RePicture Case Study

Improving the UX of a Career Community for STEM Students & Professionals
Client Summary & Project Background

RePicture is an online STEM community focused primarily on helping high school and college students discover and learn about STEM careers, discover and create STEM projects, develop career soft skills and network with STEM professionals.  

 

RePicture users can create a profile to showcase their academic and professional stories, skills, and projects while optionally participating in an online, asynchronous or an in-person summer profile-development course. Focused primarily on reflection, the RePicture profile allows STEM students and professionals to network in a holistic way.

Problem Statement

My team of Human Computer Interaction Masters students at the University of Maryland iConsultancy engaged with RePicture over the course of a semester to improve the user experience of discovering the benefits of, signing up for, creating, and maintaining a RePicture profile page.

 

By improving the UX, RePicture hoped to serve the overarching business goal of acquiring and retaining more college student users on the platform.

Long Term Goal
How might we increase the number of new college student users by designing a new UX and UI that improves the RePicture.com user journey? 
Project Methodology

Our team followed Google Ventures’ Design Sprint Framework, a 5 step process to rapidly and iteratively design and collect insights about product ideas.

Typically completed in 5 days, Google’s Design Sprint process takes a team from identifying a problem to having a validated or invalidated solution within a workweek. Teams spend Day 1 interviewing experts in order to gather enough information to map out the problem space and decide on a target problem to tackle. Day 2 involves gathering inspiration and sketching preliminary ideas. On Day 3, teams use a structured voting method to efficiently decide which sketch ideas to move forward with and end the day by creating a storyboard–a step-by-step plan for the prototype. With the storyboard as a guide, teams design and stitch together the prototype on Day 4. Finally, on Day 5, the team conducts user testing with the prototype to determine the viability of the solutions they designed over the course of the sprint. 

 

Following this process worked well for our team because it consolidated many key design activities into digestible chunks. However, as a team of graduate students learning how to complete the process and balancing other responsibilities, we modified the Design Sprint process to better fit our team’s and project’s needs in three ways.

 

First, we extended the timeline of the sprint. Slowing down the sprint allowed us time to receive critique from our mentors and peer and reflect on the activities we were doing. We also added design deliverables to the process that weren’t included in Google Ventures’ original framework–our second modification to the sprint process. 

 

With our extended timeline, we had the opportunity to write user scenarios, create a product structure diagram, and build a design system. Each extra deliverable served a purpose: the user scenarios allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of our target audiences; the product structure diagram helped us map and connect RePicture’s various functionalities on a conceptual level; the design system improved consistency across our designs and provided a jumping-off point for developers. 

 

Finally, we adjusted the activities in each sprint to align with our progress on the overall project. For example, by Sprint 3, we had agreed on the problem space, but wanted more time to bring our prototype to a high-fidelty level. As such, we removed the mapping activities from Sprint 3 and replaced them with more time to work on our prototype. 

 

Over the course of the semester, our team conducted a total of three sprints. Having multiple sprints allowed our team to iterate on everything from defining our problem to our final prototypes. Between sprints, we also had the chance to level-set internally and with our clients to ensure that, throughout our sprints, we maintained focused on the highest-priority elements of the project.

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An overview of the steps in Google Ventures’ Design Sprint Process. I go into more detail below. 

Defining the Problem (Background Research) 

Our team uncovered the design problem by conducting expert interviews with the founders of RePicture. Defining the problem during a more robust design process would surely include several user interviews as well. However, with limited time and a small team, we found expert interviews to be a lean way to rapidly learn about RePicture’s audiences, business model, and current user flow. With this information, our team was able to base our process and design artifacts on informed assumptions that we later tested, validated or invalidated, and refined. 

 

Through the insights collected in our expert interviews, our team designed a visual map of the problem space. Together with the client, our team agreed to focus our design ideas around the aforementioned steps in the user journey: discovering the benefits of, signing up for, creating, and maintaining a RePicture profile page. As RePicture already had an established website, tactically, this meant focusing on the home page and profile pages.

