© 2020 Varun Nambiar

Mena

An experience that allows incoming college students

to pair with mentors in a fun and delightful way!

Google Design Challenge

2020

Challenge Brief

Your school wants to strengthen the community by encouraging experienced 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. Consider the needs of both mentors and mentees, including how someone may become a mentor and how to connect mentors to mentees.

Project Overview

Problem

How might we go beyond a conventional matchmaking process to create an experience that encourages more users to participate and hence promote a stronger community?

 

Solution

 

A mobile app that algorithmically identifies ideal mentor-mentee pairings and uses familiar interactions inspired by popular dating apps to make for a fun and delightful experience.

Process

Duration

5 day Design Sprint

Solo Project

Tools

 

Sketch

Illustrator

Photoshop

Concept

Development

Interface

Design

Focus

Exploration

Research,

Findings

Problem Framing

Understanding Users

Research Synthesis

Creating Personas

Finding Opportunities

Setting Direction

Feature Brainstorming

Information Architecture

Lo-Fi Prototyping, Testing

High Fidelity Mockups

Future Considerations

Reflections

Research and Findings

Early Exploration

Georgia Tech's Student Alumni Association (SAA) has a program called Mentor Jackets where students are paired with alumni members to get mentorship from. I spoke to two students enrolled in the program and learned that the process was reasonably friction free and easy to use. I drew inspiration from this process as a starting point to design the matchmaking process. The user experience can be simplified in the following steps. 

Understanding the Users

The assumption is that there are two core user groups in this problem space - the mentors and the mentees. 

To learn about their needs with such an experience, I spoke to recently admitted as well as final year undergraduate and graduate students at Georgia Tech. In total, I conducted 6 interviews to learn about what they look for in a mentorship, from both perspectives. 

Insights

 

  • "I want to be able to set expectations on the kind of mentorship I want."

  • "I would like the ability to carefully select who to mentor."

  • "I'd like to know what they're interested in outside of school to help me make my choice."

Target Users

Using the information I collected so far, I created two personas to help me make design decisions down the line.

Adam, 18

 

An incoming product design student interested in knowing about all the fun things to do in the city.

Needs

  • A mentorship focused around social and lifestyle needs

  • Not interested in academic mentorship

 

Leah, 23

 

A senior at Georgia Tech who wants to share all of her academic lifehacks with the next generation of students.

Needs

  • Wants to mentor someone in the same major

  • A way to carefully select someone to mentor

Concept Development

Feature Brainstorming

The goal was to make the app fun and engaging to use, and my assumption is that overloading it with features might overwhelm the user and not retain them long term. With this in my mind, I brainstormed various ideas on how design the overall experience at a high level.

As I was brainstorming, I had a lightbulb moment:

Why not take inspiration from the tried and tested methods used by popular dating apps?

I decided to incorporate the swiping interactions used by apps like Tinder and Bumble. My assumption is that a large population of high school and college students have used them and would be familiar with the interactions, and this would in turn have them be more likely to try out an app like this. I was also inspired by Hinge, another popular dating app that uses an AI driven approach to recommend people based on certain parameters.

Paper Prototyping and Testing

To test my assumptions and my choices to incorporate elements from datings apps, I created a few low fidelity prototypes and ran it by a few students to get feedback on the experience.

Insights

 

  • "I'm uncomfortable pressing the X if I'm not interested. Feels a bit rude to them."

  • "It would be cool if my mentor could drop a pin. If I'm in a new city, it'd make it easier to find meet up locations."

  • "I would be overwhelmed if I had a lot of matches in my queue. What if it highlighted who I'm most likely going to enjoy mentoring more?"

  • "I'd be uncomfortable using my photo in this app because it feels a bit like Tinder."

Matchmaking Process

Although similar to the processes used by dating apps, I wanted to give the mentors a bit more control over who they would like to mentor. 

Information Architecture

Using the feedback I got from the paper prototypes, I finalized the features and app navigation and laid out the information architecture for this experience. Certain features like the Match Queue are only available to the mentors and have been highlighted. 

Interface Design

Research Driven Decisions

I made the following design decisions while creating the interface that were guided through a combination of user research and testing with the paper prototypes.

Decisions

 

  • Allow the user to select an avatar to represent them so as to take away some of the bias during the discovery process as well as make users feel more comfortable.

  • Replace the check and cross icons with friendlier words like "Interested" and "Keep going" to keep the experience more positive. 

  • Algorithmically select and highlight certain phrases in the bio to make identifying common interests easier with the use of bold text and an accompanying emoji. 

  • Allow users to select between wanting either academic or lifestyle mentorship during the profile creation flow. 

  • Give mentors an extra level of filtration so as to pick their mentee more carefully.

User Flows

The flows for both the mentor and the mentee are shown below, with the variation in the two experiences. 

Mentor Experience

Mentee Experience

Design Details

Future Considerations

The vision I had for this project was to give the mentor more control over who to mentee. Some of the feedback I received from the final designs was to give the mentee some more control over the matching process too. In the next iteration, I would allow a second level of filtration that would give the mentee the chance to accept or decline the mentor's proposal. 

Reflections

Overall, I really enjoyed working on this design challenge! After running the final mockups by my friends, I received a lot of positive feedback, with a few people asking me when I'm going to make this a real thing (the greatest compliment for a design sprint)! Taking out a few days from my busy grad school schedule to work on something fun is really refreshing. I hope you enjoyed reading about this project as much as I enjoyed working on it!