Helping Microsoft create a student networking platform
Microsoft X Purdue University
Students lack resources to properly understand and implement on their future career journeys. Our team assisted Microsoft's UX team by conducting research to understand how students plan, prepare for and begin their professional journeys.
THE CLIFF NOTES:
converted 180+ hours of research of how networking can help students
into actionable insights and concept prototypes for Microsoft's UX team
...which resulted in creating a networking platform that fosters authentic professional connections and helps students build their professional identities
Scoping & Project Planning
Website to help students network better
1) Client-facing communication
2) Adopting existing design systems into new designs (Msoft Fluent Design)
3) The power of iterations and prototyping
Testing (Concept, Usability, A/B)
Defining project goals
Creating timeline and milestones
Stakeholder interviews (30)
User Journey Map
Site Map & Interaction Flow
Insights that shaped our final design
Most students feel unprepared for the transition to college - they don’t know what to expect from their college, major, or ultimately their career and seek out advice to navigate it
Students find the idea of a "professional network" like LinkedIn intimidating because they don't think of themselves as 'professionals"
Cultural differences and upbringing affects students' career choices and networking practices
Students want a mentor, preferably other students whose professional paths matched theirs
Students want genuine connections but feel uncomfortable asking for help
We created a networking resource for students transitioning from high school to college to connect with alumni to understand college majors, identify future job prospects, and understand how classes and experiences impact real world jobs.
View a mentor's path
View the mentor's journey. This include their classes, extracurriculars, conferences, mentors, and job experiences. This will help students understand their mentors' journeys and how it relates to their job.
"Shadow" the mentor
View specific details about how a course or internship relates to real-world jobs, and the mentor's personal takeaways from an experience.
View details related to internships/jobs like the responsibilities that the mentor undertook as part of a job, or what helped them be successful at their job.
Help communicate professionally
Chat with the mentor about any specific questions you might have about a particular experience. For example, additional questions about the application process, portfolio etc can be asked.
If you're unsure about how to start a conversation, receive "chat suggestions" to frame messages/questions easily.
WHERE THAT LED US: THE SOLUTION
But, how did we get there?
WE CONDUCTED OVER 30 STAKEHOLDER INTERVIEWS
Conducting interviews with our different stakeholders helped us understand all of their pain points, frustrations and expereinces so we can create a product that would benefit students without burdening mentors who are helping them.
What support do transfer students need?
Educational consultants have a unique perspective as guides when students are deciding their career paths
Understand introverts' emotions and apprehensions while networking
Interview takeaways & resulting designs
Inaccurate description of job roles
You can list a bunch of job titles - that’s great. But what do they actually do? Would I sit at a desk all day and crunch numbers or do I build things?
Computer science in college is so different from computer science in high school.
"Shadow" industry professionals
Unsure of how to communicate professionally
I don’t feel confident thinking of myself as a professional.
Networking with peers is more important than just getting a job by applying online.
Search for genuine connections
The current professional platforms are centered around job searching.
It isn’t as scary when I’m talking to people who have similar interests.
Emphasis on "conversation" with network rather than "expanding" network
Why did we focus on the transition from High School to College?
Creating a Journey Map based on our interview insights helped us identify exactly where there were gaps in resources available to high school students to make an informed decision to pick a field of study.
But, do our designs work?
We evaluated and iterated our designs using concept testing, A/B testing and usability testing at multiple points In our process while moving up in fidelity. We conducted 3 different methods of evaluation because we had different goals at each stage.
First few iterations: Concept sketches
Next few iterations: Low-fis
Moving up in fidelity: Hi-fis
A/B Testing & Accessiblity evaluation
INSIGHTS THAT GUIDED OUR ITERATIONS
Emphasis that chat suggestions are just *suggestions*
Am I breaking rules if I don’t follow the format? What if I wanted to ask about something else?”
I like that it’s divided into internships, projects, job, education etc so I know what I’m looking at and what kind of questions to ask them."
Discomfort while asking certain questions
When it comes to asking about more uncomfortable topics like their grades or job income, I like the idea of chat suggestions.
We had to improve our color palette to meet Microsoft Fluent Design's accessibility standards
So, how's this different from Linkedin?
LinkedIn has a standard chat feature, whereas our chat feature focuses on lessening cognitive load while starting conversations using chat suggestions.
A LinkedIn profile displays user information with its chronological timeline. Our platform, on the other hand, goes beyond making job experience the key focus. It showcases multiple milestones the Mentor wishes to display with equal emphasis on each milestone.
RETHINKING DESIGN METHODS DURING COVID
Almost overnight, we transitioned to online work because of Covid. This was a great opportunity for us to get creative and learn how to leverage online collaboration tools like Miro to conduct research and co-design with others as best as we could.
Accessibility is harder to implement once the designs are high-fidelity. Even though we were able to change our colours to pass Microsoft's accessibility standards, we weren't able to meet all of our accessibility goals.
The superstars who made this a great experience!
Will, Simmi, Nasya, Isa, Amelia, Mina, Janhavi