Map of Problem Space (Click Image To Open Large Version)

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Our map of the problem space. The area in the yellow box depicts our target area within the larger problem space.

This map of our problem space shows a user entering RePicture.com. From there they have the option to sign up for an account or for other RePicture offerings, such as their professional development classes. Once a user signs up for an account, they engage in profile-building activities, including filling out basic info, adding projects, and responding to my story responses. This can all happen in tandem with a user starting RePicture's asynchronous, online, professional development course. After completing the asynchronous course and filling out the profile, a user receives a certificate of completion. 

Together with the client, our team chose to focus on the area surrounded by the yellow box in the top left corner. This involved working on RePicture's home page and portfolio. 

With our problem space defined, our team conducted an informal heuristic evaluation of RePicture’s current website to determine potential areas for improvement. 

 

Our heuristic evaluation identified several high-level issues.

Home Page Issues

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The main issues that our team identified on the home page are that there is no primary action for users to take, that there are no clear benefits for a user taking any of the actions the home page prompts a user to take, and that there is no strong focus on appealing to any particular target audiences.  

Profile Page Issues

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The main issue that our team identified with the profile age is that there is no clear order for completing the profile. On visiting this page, a user would not know what to work on first.

Edit Profile Issues

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The main issue that our team identified with the edit profile flow was that the design made it feel overwhelming to fill out profile details.

Add a Project Issues

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The main issue that our team identified with the add a project flow was that some details and steps were hard to understand. Pictured here is a dropdown list of choices a user can make when attributing an image to its source. Do you know the difference between Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 and 3.0? I don’t!

HMWs and Goals

After completing our heuristic evaluation, our team ideated around project goals and How Might We’s in order to further define our problem. Through these sessions, we zeroed in on the outcomes that our final deliverable should accomplish and developed preliminary design ideas in the form of How Might We questions. The How Might We framework allowed us to explore a wide range of avenues without committing to creating a solution prematurely.

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Our How Might We statements, organized into categories. Using this approach, we were able to determine which area our team should focus on based on how much customer and business value each area might bring. 

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Our project goal statements, organized into categories. Using this approach, we were able to determine which area our team should focus on based on how much customer and business value each area might bring. 

By organizing our individual contributions into a group Affinity Map, our team was able to determine our project goal.

Long Term Goal
How might we increase the number of new college student users by designing a new UX and UI that improves the RePicture.com user journey? 
User Scenarios
User Scenarios

With our project goal set, our focus determined, and college students chosen as our target audience, we next wanted to capture common scenarios that this user group might experience when interacting with RePicture. Due to our rapid timeline, we decided to write user scenarios based off of assumptions and personal experience as recent college graduates. Later, in order to refine our scenarios, we asked context questions to gather more insights during our user tests.  

 

We wrote two main scenarios – one about a college student confident in their career path and soft skills, and another who needed more guidance. We also developed sub-scenarios: scenarios users might experience within the overall experience of signing up for and filling out a RePicture profile.

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My Contribution

I helped to write Kevin's Story and provided critique for Tolani's Story and the additional user scenarios.

Inspiration Gathering

With our scenario personas in mind, our team began gathering inspiration for our solutions. From all over the internet, we pulled examples of successful designs, structurally similar solutions, and anything else that we thought might inspire ideas around our design problem.

 

My team and I individually collected inspiration and pinpointed pieces of each design that we thought would be particularly useful as we began to ideate solutions. Then, as a team, we shared these ideas with each other and took note of the most important pieces to keep in our back pocket for our next step, sketching. We took inspiration from a wide variety of sources, from career websites with similar value propositions, to dating websites, to Facebook. 

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Annotated screenshot from Match.com. This heavily inspired our My Story designs (shown later).  

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Annotated screenshot from myFuture. This heavily inspired one of our Home Page designs (shown later).  

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Annotated screenshot from Behance. This inspired part of our My Projects design (shown later).  

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Annotated screenshot from LinkedIn Learning. This inspired parts of our Home Page designs (shown later).

