A space on LinkedIn for college students to join their classmates, follow their updates, learn skills, and find projects to work together.
How would you create an experience that helps college students discover and connect with their classmates, without relying on email? This is was my challenge in creating Linkedin Classmates. In 7 days, I researched, designed, and tested a web experience for college students.
Linkedin Classmates is a space on LinkedIn for college students to join their classmates, follow their updates, learn skills, and find projects to work together. Students can join their college connections on 'Linkedin Classmates' primarily by being invited by their program coordinators, who will create a ‘Classmates Space’ for students from the same major. This way, academic staff become bridges that connect their students.
'Classmates' provides a casual space for students from same major to keep in touch with their classmates, follow their career or project updates, learn skills, and work together. This way 'Classmates' make it easier for students to expand their network in their college.
'Classmates' also enable coordinators to keep in touch with their students, connect them online with prospective students (and visitors), and track their career paths by even they graduate, easily.
‘Classmates’ expands the home feed by including two sections: a showcase of popular skills among 'Classmates' connections and project listings from campus. It also interfaces career updates as a feed container to foster the feeling of a ‘customized’ experience.
Being invite-only, 'Classmates' is also similar to a closed Linkedin Group but it aims to be more focused on students needs. In a group, discussions would happen in group's feed. Unlike groups, conversations can happen in a group chat.
To leverage the linear presentation format, I created two personas to walkthrough Classmates' user flows.
Since Allie listed herself as a coordinator on her Linkedin Profile, she got a new notification that says Classmates is ready for her to try. She clicks the link on the notification to get started.
Linda got a notification about Allie’s invitation to her school email. When she enters Linkedin to read more about it, she also notices a section that also invites her to join her classmates.
Linda can access updates from her 'Classmates' connections, find new projects to use her skills, or find a connection, who can tutor her a new skill.
While this exercise was a great challenge to think about end-to-end experiences in a short time period, I’d like to do more user research to eliminate the assumptions that I made during the challenge when I don’t have research to build upon.
I was able to get opinions of three users with Invision prototypes. They all liked being able to see everything about their classmates in one place. A participant thought that this page can also replace 'the students' section of their department website. Another also would like to get introduced relevant alumni in their Spaces. With more time, I’d do more evaluative research and made iterations.
If I had another week, I’d be interested in exploring a more visually-distinct “Classmates Spaces” as well as how may be a mobile experience. In addition to this, I’d be also designed the entry-points of the system in high fidelity such as notifications, e-mails.
Due to the time limitation, one area I haven't much explored in this challenge was micro-interactions. I believe by using micro-interactions elements such as animated elements, Classmates' can provide a more delightful experience to students. They can also improve the 'casual' feeling of the experience.
I decided to use a shorter process that I’m following in my thesis for this challenge. Due to the time limitations, I acknowledged that my iterations will be limited and I may not be able to get proper feedback on my design.
In the first 2 days, I interviewed 10 students who study in US and Turkey coming from different backgrounds and field of studies. I realized that the way each student describes “connecting” and “discovering” people is highly cultural. While some emphasized friendship, many highlighted the importance of collaboration.
To get even more and faster feedback on some of my early interview findings, I did an online survey of 20 students. Half of it was similar to my interview questions. The rest was opinion questions about Linkedin, which enabled me to understand how students see Linkedin while it may not scientifically-accurate.
I looked at various active and offline products/pages of Linkedin that is developed for my user group. I found Linkedin positioning itself for after graduation. I found this in my research, too. Some tend to see Linkedin as a tool for future than now.
I checked some of the tools that my primary research participants mentioned. They were mainly group-based messaging products, productivity tools, or social media platforms. When I mapped how students perceive their tools of communication, I found out that they use tools that feel more casual and faster.
By using the rose-bud-thorn, I color coded my findings into categories: How do tools vary from discovery to connection? , definitions of connecting, positive things, potential ideas, and negative things.
I did affinity mapping to find the patterns and themes from the research. Before distilling them down, I had 32 themes to look and find key insights.
I categorized my key takeaways into three themes.
I finalized my synthesis by defining three opportunity areas for next stages.
After deciding on my final idea, I started to sketch some of the existing design of Linkedin desktop. I decided to work on the desktop because many users from my research were using Linkedin on the desktop. Wireframing the existing design helped me to see how visual design and layouts change with-in different products and across the Linkedin ecosystem.
Before wireframing my proposed design, I worked on finalizing the user flow. I decided to start from onboarding and use it as an opportunity to explain what Classmates are to users. Thinking about not only the actual interaction but also what user needs to do for making it happen made my product decisions more grounded.
After finalizing the flow, I continued with visualizing the steps of it. Sketching wireframes before going to high fidelity helped me to decide faster and be freer without losing time on small details in the earlier stages.
I continued with wireframing the actual Classmates page. While wireframing, I tried to use the same elements from existing Linkedin design to fit my idea better to the Linkedin ecosystem.
Once I had some ideas about with the general layouts and elements, I started to recreate the existing Linkedin UI on Sketch.
While I was redrawing the UI, I realized that if I had classmates button on the existing top navigation bar, it would have been pretty packed. Instead, I decided to remove “post a job” button from the top navbar and add classmates to at keeping the number of icons. As I wanted to emphasize and get users’ attention, I positioned it after the My Network button.
I started my prototyping with Principle, thinking that it would be easier to show some micro interactions as well as chat overlays. To submit on time, I decided to switch to Invision prototypes that come with the trade-off of not prototyping the micro-interactions.