For my first mock project, I designed a job tracker for Designation graduates.
Designation is the leading UX/UI bootcamp in Chicago that boasts a 94% hiring rate of their graduates, and my team was tasked with creating a platform that would keep the graduates accountable in their job hunt.
We were given the following constraints:
Job seekers have a lot of relationships to manage; they need to respond to hiring managers while communicating with their career mentors and counselors. This product needed to keep all these interactions in one place.
Design bootcamp graduates may feel overwhelmed by having to learn another software platform after completing a rigorous program. We needed to make this product easy so they can stay productive without adding too much work.
Both job seekers and career counselors are busy, but they need to stay in communication so counselors can help job seekers in their search. We needed to consider counselors’ needs so they could help job seekers effectively and efficiently.
In short, my team and I assumed we were creating an organizational tool for bootcamp graduates.
To better understand our challenge, I read several UX/UI blogs and industry reports to find out what job-seeking designers need. Through this preliminary research, I discovered three core needs:
Because UX/UI is still a relatively new industry, companies don’t always know what they’re looking for. As a result, many job posts online don’t reflect companies’ actual needs. Designers need to look beyond the job post online and depend more heavily on networking to discover opportunities.
“Go networking. Applying online should only be one prong of your job search strategy.”
Job-seeking designers are different from other job seekers because they need to maintain an online presence. Online portfolios are the most common way to establish this presence because they differentiate one designer from the rest of the crowd. They are the best way to display a designer’s skills and personality.
“Make it easy for a potential employer to get proof of what you can do in five minutes.”
Lastly, they need to stay updated in this rapidly-changing industry, and constantly better themselves to become a more viable job candidate.
“Never stop learning.”
We also spoke with two subject matter experts: a co-founder and the career services director of the program. They remarked that it’s important for designers to maintain momentum after completing Designation, and described the correlation between post-graduate engagement and job placement success. Their biggest goal was to keep designers engaged after leaving the intensity of the program.
I wanted to see if there are any tools out there that address all these needs. Through my research, I discovered three main categories of competitors: designated job trackers (Jobtrack and Huntr), job boards with built-in job tracking tools (Indeed and LinkedIn), and general organizational tools (Google Sheets, Airtable, and Trello).
These tools keep users engaged in the job hunt with the ability to create tasks.
Although these tools are the most flexible, they also require the most effort from users to stay organized.
Job boards with tracking features keeps it easy to stay organized, but they don't let users track jobs from other sites.
Taking a closer look, however, we learned that no competitor meets every need of a designer searching for a job.
We turned to user interviews to get a deeper understanding of job-seeking designers’ needs. We’d established our primary users were Designation graduates and wanted to identify the following:
We’d established our primary users were Designation graduates and wanted to identify the following:
1. Goals and frustrations of graduates
2. How they stay organized
3. Their relationship with counselors and fellow cohort mates
We collected the following insights:
Graduates have a lot of work to do, even after graduation. However, they found that staying accountable to these tasks and prioritizing them on a daily basis was more challenging than they expected.
“It was overwhelming to do everything I wanted to do. There were days when I didn't get a lot done.”
To stay engaged with the program, graduates are required to send an email with a weekly update of their activity. Some graduates wished there were a simpler way to communicate their progress.
“It’s not easy for counselors to get a week-by-week feel for what I’ve done just by looking at my Huntr board.”
Every user expressed the importance of networking, but many struggled to find the motivation to attend events or reach out to others.
“Networking is a tool. It can be cumbersome and overwhelming, but it’s an important part of the process.”
Based on those insights, we created two personas that encompassed our users’ goals and frustrations.
After a week of research and analysis, we were ready to narrow down to a specific problem to solve.
We wanted to design for both our personas, but we felt Melissa was a more important target. Her difficulty to prioritize and stay organized was a bigger problem than Kevin’s need to expand his network.
This led to our problem statement:
Overwhelmed Designation graduates need a digital tool to prioritize and be held accountable for the tasks they need to complete, or else they will lose momentum and prolong their job hunt process.
To solve for this problem, we established four design principles to keep us on the same page:
Provide instructions in an encouraging tone and in a way that is not overbearing.
Use cohort camaraderie and counselor mentorship to foster connectivity and accountability.
Make it familiar and easy to learn so we don’t overwhelm our already busy users.
Break down goals into smaller tasks so users feel less overwhelmed and distracted.
We outlined Melissa’s journey through her job hunt to identify areas where she gets frustrated the most.
We identified two dips in her emotions during this process: when she first starts working on many applications at the same time, and then when she starts to lose momentum on her other priorities. By avoiding those dips, Melissa would stay focused and productive.