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Annotated screenshot from Facebook Events. This inspired parts of our My Projects designs (shown later).

Sketching & Voting

With our creative wells full, our team began sketching potential design solutions, keeping in mind our personas, goal, and problem space. We began with Crazy Eights – a rapid sketching method intended to draw out a high quantity of ideas over a short period of time. 

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This Crazy Eights exercise shows some of my early ideas for the home page (panels one and two), project page (panels three and four), edit project page (panels five and six), and profile page (panels seven and eight). 

Next, we elaborated on our Crazy Eights ideas with higher-fidelity, labeled sketches. We focused on RePicture’s homepage and profile-building experiences. 

Home Page Sketch

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My homepage sketch, focusing on providing one primary action for users to take while highlighting key benefits above the fold.

Profile Page Sketch

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My profile sketch, focusing on a step-by-step, trackable approach to completion.

My Story Sketch

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My My Story sketch, focusing again on a step-by-step, heavily guided approach to completion.

My sketches, as well as many of my teammates' sketches, centered around creating a clearer path for college students to sign up for and complete a RePicture profile. Rather than presenting users with a large number of choices up front, I focused on a primary way for users to become involved with RePicture, and a guided, step-by-step experience for filling out the profile. 

 

Our team voted on the pieces of each sketch we thought would be most effective, and combined the best pieces in our storyboard. 

Storyboarding

Using our sketches and scenarios, my team and I storyboarded the experience of our target user walking through the discovery and creation of a RePicture profile–the happy path.

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Our user receives a newsletter (one of the main channels RePicture acquires users through) with a note about RePicture, checks out the website and decides to sign up. They fill out some of the profile, take a break, and then fill the rest out a dew days later. As a result of their profile, they receive a networking connection through RePicture.   

Product Structure

Informed by our storyboard, our team created a product structure diagram – a floorplan of all of the focus areas, their functionalities, and the pathways between them included in RePicture’s website. By first completing our storyboard, our team was able to design our product structure diagram around the pathways our user might take in order to achieve their goals.

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Low Fidelity Prototyping  

Bringing together all of our research, inspiration gathering, UX artifacts, and sketches, our team created low-fidelity prototypes to test with users. 

With our home page designs, our team focused on conveying RePicture’s mission and benefits more clearly and provided a clearer path to build a RePicture profile. 

 

With our profile designs, our team focused on a step-by-step, guided approach to completing the profile, keeping our target audience, who might not know exactly where to start when developing an online professional identity, in mind.

My Contribution

I contributed to the home page design and fully designed the My Story flows.

User Testing Methodology and Results 

Our team tested our prototype with 5 undergraduate students–primarily STEM-focused Juniors and Seniors in the midst of internship and career searches. We split our user interviews into three parts: 

  1. Context questions: We asked our participants about their ideas, experiences, and challenges surrounding professional development and STEM

  2. Prototype Test: We observed our participants walking through our prototype, noting areas they liked and disliked, and things that tripped them up or helped them fill out their profile. 

  3. Debrief Questions: We closed out our interview by asking participants to describe their experience walking through the prototype and to point out anything they liked, disliked, or wished was included in the prototype. 

 

Overall, we discovered several key insights: 

  • Homepage 

    • Participants felt like the purpose of the site was unclear and desired more information to understand what RePicture could do for them

    • Participants decided to sign up after seeing testimonials, benefits, and others’ projects and portfolios 

  • Profile

    • Participants felt like the profile creation process was easy to follow, was broken into manageable steps, and included helpful tips.

    • Participants desired more flexibility. They wanted to complete and arrange profile sections in their preferred order. They also wanted a greater variety of My Story prompts and custom prompts.

    • Participants felt overwhelmed having to choose 5 My Story prompts before answering any questions. They wanted

My Contribution

Moderating and Observing User Interviews

Refining Sketches and Storyboards 

Based on our user tests, our team refined our sketches and storyboards.

