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iOS Application Design

Reinventing U.S. College Application Experience for Chinese Students

Role

Lead UX/UI Designer

Client

Tools

ZLX Inc.

Adobe CC / Marvel

The Initial Problem

Complicated Application Process

A Chinese student aspiring to study in the U.S. faces several challenges (see below chart). Uneven-in-quality information that scatters everywhere makes this process more difficult.

Pricey Strategy Consulting Services

Each student spends on average $20,000 in application consulting (equivalent to 1/3 of average Chinese family income). The 520,000/year strong Chinese application pool creates a huge market served by uneven consulting quality.

We decided to make this experience better, and cheaper.

 

Insights from User Research

These are included in the below persona.

User Pain Points determined Core Functions

Application Strategy

Connect students with experienced consultants

School Repository

Provide a central location for quality school information

Below, I use the function "School Repository" to demonstrate me thought process.

Decided on What Information is Needed

Data from user interview helped me prioritize needed information into three levels. I then organized them into three screens. 

Level 1 - First thing an applicant wants to know

School Ranking

Level 2 - Information for decision-making

School Location, Application Deadline, Popular Majors, Total Expenses

 

Level 3 - Information for the application process

Detail Information about Admission

Screen 1 to show school ranking

 

 

Screen 2 to show high-level school information, admission information, and expense information

Screen 3 to show detail admission information

Reframing The Problem

Sketches

Screen 1 focuses on showing ranking information.

For Screen 2, I focused on exploring a clean organization to display information in groups.

For Screen 3, I adapted the layout from Screen 1 and 2 to keep consistency. Meanwhile, I wanted to make sure users can locate to detail information easily.

Wireframes and App Flows

Wireframes to arrange the app structure.

App flow chart to describe the detailed user experience through the app.

Prototypes, User Testing, and Iterations

I conducted 4 rounds of guerrilla usability testings to verify my design. I then updated the design based on user feedback, which is listed below.

Insights from User Research

5 phone interviews with college applicants allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the actual challenges they are facing. 

Challenge 1 - Heterogeneous resources for the same information

Surrounded by numerous school rankings, applicants often found themselves more confused and distracted. They are looking for a simple system that delivers the recapitulative information of the school.

Challenge 2 - Hard to find a suitable application strategy consultant

Surprisingly, the applicants didn't see the pricey service as a problem. Instead, they found it more difficult to find Since an effective application strategy is the key to a successful admission, they are willing to pay 

The Refined Problem

The problem

Description

The Refined Problem

Ranking is the #1 key when comparing schools

Along with that, the applicants also want to know if the school offers the desired major, if the living cost is affordable, and if the environment meets his/her expectation. 

Acceptance Rate is crucial  

Surprisingly, the applicants may not apply for the school that has a higher ranking but a low acceptance rate. It is because of the level of effort they put into application preparation. 

Deadlines are often overlooked 

These are included in the below persona.

Application Strategy

Connect students with experienced consultants

School Repository

Provide a central location for quality school information

Below, I use the function "School Repository" to demonstrate me thought process.

Data from user interview helped me prioritize needed information into three levels. I then organized them into three screens. 

Level 1 - First thing an applicant wants to know

School Ranking

Level 2 - Information for decision-making

School Location, Application Deadline, Popular Majors, Total Expenses

 

Level 3 - Information for the application process

Detail Information about Admission

Screen 1 to show school ranking

 

 

Screen 2 to show high-level school information, admission information, and expense information

Screen 3 to show detail admission information

Sketches

Screen 1 focuses on showing ranking information.

For Screen 2, I focused on exploring a clean organization to display information in groups.

For Screen 3, I adapted the layout from Screen 1 and 2 to keep consistency. Meanwhile, I wanted to make sure users can locate to detail information easily.

Wireframes and App Flows

Wireframes to arrange the app structure.

App flow chart to describe the detailed user experience through the app.

Prototypes, User Testing, and Iterations

I conducted 4 rounds of guerrilla usability testings to verify my design. I then updated the design based on user feedback, which is listed below.

 

The Product

Color Scheme + Font Families

AaBbCcDdEeFfGgHhIiJjKkLlMmNnOoPpQqRrSsTtUuVvWwXxYyZz

Open Sans

Functional Prototype

Core Function No.1 - Application Strategy

The app connects student

Core Function No.2 - School Repository

The app starts with a comprehensive list of schools (left view), followed with sections of critical application information (middle view). Depends on the levels of detail you need, you may drill down to the next level for more information (right view).

LESSON LEARNED

Persuasion

Since all of the team members are not familiar with user research, at the beginning of the development, I had to constantly remind them the importance of understanding users and the importance of design requirements, I even conducted user research alone. UX designers have a lot of opportunities to work with professional or clients from various areas, but that means there are chances that co-workers or clients are not familiar with UX, which leads to the situation that they don't want to invest time to conduct user research or usability testings. As a UX designer, we don't have to force them to admit the value of doing user research or conducting user testings. Instead, what we need to do is to persuade them to let us do our job.

But, how? Yes, it depends.