We also created user stories to guide us toward helpful solution. Through this exercise, we identified four categories of concepts based on users’ needs:
1. Provide the next steps to help prioritize
2. Break down big goals into smaller tasks
3. Remind and share to stay accountable
4. Incorporate encouragement and positive reinforcement
I consolidated and categorized these stories, which yielded four concepts we wanted to test. We tested our concepts using paper prototypes with five users, each of whom was similar to one of our personas.
Each of our four concepts addressed the problem in a different way. Click through the tabs below to read more details about each one.
This concept addressed prioritization. We brainstormed different ways to achieve automated tasks, and also created a prototype with non-automated tasks as a control.
We learned that we were focusing on the wrong tasks—people cared more about following up on jobs than keeping track of their resumes and cover letters. They also liked to assign their own tasks and cross them off themselves, which brings satisfaction to their job hunt.
This concept addressed accountability. We learned from our interviews that many graduates keep in touch with their cohort-mates. We wanted to test gamification as a way to enhance this post-program engagement.
We learned that gamification wasn’t the best way to harness the power of the cohort accountability—users didn’t want to add competition to an already competitive process, but they did like being engaged with others.
This concept addressed accountability. We wanted to simplify this process by making it easy for both graduates and career counselors to stay on the same page.
Users felt this was an easier way to stay accountable to their career counselor.
This concept addressed both prioritization and accountability. We wanted to test different organization styles to learn what would be the most effective for our users.
Users appreciated the simple kanban layout, and felt it provided an accurate representation of their progress.
Through our round of concept testing, we collected valuable insights about which concepts worked and which didn’t. Our biggest takeaway, however, was that we’d neglected the importance of networking in our concepts.
“It’s nice to keep each other accountable by forcing each other to go to networking events and meet people.”
“I spend the bulk of my time networking.”
We gained a clearer context for the problem we were trying to solve. Designation grads struggled to organize dates and contacts relevant to their job applications. They also knew how important networking is, but they weren’t always aware of every event going on and might have been too intimidated or unmotivated to attend them alone.
With these new insights, I knew we had to pivot.
After analyzing the results of our initial concept testing, we took a step back and established a new problem statement:
Overwhelmed Designation graduates need a digital tool to help them organize both their job search and networking information so they know when to follow up and where to focus their efforts.
Keeping our design principles in mind, we turned to Axure to develop prototypes that would help not only Melissa, but also Kevin overcome their job and networking struggles.
We continued to develop the organizational interface of JobTracker. We included minimal counselor activity because users felt this was a helpful feature. Then, we added relevant dates to help Melissa and Kevin follow up on their jobs of interest.
We learned users appreciated the minimal but informative way they could interact with Designation throughout their job hunt. Users liked the drag & drop feature and felt that the dates recorded would help them follow up with jobs.
I created a feed that would help users see events that other Designation grads are going to. Kevin could learn about new events he may not have known about, and by seeing which of her cohort-mates are going to these events, Melissa could overcome her lack of confidence and go to these events.
Users loved the ‘find events’ feature. They did wish that some information was easier to find, but each user we tested with told us excitedly that they would definitely use something like this.
I was excited that these concepts tested well with our users. By listening to their feedback from concept testing, we successfully shifted our focus and created something our users found useful.
Our final prototype focused on three core features our users found helpful:
1. Organize the exhausting job hunt
2. Set reminders to follow up and complete other important tasks
3. Find events other graduates are attending
Had we had more time, we would’ve worked on other features to help Melissa and Kevin achieve their goals.
It’s important to keep track of contacts for both networking and job hunting. By keeping all the contacts on this platform, users will find it easier to know who to talk to.
We wanted to build a browser extension and LinkedIn functionality to eliminate the chore of manually entering information into the platform. This would make this platform even easier to use, allowing users to focus on their job hunt.
The job hunt process is similar to the sales process, and this project would benefit from incorporating features in sales and CRM tools.
By observing users’ behavior as they conduct their job search, we would gain better insight into their needs and goals. We would also better understand what features and tools work best for them.
My team's design was chosen from our cohort to be the starting point for the following cohort's first project. This team (Gon Kim, Cassie Free, Amanda Roth, Hayden Hanson) designed Keeper, the career counselor platform of JobTracker.
This was my first collaborative UX project, and I grew comfortable with the design process. Working on JobTracker showed me what I’m good at, but more importantly, where I wanted to improve. I learned to ask the right questions, and I wanted to further develop my moderating skills to avoid bias as much as I can.
This project also helped me validate my opinions and decisions with sound evidence. Challenging my teammates’ ideas and defending my own ultimately taught me to embrace new and unique concepts. My teammates and I often had different opinions, but our differences ultimately helped us create a better product.