Home Page Sketch - Round 2

Key changes to my Home Page sketches included: 

  • Benefits informed by the benefits users found most compelling during our user interview 

  • Sections highlighting testimonials, others’ portfolios, and others’ projects

  • More emphasis on RePicture’s courses

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My Story Sketch - Round 2

Key changes to my My Story sketches included: 

  • Reducing the number of questions to choose from nine at a time to two at a time 

  • Providing users with the option to view all questions, refresh the two visible questions

  • Providing users with tips for answering questions 

  • Providing users with a step-by-step guided experience to filling in answers

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My Profile Sketch - Round 2

Key changes to my Profile sketches included: 

  • Providing indicators to show which items are visible to the public, and which are visible to profile editors 

  • Increasing flexibility in terms of task completion order 

  • Replacing the step-based progress tracker with a percentage-complete-based progress tracker 

  • Increasing emphasis on how much completing each task would contribute to a complete profile

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Adding A Project - New Flow

We also sketched a new flow – Adding a project: 

In my Add A Project flow, I continued to design based on the step-by-step, piecemeal approach I had followed throughout the profile creation process in order to help users complete project pages without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged from filling out all of the required information.

 

I included several key elements: 

  • A project preview to display progress while completing the project creation process and show users what visitors to their projects pages would see 

  • A progress bar to indicate how far along in the project creation process users are 

  • One field or selection per page 

  • Icons and images to guide users through the process of creating a project intuitively

  • A designated step at the end of the process that encouraged users to share their work 

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Storyboard Refinements

Based on our user interviews, we also refined our storyboard. 

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We included more intermediate steps to show, more realistically, how a user moves from visiting the RePicture home page to creating a profile and how they move from task to task. We also updated the end result. 

 

Many of the participants in our user interviews mentioned that they could see themselves including a link to their completed profile in a job application, so, in order to reflect our participant’s desired experiences, the end goal of our storyboard featured a RePicture user doing just that.

High Fidelity Prototyping

Taking the insights from our first round of user testing, and our updates to our sketches and storyboard into account, our team developed high fidelity prototypes to once again test with users. 

With our home page designs, our team broke out each of RePicture’s benefits into their own sections, giving users the chance to focus on one at a time. We provided a new ingress point for students with less experience via a career quiz. We created updated testimonials, profile, course, and project highlight sections. In addition, we added an FAQs section. Finally, we zeroed in on a friendly, fun, but semi-professional look and feel. 

 

With our main profile page designs, our team created more consistent and more obvious ways to fill out portfolio sections. We put heavy emphasis on a profile completion section with the intent of encouraging users to fill in their profiles step-by-step. Finally, we included featured profile and featured projects sections to give users examples of work done by their peers. 

 

Our My Story designs, as shown in my sketches, reduced the number of choices from nine to two and allowed users both more flexibility and a more guided experience to filling out the section. 

 

With a similar step-by-step approach, we designed a new process for adding a project. We included one focus per page, and a progress bar to help guide users through. We emphasized the distinction between different project types, included a project preview, and allowed users to select project cover photos from their own collection, or from preset images. Finally, we gave users easy ways to share their projects once they had been completed. 

My Contribution

I contributed to the home page design and fully designed the My Story flows.

User Testing Methodology And Results

User testing for this second version of the prototype followed the same structure as our first version–context questions, a prototype test, and debrief questions. This time around, we had the opportunity to test the prototype with a total of 4 College students–3 Seniors and a Junior, again all working toward STEM degrees.

 

There were several key takeaways from our interviews: 

  • Homepage 

    • Participants enjoyed the ability to filter testimonials to see the most relevant to them.  

    • Participants were able to quickly and easily identify where to sign up for a profile.

    • Participants felt the home page could be clearer and more direct in stating RePicture’s purpose, and that important information that provides context about RePicture should have higher visual emphasis

  • Overall Profile

    • Participants found signing up, picking interests and goals, providing basic information, and filling out the profile to be easy and straightforward. Overall, users had a positive impression of the profile and felt it was something that could be used/shared. 

