While working as Lead User Experience Design at Hult International Business School, I was tasked with designing a mentoring app for students, staff and faculty to peer review and support mentoring within the school.
Hult decided to create a mentoring programme years before ‘mindfulness’ became as popular as it is now.
Mentoring is a powerful personal and career development tool that can enable the mentee to achieve or exceed their life’s goals and aspirations. A mentor according to Merriam-Webster is ‘a trusted counselor or guide’. ref
Our team started off by nailing down a brief from the business. How was Hult going to run a mentoring programme? How would this app facilitate that? Who were the users and how could we work with them?
Once we understood who we were designing for, we started talking to our three user groups:
We sketched out personas of our key user groups to understand the situations they were in, how they would get to the app and their first interactions.
I then went on to sketch and wireframe the web app while the developer setup an MVC environment and started connecting with the local active directory to acquire our users. Linking up with the existing learning management system would have the distinct advantage of not asking users to signup to yet another service ensuring that we were not creating blockers to the programme being introduced.
I then worked collaboratively with the developer to realise the minimum viable product of the app and had a working prototype we could share with stakeholders within 2 days.
2 days. Let that sink in for a moment.
We validated our decisions with users by conducting usability tests in a lab setting, with students, staff and faculty members. We found that students didn’t understand the concept of “mentoring”, so we went through the copy to simplify some of the labeling and headings. We also found we needed to distinguish between each stage of the app as we found users found it difficult to know whether they were choosing mentors or mentees.
After a number of rounds of iteration, we launched the app with a select number of users and once we were confident, we opened access via the learning management system/intranet.
In our retrospective, the app was praised by the product owner and executives for its user-centred design approach, agile development and overall ease-of-use. We had created the initial app within 2 days, which was a remarkable achievement.
Although we had reached a minimum viable product, it took a further 4 months to complete the project. We put this down to incomplete requirements at the beginning and also a number of external factors, including a move to a new single sign-on across the business.
Personally, it was, and still is, the most rewarding project I’ve ever worked on. The only way to better it would have been to release the MVP after the 2 days to a test group of 20 or so users and continued the building, measuring and learning. Then we could have found a balance between the business objectives required of the project and user objectives that would have arose.