well regarded and align with their interests.
Simultaneously navigate school and personal (on a day-to-day).
Make the best out of their surroundings/new environment.
What are some assumptions of their behaviors & problems? Stressed, Confused, Homesick/missing deeper connections, Overload of information, Too scared to ask for help, combined with who they should ask (don’t know anyone too well), Not having enough time/time management, “How will this help or hurt my experience as a student here and beyond that, my career?”
These questions and their answers will lead to goals and opportunities.
Goals and Opportunities + Answers
What are the benefits/services we should provide?
Straight-forward Course Schedule Search.
Class/Professor rating based on CIS reports (connected to the CIS system) to keep it professional, quantitative, and 100% accurate at all times.
Track degree plan in real time: ex. “___ out of ___ credits” checkpoints (ex. this counts as ___ credits towards your degree, etc.) aligned with the inputted major (connected to the degree plan system) to help them plan ahead.
Map: shows class location as well as landmarks of food, bathrooms, home, bus stops/info. Expandable bubble that shows their proximity in minutes/mile and real-time reviews – like Wayze/awarded stars. Maps a highlight route that reveals street names/direction signalsAdvisor pop-up chatbox (connected to what major you input) and can share screen.
How would this benefit the user? Condensing everything into one “daily” snapshot- it makes everything more manageable.
What metrics are we trying to change? Rates of Student dropping out of/failing classes, cutting down on the # of students who are suffering with their mental health...and following that: increasing the rates at which students as for help, increasing the # of students who use the bus.
What does success look like for the user? Not having to waste their time feeling stress or anxious about things resources should be readily available, easy to use, and easily shared. If a student wants to see if a class fits their degree plan and the teacher is right fit for them, they should be able to get that basic information and be able to juxtapose that with their personal life aka being able to make it on time bc it’s not way across the end of campus or that they’re hungry because they couldn’t find/plan for breakfast along the way.
What does success look like for the business? University gets to collect user data on the backend = get higher ratings, higher enrollment, building that collective campus mindset + school pride that can take years to build. If you take away the shiny football field or the pretty renovations, university is there to serve its students and set them up for success.
By answering these addressing the goals + opportunities at head, the answers lead to a successful design.
Meet Greyson Burton: an average 18-year-old freshman. He is far away from home for the first time and on a scholarship. Already 3 different things and life changes to worry about.
He is extremely introverted, self analyzing, every move he makes is calculated, and he needs to know what the next day is going to look like...and the next 4 years.
To be successful in his major and be able to meet professors that will really serve as his mentor and set him up for success beyond college.
Efficiently use time in between classes with a full scheduled, required by his renowned scholarship.
He hates conflicting information and just wants a straight answer/not have to jump through hoops- just doesn’t have the time.
As much as he is confident about his passion for CompSci- he is not as confident in his ability to ask for help. Most of his life, he’s been enable to to figure it out himself but he’s in a completely different environment than what he’s used to- often doing many things for the first time.
How this helped: really took me back and allowed me to reeopen and reevaluate the pressures of being a freshman. And how, in that year of your life, there’s so many things you have to juggle. And this really allowed me to understand the reasonings behind his behaviors- his motivations. His fears. Understanding this, really set me up to create a design that would potentially help him in each one of those subjects.
This helped to set-up the “scene”, as well as cover all the questions and concerns that may come up during his day-to-day instead of a broader picture of “I don’t know what classes to take” or “I don’t know what classes to take, because there's two different Comp Sci degree plans that sound very similar. I don’t want to ask the professor or advisor or my peers in fear of sounding stupid or unprepared”
Hear, think/feel, see, say/do all play a heavy influence in making up those pains and gains. By understanding and breaking down all those qualities you are indirectly yet directly addressing those pains and gains.
User Need Statement
A freshman, who feels overwhelmed about making the right choices at a new school, needs to find a manageable school/life balance, but faces too many sources of information and not enough support to make a decision they’re confident about.
1) a user, 2) a need, and 3) obstacle -> goal
Why It's Important:
It defines what you want to solve before you move on to generating potential solutions, in order to: 1) condense your perspectives on the problem, and 2) provide a metric for success to be used throughout the design thinking process.