    • Some participants expressed a desire for clarity on how many Goals & Interests options they could select, as well as a larger and more diverse group of options to select from.

    • Some participants expressed confusion around changing the profile from public to private.

  • My Story 

    • Participants liked the flexibility of choosing from preset questions, refreshing questions, creating their own questions, or browsing all questions.

    • The “Profiles with at least 3 answers get 75% more views” statistic encouraged participants to answer more than one question. 

    • Participants found the tips to be helpful when figuring out how to answer questions. Tips prevent users from feeling stuck.

    • Participants generally felt less overwhelmed when choosing between only two questions.

    • One participant was afraid to open a video tutorial to help answer questions in fear they’d lose their work.

  • Project Creation

    • Participants felt that reflection questions were a good way to tie everything they have accomplished with their projects together 

    • Overall, participants felt that adding a project was simple and straightforward.

    • Some participants had difficulty understand the difference between interest projects and new projects.

    • Participants did not understand the purpose or value of uploading a cover photo for their project.

My Contribution

Moderating and observing user interviews.

Refining Sketches

As with our first round of user tests and iterations, our team again refined our sketches based on our second round of user tests.  

Home Page Sketch - Round 3

Key changes to my Home Page sketches included: 

  • A top navigation dropdown titled “For You,” under which links to a landing page for each target audience could be placed. RePicture’s founders expressed interest in appealing to several different audiences. 

  • Three consolidated benefits to explain the “what” and “why” concisely and above the fold, paired with identically titled sections below that provided more detail and tailored CTAs. 

  • Audience filters not only in the Testimonials section, but also in a “Who’s On RePicture” section highlighting RePicture’s diverse community.

  • Topic filters in an “Explore Community Projects” section to highlight the diversity of projects available for exploration on the website

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Profile Sketch - Round 3

Key changes to my Profile sketches included: 

  • A design focused on the profile viewer in addition to one focused on the editor.

  • Comment functionality on My Story, My Projects, Skills, Hobbies, and Interests to encourage community engagement among users.  

  • A modal highlighting a profile viewer’s ability to message another RePicture user 

  • Sticky tabs to navigate page contents

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As the My Story & My Projects flows had received overall positive feedback, I did not iterate on those designs in my sketches. However, my teammates did, and we incorporated some of the ideas from their sketches into our final design. 

High Fidelity Prototyping (Again)

Based off of our second rounds of user testing and third round of sketching, we created a final, high fidelity prototype that incorporated changes to established flows such My Story, My Projects, and the Profile creation process, as as well as several new ideas that RePicture hoped to test with users.

Our additions to My Story included affordances to indicate that the short video tutorials included to help guide users through completing the section would not exit users out of their unsaved work such as an “autosaving” label, an “external link” icon next to the video title, and a label indiciating that the video tutorial was only about 2 minutes long. Our intention was to resolve the anxiety around this that one of our particpants expressed  during our most recent round of testing. We also designed a new feature to allow users to respond to My Story prompts with a video–something that RePicture’s founders were interested in testing. More on the results in the next section. 

 

Changes to My Projects centered around changing the concept of Project Co-Owners from our previous iteration to two separate concepts: Project Contributors, or people who actually contributed to the project itself, and Co-Authors, people who contributed to the project writeup on RePicture. We also designed a Reflection Questions section, incorporating a feature in RePicture’s current profile that we’d neglected to include in our previous two iterations. In the spirit of continuing the highly guided experience found throughout the rest of our designs, we gave users the choice between three questions and provided them with tips to help answer the one question they chose. 

 

Our iterations on the Profile creation process introduced the ability to add skills, hobbies and interests, and an intro video to the profile. We also added the ability to access RePicture courses directly from the profile page, as well as the ability to add a written reflection to completed courses. Finally, we added a toggle titled “Ask Me A Question,” which allowed users to open their messages to other users with questions about their profile or STEM field. As with other changes, these were all functionalities that RePicture’s founders wanted to test with users. 

