Oct. 16 2019 – Dec. 13 2019
Research, UI/UX Design
My team and I were given eight weeks to identify the problem in the current user experience using the research methods taught in the Human-Computer Interaction course and to create the desired experience.
About the Communication Design Capstone
The Capstone is a four-semester project completed in Communication Design students’ Junior and Senior year. It is intended to showcase the skills and knowledge learned over the course of their academic experience at Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB).
Our team began to uncover the problem by conducting four separate user interviews with CSUMB Communication Design students currently working on their Capstone project. We came together and combined our interview insights through affinity mapping. The main points we learned from our research were:
• Users are unsure how to choose a strong idea for their project, or where to find a client
• Users are stressed about staying on track to finish their project
• Users felt the requirements and expectations for the project were unclear
We asked ourselves “why?” to each of these main points and were able to find the problem within the current Capstone experience.
Understanding Our Users
Next, we developed our primary (McKenna) and secondary (Macy) persona to identify what our target users’ goals are and what they are currently struggling with.
With these personas, we created a journey map in order to pinpoint where in the experience were the problems occurring, which would allow us to ideate how we would improve these areas.
The two major pain points we identified during the current experience were coming up with the idea for the Capstone project and what to do when it was time to execute it. This was because of the main problem, there not being any clear information about Capstone, and we were able to identify what our solution would be.
Our team proposed a webpage appended to the CSUMB School of Computing and Design website that would be dedicated to the Capstone process.
To begin brainstorming on the “what” of our webpage content, we looked to other university websites to see what information they offered about their Capstone or Senior projects. Similar to CSUMB’s current experience, most universities did not offer the necessary information online. However, with the schools that did, we documented which features we wanted to emulate from the strongest competitors:
• Boston University College of General Studies: highlighted a few well-executed projects and included student testimonials
• Otis College of Art and Design Liberal Arts and Sciences: included a FAQ section
• University of Texas at Austin School of Information: provided an overview of the Capstone project and forms for student use
We also analyzed the current online experience at CSUMB. The information appears to be targeted towards the Capstone Festival visitors. The collection of student projects typically only includes a very brief description of what their project was, without any information on their process or final result.
Based on our comparative analysis and user needs, my team and I determined the main features we would include for our low-fidelity prototype:
• Project Requirements
• Past Project Examples
• Student Testimonials
We each created our own paper prototype, which was designed to be a webpage on the CSUMB School of Computing and Design website. Following this, we each conducted a usability test of the main tasks using our prototypes.
Conducting usability testing on the first paper prototype.
We shared our test results with one another, and while our product was functional, it lacked user interactivity. Additionally, we were restricted by the CSUMB website style guidelines and layout. However, our test participants found that having the Capstone information was helpful and were pleased it was all in one place.
With the feedback we received from our usability testing, we created a new iteration for our high-fidelity prototype. Our final product would be a separate website from the university, to avoid design restrictions. It would still include the necessary static information, but introduce a “Find A Project” feature that would allow for students to search and apply for Capstone projects posted by local clients.
Sitemap of the new product iteration.
User task flow focusing on the ‘Find A Project’ feature.
Finally, we began to prototype using Adobe Xd. I took the lead on creating a design system to use for each screen, and designed the ‘home’ and ‘find a project’ screens.
Home page of website prototype.
Find A Project feature.
Project Examples feature (prototyped by a teammate).
FAQs & Ask a Question feature.
From this project I learned how important the initial user research is. It is imperative that the problem defined is the correct one to avoid costly changes further in the process. To define the problem I conducted user interviews and paper usability testing, and created personas and a journey map for the first time. I found these techniques to be useful in order to define the correct problem and ensure the users remain the central focus of the project. I will be using these techniques as a part of my design process moving forward.
Made with & by Nicole, 2022.