Captures what we want to achieve with our design, not how.
Help advance our presumptive solutions towards deeper insights about the problem that the user needs to solve.
Meet Greyson: Greyson is a freshman CompSci major. He has his first class today with a professor he couldn't find any reviews on. He is eager to start his college experience, as he is away from his family/hometown he has spent his entire life with. He is determined to find a way to enjoy himself while doing well in school to maintain his scholarship and leaves for class.
Greyson realizes that he is in the wrong class...with a very aggressive teacher. Somehow he got the course numbers mixed up and chose one that was under a degree plan with a similar sounding, but very different major.
Greyson feels like he's going to have a nervous breakdown. Not only did he mess up with his first class he: doesn't have the time/money to take a class that doesn't count towards his major; needs to find a way to get a quick dinner; worries about his parents finding out about his mistake, and wishes he had friends he could lean on and ask for advice.
Greyson sees a poster out of the corner of his eye promoting an initiative called "The No-Stress Fresh App". He downloads it and begins using it by inputting his major and current location. A pop-up chat screen even pings him to let him know an advisor was available to chat.
Greyson has a moment of success: within seconds, he has managed to not only pick and enroll in the correct class (with confidence, since the online advisor AND checklist confirmed it for him), but has also found a popular, nearby grab-n-go cafe! The app mapped the bus routes he needed to take to the cafe and to the correct class.
Greyson is nervous: he has never used a public transportation system before. The app pings again, notifying him that a student group called "Sure Walk" is nearby. Wiithin seconds, a friendly student locates him, asking if he needs help. They walk to the stop, striking a friendly conversation on the way and Greyson starts to feel more hopeful about his experience here.
Introduction shows his frustrations all at once; his solution; and a glimpse of a hopeful end/what his experience could be like in the future.
KEY FEATURES + DECISION/USER FLOW + PROTOTYPING + ITERATIONS
Course schedule database linked to verify degree plan + progress
Course ratings linked to official university instructor survey system
Virtual chat w/ advisor in Real time
Map filters to pinpoint your needs
Location tracking services utilized for university resource identification, suggestions, and directions
Decision/User Flow Diagram
What steps the user must make/needs to happen to fulfill their goal?
Landing Page: Home base you can return to
Log-In/Register: If you’re a new user: insert your full name, student ID (links everything together), and your desired/selected major
Allow phone to use location: Opens up via phone settings
Course Selection: Choose from drop-down if you’re not sure OR input a course #
Course Info/”Daily Snapshot” Screen: Option to change your major or input a course # again)
View advisor chat bubble or proximity map
Choose Map filters
Select + view Map routes
Low Fidelity Prototyping/Wireframing
Serves as an overview of all the screens/flow involved in the path of looking up and selecting a class and mapping its surroundings (showing how the class fits into your day-to-day social/personal/academic goals).
Relaxing quote is something that you can see and just take a deep breath, relax a little.
Logo is clean/simple/minimal/neutral colors.
Warm + inviting.
Login options if you’re an existing user.
Click on "+" sign to expand.
Similar functions as before, except you’re inputting your full name, ID #, password, and desired/current major.
Press "+" sign to expand and each option will gray out as you move to the next or flash red if you didn’t put complete answer (prevents you from moving on).
Shows as a pop-up with grayed out background.
Course Find + Selection (“Daily Snapshot”) Page:
Personal greeting; profile pic; generated daily words of affirmation.
Course drop-down or type-in field.
see advisor’s chat bubble at all times or minimize/exit ourt of it
Course Information Page:
Shows degree plan completion with status bar as visual aid.
Shows if class counts towards your degree.
How many credits needed left-proximity map with filters
Proximity Map - Filters Section:
Food, bathrooms, bus stops, etc.
Shows where your class is relative to all those landmarks.
Different symbols/markers to help you tell the difference
Proximity Map - Destination Selection:
Once you choose your appropriate filters, it will show you a route of where to go and what methods/how long it’ll take you.
High Fidelity Prototyping
Hi-Fi Mockup Landing Page - Version 1:
Getting a feel of the website on your initial, first glance.