 

In an effort to handoff a comprehensive start-to-finish flow, our team also designed a user profile in it’s fully completed state from both the viewer and editor perspective as well as several other key components, such as error messages, dismissable banners, and profile image upload flows. 

 

All are shown in the above video.

My Contribution

Iterating on My Story and Profile designs, and creating designs for Skills, Courses, and Hobbies & Interests.

User Testing Methodology and Results 

For our final round of user testing, we interviewed 7 participants, 5 of whom were previous participants in RePicture’s summer program, and all of whom were students or professionals in STEM. Testing with previous RePicture participants allowed our team to gain insights into how RePicture’s current website compared to our prototype. In previous rounds of testing, we’d only gained insights about how users reacted to our designs. This round of testing helped to validate whether or not our design was actually an improvement on RePicture’s current design.  

 

Key takeaways from our interviews included: 

  • Overall Profile

    • Participants liked the look and feel of the viewer side and liked the ability to preview what their profile will look like to others.

    • Participants liked the layout for both the my story and project section and felt that both designs work perfectly for each section

    • Participants felt that the banner was a good reminder for users to keep their profiles up to date

    • Participants appreciated the step-by-step strategy of filling out the profile

    • Participants would have liked to see the profile image represented larger than the intro video.

    • Some participants were not comfortable answering question with videos. However, participants liked the option to add an intro video and some were more likely to do so over the my story videos.

  • Project Creation

    • Tips are very helpful and encouraging. They allow the user to keep going instead of giving up along the way.

    • Users enjoyed the preview and how it updated as they answered the different steps.

    • “Find a Projects I've worked on” caused confusion/misinterpretation.

    • There was some confusion on the difference between co-author vs project contributor.

 

Rather than include an updated home page in our user testing, we decided to create two new versions of the home page with specific differences and test it against the home page we designed in our previous round of prototyping in a survey.

 

We chose to test our home page concepts in a survey for two reasons. First, the user test was already very long. We knew that, in the time our particpants had available, we would not be able to gather feedback on all three versions of the home page as well as the entire profile creation process. Additionally, as we had already gathered qualitative data on our home page concepts in our previous two rounds of testing, we wanted to gather quantitative data from a larger sample size in order to more accurately compare and contrast the effectiveness of our three concepts. ​

Our three concepts included: 

  • HP1: A long home page with broken-out sections highlighting individual benefits, testimonials, and more.​

  • HP2: A home page that placed emphasis on audience self-segmentation.

  • HP3: A very short home page with consolidated benefits and sections.

Our survey focused on comparing the effectiveness of each of the three prototypes at giving participants the information they needed to decide whether or not to sign up for RePicture. We received 57 responses, almost entirely from college students. About ⅔ of respondents were juniors or seniors, while the other ⅓ were Freshman or Sophomores. 

Overall, our results showed that home page 3, the short and consolidated design, was the least effective, but there was not a significant difference between the effectiveness of home pages 1 and 2. 

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My Contribution

Moderating and observing user interviews.

Design System

With our designs solidified and ready for handoff to RePicture’s development team, we wanted to make sure our designs were standardized with reusable components in order to make future design refinements and development more efficient. 

 

I’ll touch briefly on the design system–it could really be considered a project on its own, but I won’t go into that amount of detail.

 

The process of creating the design system included documenting each element in our designs, organizing them into categories, and determining whether they needed to be turned into reusable components. Once the organization piece was squared away, myself and one of my other team members created the components, including buttons, cards, chips, dialogs, user inputs, icons, lists, menus, navigation elements, selection controls, system messages, and progress indicators. We also created a style guide that included text and color styles. While my teammate and I designed, one of our other group members created documentation and codified RePicture’s high level design principles. 

 

A sample of our design system is pictured below. This shows several of RePicture’s button styles in their various states. 

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My Contribution

Designing and component-izing components such as buttons and cards, naming and organizing the system. 

Project Conclusion 

With our final prototypes tested, our research compiled, and our design system built, our team handed off our work to our clients to begin implementation. Our handoff documentation included deliverables from each process detailed in the Google Design Sprint framework, such as problem maps, sketches, and storyboards. It also included our final Figma files, prepped and ready for developer inspection. These included our prototype files as well as the design system. We also included results from each of our three rounds of user testing. 

