A digital platform for the Northeastern University community to connect with each other and as well as Catalog their learning experience.

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What is SAIL?

SAIL stands for  Self-Authored Integrated Learning. It is a digital platform developed by Northeastern University for its community to document, analyze, and track professional and personal growth. It also helps to connect exclusively with Northeastern University peers, faculty, and alumni. I worked with Northeastern University Information & Technology services in redesigning the existing mobile application. Three undergrad students were hired to assist me with user research.

Role

User Experience Designer

Duration

12 weeks 

Team

UX designer

3 UX Researchers 

1 Business Analyst
 

The Challenge

Project goals

The first version of the app was created based on the business requirements, without considering insights from the end-users. Though the product was then improved by adding new functionalities during its existence, disregarding the insights from the end-users made the product very complicated and hard to use, as a result, the tasks performed by users became time-consuming and unnecessarily prolonged.

  • Learn about how students are thinking about and using SAIL

  •  Make the experience more engaging and useful

Understanding the users

We began our user research by sending out a survey to a large audience and then decided to conduct usability tests to better understand the frustrations and goals of the users with the application

Surveying 230 users

30.8%

of the surveyed people mentioned that they have heard about SAIL, but never used it.

46.07%

of the surveyed people mentioned that they would use it only when necessary for a class or program.

27.06%

of the surveyed people mentioned that they wouldn't consider recommending SAIL to someone.

Usability Tests

Next, we conducted user testing, which gave us first-hand insight into how students navigate and think about the application currently. We tested five participants for an hour each. Through this, we gained more understanding of how the interface performs under the average user. Common responses we received from users are mostly around the purpose of SAIL and confusion with the interface.

"Sometimes feels forced down their throats because of pressure from peers or professors to use it"

"I'm not really sure what it's all about and how it benefits me as a student and elevates my educational experience."

Synthesizing Research

What are the key takeaways from the research?

Social Media plays a huge part in students day-to-day life

#1

Students like quick experiences

#2

Connecting and networking with peers and alumni is difficult

#3

Persona

I created a persona based on the average user of SAIL, it represents  the target demographic of whom we are trying to reach with the SAIL app

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Amanda Miller

Age: 20 yrs

Occupation: Second-year undergraduate

Interests:  Binging on Netflix, Hanging-out with friends, and listening to podcasts on Spotify.

Personality:  Easy going, Cheerful, Adventurous

Goals: 

To build a network with the NU community 

To share her experiences and ideas with others and as well as learn about other's experiences

Frustrations:

Lack of motivation to share her experiences and track her learnings

How might we provide an opportunity to network with the NU community easily?

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Coming up with solutions

What could we learn from other top products that are most used by students?...

When I starting to think about the design I remembered Jakob's law - users prefer products that are in line with what they are used to.  With that in mind, I identified a few products that were already exemplifying aspects of my design goals really well to see what I could learn from them.

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Instagram's easy navigation

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Slack's quick messaging and creating multiple channels 

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Linkedin's connections lists

Turning pain points into design opportunities

Many users find the app to be outdated and not very interactive

Add Social Components

Users spend on average of 4 hours per day on social media, they love networking and learning about their peer's experiences, users feel such an application excites them.

Simplify information input

Users felt the use of the application is time-consuming for them

Users hate the idea of spending too much time adding something to the application, even though many of the users, love the idea, the process seemed too time-consuming.

Gamified Experience

Confusion surrounding SAIL’s interface often contribute to a lack of motivation for using the application

Users are more likely to use the application if provided with a gamified experience

Modifying  IA

The research result clearly showed that the participants would want to have the basic features that helped us to nail the workflow for the product. All the items below were validated and finalized based on our user needs, engineers and tech feasibility, and the business vision.

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Concept and Designs

Wireframes

As the sole UX designer in the team, I was responsible for turning the ideas into designs. I gave form to ideas and reasonings, trying to implement all the planned features and functionality in the designs. A glimpse of the wireframes I formed is given below.

Home – 1.png
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Dashboard – 1.png
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Opportunities – 1.png
Northeastern Network – 1.png
Your network – 1.png
Group chat – 1.png

Click to see the Dashboard of skills, badges won and goals progress

Click to check profile setting

Click to add moments, goals, self-calibration and opportunities

Click to see list of experiential skills gained

Click to see list of opportunities

Click to see the Network

Click to open group chat

Switch to see SAIL Network

High-Fidelity Prototypes

We think it’s critical to not only encourage social connectedness, but we want to make it at the core of the SAIL experience. Imagine not just being in a section with a group of people, but knowing them in real and insightful ways. Seeing people on a similar path, whether it be section mates, alumni, like-minded individuals, employers, or just people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to, introduces a diversity of thought that challenges you on your journey

Connect with the NU community!
Add Moments Briskly!

A simplified "moments" interface is at the heart of the new SAIL experience. So many of the people we spoke with lamented the complexity of creating a moment. Satisfying our goal to reduce that friction, and we simplified the process of creating a moment that will encourage the daily usage of SAIL to promote an academic and professional brand

Get your Rewards!

Badges will be given to the users whenever they accomplish the goal they set. Many of the users we spoke with mentioned that they do not feel motivated enough to set a goal and achieve them, when asked what would motivate them they said some kind of reward will definitely motivate them to achieve their goals and even increase their usage of the application.

Reflection

I learned a lot of things about the Design Process. Working on this project taught me how to handle different challenges that arise which I did not even know about previously. I learned the value of research and how it can influence designs.
 
Last, but certainly not least, it is an extremely important skill to present to and communicate with the stakeholders and to be able to take into account what they want but at the same time convince them of things which may not work as they imagine it. There are times where there has to be a trade-off between what the stakeholder wants and what I as a designer want and it is important to make those decisions mindfully.