Hi-Fi Mockup Course Info/”Daily Snapshot” Page - Version 1
Daily words of affirmation (say what that’s helpful to me)
Click on logo to go back to the Landing Page
Course listing and location/meeting times/professor info
Degree plan check and visual status bar
Options to minimize course
Options to add or delete a class
Proximity map of class location and what is in the surrounding area
Advisors chat box you can minimize or exit out of
Hi-Fi Mockup Landing Page - Version 2
Centered, cleaner, matched the shape size/kept proportion in mind
Colors neutral/calm and relaxing
Removed the quote because there is one on the main/course schedule page
Wanted to keep it very simple. Not ask for too much information all at once. Especially if you are stressed
Hi-Fi Prototype Course Info/”Daily Snapshot” Page - Version 2
Lightened the background and added the green (sense of freshness, newness, “go”) to things that were active/could be changed
Date was redundant/not necessary
Quote is the first thing you see at the top, represents the mantra for today (utilizing the power of words of affirmation)
Uniform font (except for the chat box, reminiscent of old time AIM chats/helps to separate the section from everything else)
Standard hamburger menu (includes a logout)
Class info can be show on proximity map - hover option, cut down on wordy texts/condensed wording.
The last thing you want to see is a wall of text if you’re short on time or stressed.
Refers previous issue of too many sources of information and needing to be mindful of what information is actually helpful to have
Trying to have too much, because you think having all the details is better than not enough = no longer the case
Expanded upon features of map and what it can do (filters + transport mode)
Example of questions you can ask the advisor/adds some familiarity with the advisor’s intro
Responsive Mobile Design: condensed the map - everything will be clickable / have a “hover” option
CONSTRAINTS + LESSONS LEARNED + FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS + SUMMARY + ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
What are some constraints- before, during, and after the experience?
Freshman are focused and juggling other fundamental things like: moving/housing, finances, food, friends/family, getting to class on time, completing assignments, taking exams
Started project the Friday of the first week/3rd day of school
Everyone is working remotely/teleworking
Time: 1-week project
Exposure - Graduate program (vs. undergraduate freshman)
User testing the prototype with real life freshman- interesting to see how this will work with COVID.
Adding more ways to connect to other students/share via SM or some sort of social incentive/reward/community.
Fine-tuning this for other businesses and universities (can maybe even usable for new staff or faculty- they are essential in the success of the university too.
Developing a separate dashboard for the university/business side which allows them to manage student accounts; see what they’re clicking on; where they’re going, etc.
Creating additional support tools for the customer (talk to mental health counselor, talk to your professor)-> huge chat community or community boards to promotes that togetherness/outreach.
What I've Learned
I was surprised at how universal these issues were/the trends I noticed in responses.
At first, it seemed overwhelming to tackle an issue that seemed so general with endless issues to improve on and solve. But the universality is also a strength of this project. Everyone’s input and experience is useful, not matter who they are.
Usually not my part of the process. I initially thought they were quite tedious and I just wanted to rush in and create the Hi-Fi’s already. However, I am glad I took careful time with making them because they helped to narrow down what I want to create and include, as well as just make mindful decisions overall.
It also helped me understand that it’s not about making the design look good per se, but making the design itself- good. It’s the fundamentals, the blueprint, the backbone. You can’t build something without a strong support or frame in place.
I purchased mockup sketchbooks and stencils that helped me learn that perhaps I was just annoyed at drawing the same phone screens and symbols over and over vs. not enjoying the process.
There is no one true solution: Different contexts require different approaches and I am able to recognize and adapt to this.
Problem: New students are having difficulty getting oriented- they need help in navigating their academic and social life. The experience helps to create connections valuable to a university by improving their academic and use of operational services.
Solution: Designed an initiative to better connect freshman with their university’s resources to help them achieve and manage their academic + personal goals. Thus, creating an opportunity to build a community between students, as well as a stronger bond to the university.
My initiative addresses student user’s pain points by centralizing essential class information and university resources into one place.
I thoroughly enjoyed and connected to the process because I learned a lot about myself in terms of the ways in which I enjoy designing and my design process. I noted what I enjoyed doing and what I didn't enjoy at first- now now do/have an appreciate for!
There is fulfillment that comes from picturing that end goal in sight of making someone’s life a little easier to navigate.