A responsive web portal for teenagers and teachers to organize study sessions for the next big test.
As my studies continued, I moved on to the second project of my UX certificate. My mock organization was, conceptually, the high school in my hometown, and I was tasked with designing a responsive website to help students schedule study sessions with each other.
I immediately flashed back to those days, when technology was only beginning to be integrated into classrooms. More and more teachers had SMART boards installed every year, while my classmates and I learned how to navigate a school website built with eChalk.
I didn't know how much had changed, but I knew that I didn't feel in control without my trusty planner. And yet, there was only so much room for homework, test times, assignment due dates. I wondered if today's students had found a solution.
Help users schedule study time through an online service that allows teachers to monitor their students.
Help users find other users with which they can study the same subjects.
Help users locate safe, accessible, and welcoming spaces where they can study together.
Help users organize larger circles (known as spheres in our model) to tackle group projects or major tests with.
Help users organize their long-term schedules to study smarter.
Help users learn how to schedule themselves for success in both school and beyond graduation.
"I want a simple way to schedule my tests and due dates."
"The students I tutor get so much homework that they can barely think about their time with me, much less scheduling study time with other students."
As I conducted research, I discovered that the problems I faced in high school and college still felt very similar to the ones that current students and their teachers face now. While online services existed to organize the classroom, there weren't many options if students wanted to schedule study sessions outside it. Frequently, students attempted to resort to planners, but a barrage of homework every day crowded out the pages, and so, few students were inclined to schedule themselves for study groups. Making this process digital and accessible would help this user problem.
Maria is a substitute teacher and part-time tutor who gives back to her community as an educator by organizing students into partnerships for their studies, but current school software is very specialized and doesn't help her students seek each other for help. She's on the lookout for a website that lets students safely find study partners.
Eoin is a junior in high school who's focused on keeping his grades up for college applications. However, between his classes and extracurriculars like the Yearbook Club and swim practice, he finds it very difficult to schedule time to study with his friends. He's looking for a planner that lets him schedule time with new study buddies when he and his friends can't time their schedules right.
During my initial brainstorming, I found that both Crazy Eights and How Might We exercises helped me envision what the website could look like. You can even see when I started thinking about circles in the context of study circles, although the final name of this project would not materialize until mockups.
Within the context of my UX certificate, this design is representative of my first time with Adobe XD. Much like learning Figma, a background of semi-professional graphic design really aided me in seizing the power of this program, and I would be more than eager to work in this program with a team.
Because this was my first website and I was adjusting from app design, I did several wireframes on paper before moving into the digital versions. This helped me iterate a sophisticated concept for my first wireframes.
Refinement & Prototyping
Upon conducting a usability study with my wireframes though, I learned that my design's complexity was actually confusing for students. A common theme emerged: there was a lot to do, but virtually no guidance on how to use any of the tools this site provided. Because of this feedback, I had to come to terms with the fact that not everything is intuitive at first. In fact, tutorial options provide a lot to new users across different platforms. This was a valuable lesson to learn early on, and as a result, I began to tailor wireframes and mockups to this requirement.
Since this was also a responsive website, I began designing the site for mobile devices during refinement and took the time to craft something reflective of the original. At this point, I had not learned terms such as progressive enhancement or graceful degradation, but I certainly engaged in the latter through my own personal process.
By the end of this phase, I had the prototype for a robust yet simple user flow that allows someone to add a specific study sphere to an upcoming day.
Study Spheres are the next-generation study circles, organized through an intuitive website which you and your students can access anywhere.
With it's simple interface and tutorials, any student can start to manage their time more effectively, juggling study sessions and finding new study partners despite the pressure of homework and extracurriculars.
Got a project coming up? Your school's Study Sphere can help you keep track of it. Need a study buddy? Study Spheres will help you find one.
Study Spheres was an interesting walk down memory lane, and an intriguing referendum on the state of technology in the public school system of the United States. While my sample size felt small, the variety of opinions I received made me question many assumptions I'd previously held about high schools. It's not rare that UX design teaches the designer something, but it feels special when it changes your mind about something. It is one of the most engaging and rewarding parts of the process.
Exploring the concepts of web design also taught me that there are many, many ways to execute ideas in design. As the second project of my UX Design Certificate, it's solidified my handle on product design from a new angle, and while I didn't have the time to put in the same amount of effort as, say, one of my novels, it helped bring me up to speed and identify new skills, making these studies transferable across a wide variety of agencies.
As for Study Spheres, it was a much-needed primer on responsive web design, as well as my first dive into Adobe XD. As such, it primarily taught me how to use a new UX design program at record speed, and it came with functions that I wished I had in Figma. It's only drawback though? An extremely restrictive link-sharing system. But I'm almost glad for it, because it sparked the out-of-the-box idea to record a video of my own screen as I clicked through the user flow. Since Adobe XD's prototype hotspots are a lot more subtler than Figma's, this was the optimal solution to convey the final results of my project, and I will eagerly keep an eye out for more wild ideas like this in the future