Mentoring from University to Workplace
Mentoring can be a great way to share knowledge and help someone be successful in their personal or professional life. But many potential mentors are often too busy to commit to regular meetings, or they have a hard time connecting with people seeking help. This is a product design project starting from a design task to a web/mobile product design that brings prospective mentors and mentees together based on similar interests, location, and availability. I initiated this project starting from research to ideation, wireframe to hi-fi prototype.
Quick glance of my design journey
Here's an overview of my design process. I’ve started my research by talking to 4 potential users(mentor &mentee). I also researched on current existed products. Based on the insight I learned from the users, I created 2 personas for mentor and mentee.
I ideated the ideal product map and then scope down my actual design excises to a specific scenario. I did some sketches of the user flow and put it in Balsamiq to quickly test it with users. After getting some feedback, I started to do detail design and iterating it along the way.
It all started with interviews
I've talked to four people total at the beginning of this project to get to know better how in general how people feel about mentorship.
I have some questions written but depend on the answers I got, dived deep into some specific scenarios the user experienced.
1. Their mentor experiences (if not, why?)
2. Their mentee experiences (if not, why?)
3. How do they start making the connection and what’s the frequency?
4. What do they expect to get and what do they actually got?
5. How do they feel about some current exist mentor app concepts?
A quick summary
The purpose of having a mentor: Career advice, Networking, Portfolio review, Technical review
Ways to find a mentor: School advisor, Trainer or manager in the company, Conferences, Meetups, LinkedIn connection
Connecting method and frequency: Prefer face to face at the beginning. Catch up around every 2 months to 6 months
The problem of finding a mentor: Afraid to reach out, Not sure if they have time, Lost connect after a while
Review for the current mentor concept: Trusting issues, Quality of the match, Privacy issues
Ways to find mentee: School alumni, Company mentor program, Conference, Team member
The purpose of finding a mentee: Give back, Teach and learn, Make the connection with young talents
The problem of getting a mentee: Can’t always commit due to busy work, No much of them reach out for help, Not sure how to help
Review current mentor app concept: Profile privacy, Sharing privacy issue
How did they say about the current concept?
I really want to reach to more users to understand their needs and pain-points. So I did some research online. There’s really no leading product for this category. I downloaded and used 6 apps total, only 2 of them open to the public.
I found the review of their apps is revealing more truth. They gave a clear signal that the persona we were looking in this category is more serious and cautious. If they sense fake account, social&dating or people selling stuff there. This product will be a big no for them.
Interestingly, I also found that products designed for a specific company has been more successful since they had specific user groups and goals for the product. However, it also makes them an internal tool that won't be able to help the larger audience.
What’s the fine line between social app & professional networking?
I was curious about this phenomena and did some readings that helped me illustrate the reason behind it. Although it seems like a similar logic of matching people with the same interests. The way of human interaction is completely different.
When we match for fun, we are in an exploring mode. We talk to strangers and share random insignificant stuff. We are equal in this communication.
However, when we match for mentor or mentees, it becomes more serious because what we are sharing may affect our daily job. We naturally have a clear idea of who's inside of our group that can be trust and who's not. That group can be your family, your school, your company or a friend's friend.
Persona for mentee & Persona for mentor
Based on the research and reviews I have, I started to write up the persona for mentor and mentee. I cross-examed their motivation and frustration, and try to build a health long-term interaction that will not only connect them in the beginning, also benefit them in the long run.
Design a product that mentor the mentorship
The fundamental goal of this product is to match mentors and mentees.
After understood the user’s needs and their pain-points, I added three constraints:
1. A reliable source of mentor/mentee. (Users suggested the positive mentor experience usually formed in school or company.)
2. Make a professional connection. (No social like interaction, no random connecting. It needs to be genuine and serious)
3. Provide useful guidance and healthy interactions to grow the community. (The user profiles in this product presents the product itself.)
The ideal product and the scope down
I Ideated this product road map that starts with an internal training tool in a close group like schools and companies. Then expand: From students to alumni, From current employee to the past and future employee. I also imaged the possibility of users/community lead help to connect different community and integrate into one in the end.
The Ideal Future
All group started to communicate with each other and the groups expand and join each other.
Scope down deliverables
I decided to scope down the first step into one section: The part when schools reaching out to the alumni, where the close platform become open. The individuals start to connect by will.
How's Melinda's on-boarding experience with our product?
Based on the persona I previously created, here's the scenario of one of the alumni first onboarding experience. I drew a storyboard of what happened when Melina first invited and joined Mentor+Me. This product will be the connecting point for all the alumni and students starting their mentorship. Based on the user research, I didn't limit the user role to be specific mentor and mentee, so that they can all contribute and benefit through the experience.
Although this scenario is about mentee finding a mentor, I also validated it with the mentor persona. The mentee will need to do more contacting and explaining so that the mentor will have a clear understanding for the need of their conversations.
