Duration: 1 week (1.14.20 – 1.21.20)
Type: Individual
Role: UX Designer
Tools: Adobe XD

For Google’s 2020 Design Exercise, I decided to tackle the following prompt:
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.
As a transfer student to Columbia University from UC Berkeley, I know I would have appreciated a way for me to easily connect with experienced students who could help me with the transition, which is why I was passionate about designing an experience to help mentors and mentees discover each other.

To begin, I researched mentorship programs at both Columbia and UC Berkeley. 
Columbia has the Columbia Mentorship Initiative (connects new students with current students), the Odyssey Mentoring Program (connects students with alumni), and  the Columbia College Women Mentoring (connects female students with female alumni).
UC Berkeley has the Starting Point Mentorship Program (connects transfers with current students) and the International Student Peer Mentorship Program (connects new international students with current students, but has been put on pause).
I went through the applications that were still available, and they were quite long and not mobile-friendly. Some included essay questions that might turn students away from completing the application.
I interviewed 17 students across 9 different colleges and all 4 years, including 6 transfers. 3 had participated in mentorship programs: 1 as a mentor and 2 as mentees. Through these conversations, I gathered the following insights:
Discovering mentorship programs:
A few were not aware of them, and those who were aware learned about them through newsletters, word of mouth, and club-specific mentorship programs.
“I’ve learned about mentorship programs through clubs, organizations, word of mouth, and through things my friends are involved in. I also remember learning about them in freshman orientation, but it was overwhelming because there were so many resources.” –Tiffany, UC Berkeley
Joining mentorship programs:
Currently, mentorship options are too spread out and complicated. Students want a way to easily find mentors with a simple application process and vast network.
“We need something simple, a one stop shop, because there are so many websites and resources you have to keep track of as a student!” –Ken, Columbia 
Becoming a mentor:
The main considerations for students becoming mentors are time commitment and sense of connection to mentees. 
“I would probably be more motivated to become a mentor if it was for a group that I had a connection to such as female CS students at Stanford.” –Anna, Stanford
I created two personas to help me design an experience centered around the needs and frustrations of the users by empathizing with them and their goals.
Defining the problem
Using the insights I gained through my research, I defined the following problems to focus on:
Discovery: Mentorship programs are spread across different organizations, which can be overwhelming and confusing
Joining: Students have trouble keeping track of (and are therefore less likely to take advantage of) a wide variety of resources. Neither mentees nor mentors want to deal with multiple long application processes.
Matching: Students and mentors want to make personal connections with flexible levels of time commitment
I aimed to solve these problems by focusing on the following goals:
1. Short, simple application process for both mentors and mentees
2. Compile mentors across all organizations and interests into one platform
3. Personal-feeling matching experience - Images, messaging, dating app

User Flow
To determine a logical and efficient user flow, I used Post-its to map out different screens and features.
Next I sketched a wireframe flow for the main screens, keeping in mind the pain points and 3 main goals.
1. I moved the location of profile information from the navigation drawer to the bottom navigation to make it easier to find and more seamless. I initially put the profile in the bottom navigation because I felt it wasn’t in the same hierarchy as the other items in the bottom navigation. However, I received feedback that the location of profile information was confusing, which led me to re-evaluate. 
2. I created a profile page with a list of mentors and personal information, which fits more information and makes more sense than a navigation drawer because the profile is not a form of navigation.
1. I replaced the invitation icon with an add person icon to represent adding someone as a mentors after receiving feedback that the invitation icon was confusing because it looked like an email icon.
2. I added an icon to clarify the distinction between confirmed mentors from potential mentors.
Onboarding - recall Goal #1: Short, simple application process for both mentors and mentees
In this iteration, the process of becoming a mentor is essentially the same as the process of becoming a mentee in order to increase student involvement. Interviewees expressed far less interest in mentoring than being a mentee, so my design focuses on keeping the barrier to entry low for mentors and evening out the experiences. However, in a future iteration I might test out a more thorough mentor application process, which would be a desktop experience.
1. Sign in with university email to save preferences and connect with mentors/mentees as a student of the university. 
2. Choose role as mentor or mentee
3. Name and photo and preferred pronouns. 
4. Basic info such as major, year, hometown.
5. Add bio for quick introduction.
6. Time commitment to be matched with students with similar time commitments. Dual-ended slider allows flexibility in selecting a range of time, while keeping within reasonable constraints.
7. Select interests to match mentees with mentors who have relevant areas of expertise. Scrolling checklist allows for many options, and the ability to select as many interests as desired.
Progress indicator and arrows allows user to go back and edit their preferences in case they make a mistake or change their mind.