 

Finally, based on the knowledge we had gathered through our semester-long engagement with RePicture, we included recommendations for further consideration, such as: 

  • Implement the design system and mockups 

    • Continue to evaluate and refine on design and user experience during/after implementation

  • Clearly define the business strategy

    • Explore addressing additional target audiences 

      • Focus on one target audience at a time for design solutions and testing

      • Consider expert feedback to focus more on high schoolers

    • Investigate outreach and marketing strategies to increase customer acquisition

  • Revisit restructuring RePicture’s summer program as an online experience

Project Reflections 

Working with RePicture over the course of the semester while utilizing Google’s Sprint framework helped me to develop several skillsets, including working with clients, facilitating a team, and giving and receiving critique from peers, mentors, and clients. I look forward to applying these skills throughout my career. 

Collaborating with a Team

Working with my team was an absolute pleasure. Several processes we implemented helped our team to maintain a great dynamic.

 

First, at the onset of the project, our team collaborated to develop a shared set of values, including respect, fun, and focus, among others. Defining our values at the beginning of our engagement provided us with a shared understanding of our ideal team dynamic that we were able to carry through the entire duration of the project.

 

Throughout the project, our team also engaged in process checks. These meetings helped us to focus on what was working in our team and project, and what was not. We had the opportunity to suggest ideas to help turn areas for improvement into wins, and a chance to select one chosen change to implement each time we completed a process check. The process checks gave our team scheduled intervals to reflect on our dynamic and project as it stood and allowed us the opportunity to grow and adapt our practices as we learned more about working with each other, with our clients, and on our particular project.

A few other small things helped our team to work well together. Our team engaged in open and frequent communication, through slack, zoom meetings, and in person meetings. We also timeboxed our activities, resulting in very focused, efficient work. Finally, each of our team members maintained a positive attitude, creating a light, fun atmosphere.

 

My biggest takeaway from collaborating with my team was the process checks. This technique is something that I’ve already stolen for Sprint Retrospectives at my job! 

Facilitating a Team

For one of our three sprints, I took on the role of facilitator. This meant that it was my job to plan out each of the activities in our sprint, assign tasks to my team members, and keep track of progress on each of our deliverables. 

 

For me, facilitating proved difficult. For my own organization, I operate primarily off of intuition. I tend not to write things down, relying on my memory reminding me to complete tasks instead. I do not block my schedule in advance, accomplishing tasks whenever I figure out that I have time. However, I quickly discovered that this does not work for a high-functioning, fast-paced team. In order to keep a rapid pace and produce high-quality work, my team needed more guidance than I typically provide for myself. 

 

I implemeneted strategies such as sending out a micro daily schedule for our meetings, and referencing and adjusting our macro sprint schedule based on our progress through our tasks. I realized that a greater degree of planning can help to facilitate stronger execution. 

 

Since facilitating, I’ve made small changes to my own habits that have helped me become a stronger planner. For example, I’ve begun to paste sticky notes to my wall to remind me of tasks and to organize thoughts and ideas. Additionally, I know that the experience I gained planning the timeline of projects will help me in my career as I tackle larger initiatives in my work.

Giving and Receiving Critique

Working on a semester-long design project allowed me the opportunity to recieve critique from my peers, clients, and mentors. In order to make critique sessions productive, I implemented two strategies. 

 

First, in order to ensure I received critique about whatever I was focused on designing at the time, I provided guidelines to my teammates, mentor, and clients by pinpointing the exact elements I was looking for feedback on. This is a technique I will cert to make sure that critique from stakeholders is focused and helpful.  

 

Additionally, whenever I received critique from project stakeholders, I made sure to take notes. This may seem obvious, but like I mentioned earlier, I am an intuitive leader who relies a little too much on my memory. Making sure I captured each piece of feedback in writing allowed me to reference it later when making changes to our deliverables.