Let the story comes alive on screens
I did some user-flow sketches on paper. But I felt considering all the context, it'd be better to test it with the actual screen. So I did a low-fi prototype.
The story started with an email with the user's very considerate school advisor. Then they will be brought to this platform and start to adding stuff to their own profile. Then we will help them find the mentor/mentee matches their needs.
Along the way, we will guide them from the first contact to writing a letter and break the ice, to writing thank you note after the meet. What I tried to do is to make it official and serious. I feel this is very important for the mentor to considering helping someone relatively unfamiliar.
But will this be too much? I needed to test it with the user to find out.
How does user feel about it?
I put the user-flow into a low-fi prototype and tested it with 3 users.
2 users from a local tea shop and 1 remote user through the web.
I recorded the online session.
The goal of the testing is to:
1. See if they would use this service if contacted.
2. If the experience is meaningful and useful to the user.
3. To get feedback on the general user-flow.
I tried to let the user tell me more of what they think it should be and then compare it to what I have.
They all agreed the experience meets the needs and they will try it. They pointed out some of the usability issues which is very helpful for my later detail design. Such as the selection of mentor and mentee, they are not sure at the beginning, since they can help the current student but also learn from others. I also found it very interesting that they pay great attention to the wording, the tone and manner, they told me it could be a break for the experience if the language sounds casual.
The one caught their most attention is the homepage. After the onboarding experience, they all felt a bit of lost when first enter the page. They mentioned things like how should the filter work, how they can see their own profile and what to do for the next, etc. So I developed different approaches to this issue and then test it with the user.
More sketches, more iterations
I designed three options for the dashboard and tested with users.
1. vertical menu + personal info + next step
2. detail panel with personal info + mix of cards/updates
3. all cards of people recommended
Of all the users I asked they all favored the first one since it has a clear hierarchy for reading as well as good guidance for the next step. I also felt this design has more flexibility in terms of adding new stuff in the navigation bar.
In the meanwhile, I also iterated on the filter design. I tested different methods and interaction idea for on-boarding flow.
From Mentality to Mentor+Me
When I first tested it in low-fi prototype, some users mentioned they would like the name to be more catchy. They felt a bit disconnected when I put "Mentality" there. So I brainstormed a bit and change it "Mentor+Me" instead.
I've also branded it before I got to detail design. I created a very basic guideline including color palette, icon, button, and typography for this product. I would definitely test the visual if I have more time. For now, I tried to keep it simple and clear. The characteristic should be warm&welcoming to the user but definitely not soft and sweet.
Design the details and test it rapidly
After I finished the screens, I sent the link to the users from the previous testing and gathered more feedback from them. Those who replied are mostly satisfied with the flow and helped me pointed out some usability issues. Such as after they send the message, they want to know how they will be notified. Or things like if they can change their ID to a different email address. Details really matter a lot to the users.
I would really like to test it with more fresh eyes = more users to gather the feedback. If you are interested, here's the prototype link.
Design simple yet elegant professional mobile experience
I took what I learned from the previous research on our competitors and tried to make the design of the native IOS app more appealing to the user.
1. I first simplified the user flow to make it mobile friendly.
2. I reduced the reading time and added more illustrations to make the experience more appealing to the users.
3. I added location detection and other features to utilize mobile functionality that will be useful to mobile users.
Iterations on color and typography
New typography was introduced to make the app modern and professional. The color stayed with the web page but use the vibrant ones to make it easy to read and more delight to the mobile user.
How to best simplified the mobile experience?
With a smaller screen and scattered screen time, we really need to make the user tasks simply, relevant and effective. That’s why I tried a different method of showing the relevant mentors/mentees in the area.
Opt1 Dashboard Cards. Similar to the website which is by cards. It felt plain to the user with nothing stand out, and the user will have to dig the information.
Opt2 Map. User can filter and see who’s the closest mentor/mentee available. The downside of it is that for the users that are not located at ideal locations, they won't see anything useful.
Opt3 Listing Group. User can see a list of the available people by the search. It is straightforward, but is it clear and effective enough to the user?
After some guerrilla research, I combined option 1&3, there will be smart recommendations so the user can see something interesting in the beginning but also find the list of the result after search. The map feature will only be enabled if there are resources around the user.
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1. Mentor platform: This is an interesting category that people want to create something but find it hard to succeed. I found it sometimes we need to stop thinking about what's already out there but think about the fundamental human needs of the interaction. In this case, when people are seeking help, they are looking for something reliable and trustworthy.
2. Web to mobile: It is easy to just apply what I had from the web page to mobile, but I quickly realized that there are more to it because of the way we used two different platforms. It should stay the same tone of professional and serious but also should be delightful and appealing. Since we have too many distractions on phones, it'd be better to make every task clear, short and sweet.