This is an earlier iteration of the onboarding process. I expanded it to make the questions more spread out after receiving feedback that the amount of information on the 3rd page was overwhelming.

Filtering - recall Goal #2: Compile mentors across all organizations and interests into one platform
1. View filter settings to find the most compatible mentors or mentees across a vast network
2. Filter by interests defaults to your selected interests but can be edited if you want to meet students with other interests
3. Select availability is optional, included in filtering in order to keep the onboarding process short. Students are less likely to complete the onboarding process if they have to stop to check their calendars.
Users drag to select when they are free each day of the week, similar to When2meet. Highly visual experience allows users to easily visualize free time and what their schedule would look like. 
In another iteration, perhaps I would include the capability to import a week from Google Calendar to automatically generate free periods.
Explore - recall Goal #3: Personal-feeling matching experience​​​​​​​
1. Explore profiles is largely photo-based to help students get a face-to-face sense of potential mentors/mentees. I considered making explore have a swipe feature like dating apps, but decided it was too impersonal and dismissive. Instead, users scroll through and can go to back profiles.
2. View profile allows users to view more details about a potential mentor/mentee such as bio, interests, classes taken, and availability.
3. Starred profiles allows users to save profiles of potential mentors/mentees they are interested in without having to message them right off the bat.
Messages - recall Goal #3: Personal-feeling matching experience​​​​​​​
1. Messages is where users can view all their conversations with potential mentors/mentees to help them determine the best match
2. Chat allows users to get to know potential mentors/mentees, set up meetings, and communicate with established mentors/mentees.
3. Invite allows mentees to invite potential mentors to be their official mentor. If the mentor accepts, the students will be added to each other’s respective list of mentors/mentees, and the mentorship icon will appear by their profile picture.
Forum - recall Goal #3: Personal-feeling matching experience
Users can ask and answer questions, and if they find a question or answer that they resonate with, they can view that person’s profile, message them, and invite them to be a mentor.

I selected two different color schemes in order to distinguish the mentor and mentee experiences. For mentors, I chose a fun purple to evoke the excitement of mentoring a new student. For mentees, I chose an approachable green to represent welcoming and the freshness of transitioning to a new school. 
Mentor vs. Mentee experiences
I kept the design clean and simple, and the mentor and mentee experiences are largely similar. I sparingly incorporated the respective colors to the most important elements and action items.

In future iterations and given more time, I would include the following improvements:
Filter by organization
Many interviewees said they were more familiar with mentorship programs within student organizations as opposed to campus-wide mentorship programs, so I would want to optimize the app for these opportunities as well. Students would enter the clubs and organizations they are involved in so that mentors and mentees can filter and match based on these criteria as well, and mentees could see mentors who are involved in clubs they are interested in joining. 
Rate mentors + mentees
Mentors and mentees would be able to give each other star ratings out of 5. This would allow students to filter and evaluate mentor quality without compromising the easy joining process and low barrier to entry.
Social media + resume
Connecting mentor/mentee profiles to social media accounts such as Instagram and Spotify would support Goal #3: Personal-feeling matching experience. Including LinkedIn and/or resumes would help students select mentors with expertise that aligns with their professional goals.
Group mentoring
Mentors would be able to create group chats and mentor groups, which could save time for mentors and benefit students who are more comfortable in group settings than one-on-one.
Desktop version
Many interviewees agreed that a mobile app would be fastest and easiest, but a desktop version might be useful for more in-depth mentorship experience. In the current version of the app, mentors and mentees don’t need to answer any essay questions, which makes the barrier to entry very low. However, in order to have verified university-improved mentors, potential mentors might submit short essay questions to be reviewed by administration, which would be on a desktop version.
Thank you for reading, and please reach out (ashley.zhang@columbia.edu) if you have any comments or questions!

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