How might we initiate casual, meaningful conversations between professionals?





Role

Research, Iteration, Prototyping

Timeline

8 weeks


Overview




When I was initially thinking about what it was I wanted to accomplish in my time with the Residency, I kept coming back to my interest in the intersections of these spaces. I wondered what a year-long solo project with this backbone of interdisciplinary fusion might look like- and configured my Residency around the large, open-ended, ever-present question: how might we make and design future technologies more equitable and human-centered?




Secondary Research


For this project, I started by researching the current scope of products in career services, issues in receiving and finding jobs, and articles describing the space. 



I found that many products gave users opportunities to virtually see and apply for many jobs, but few gave opportunities for users to meet professionals or interact with anyone 1-on-1. This troubled me, as I found in a Glassdoor report on jobs that, on average, for every 1 job open there are 250 applicants. The current services make finding a job stressful, impersonal, and difficult to actually find and receive jobs.

Much of my secondary research findings led me to the idea that finding meaningful jobs isn’t about how many jobs you apply to- it’s about the personal connections you make with people in your field.With that idea in mind, I wanted to frame my primary research within an audience currently dealing with the issues I’ve described: millennials.





Primary Research

According to GPS University, “72% of students, as opposed to 53% of workers, consider having ‘a job where I can make an impact’ to be very important or essential to their happiness.”

I interviewed 6 millennials about their past job experiences, how they like to meet people, and what stresses them out about finding work. These interviews each took around 45 minutes to an hour, and gave me terrific insights into problems facing millennials getting employed at workplaces they felt aligned with their values and interests.



I also had each interviewee participate in a research activity called the circle of trust. In the activity, participants rank how uncomfortable to comfortable they are with certain ideas by placing cards with professional networking behaviors from close (comfortable) to far (uncomfortable) from them.




Insights and Principles


In order to discover insights, I write down everything my interviewees said on post it notes (labeled with a number representing who said what) and places those post-its on a (big) wall. After getting all of the notes up on the wall, I start to cluster post-its together that have similar statements, or stories that have similar trends running through them. The more time I spend with the notes, the easier it becomes to identify patterns. I then write down those patterns, and those patterns start to get clustered. Eventually, all of this clustering of patterns turns into meaningful insights from my interviewees.



Insights
Job boards feel unlikely to actually foster getting a job.

Most every job was received by having a connection or meeting in person.

 Casual interactions in meeting places like coffee shops feel less overwhelming.

“Networking” events feel forced and overwhelmingly large.

Getting an introduction is most comfortable when meeting a new professional.

Job boards have so many jobs it is difficult to discern which are trustworthy.

Recruiters feel like automated robots.

Talking to a professional is most comfortable 1 on.

Linkedin is used almost solely for messaging or finding mutual connections- not for it’s news feed or job posts.

Meeting in person trumps meeting over Skype or over the phone and those connections are lasting.

Networking has a negative connotation of being superficial.

These insights then turned into general principles for the solution I made. Making principles is important, and different from finding insights. While finding insights is all about learning about habits, motivations, goals, fears, etc. from people, generating principles is all about how you’ll take those learnings and make sure they apply to the service you come up with.

Principles
My solution should promote one on one, in-person conversation.

My solution should make all interactions feel personal and organic.

My solution will not attempt to do all things- it will primarily help connect people to have conversation in the first place.


Brainstorming



I decided on furthering a concept I had worked on while brainstorming: an app that helps people meet other people. This might sound simple, but all you need in order to begin prototyping is a simple idea and the understanding that your idea might completely change.  

I then worked on thinking up the most critical elements of my platform and considered what sort of architecture that might look like. This is an element that I constantly edit while I’m continuing the prototyping phase.



Initial Prototyping


I proceeded to take the structure I had created in my site map and begun sketching out super basic wireframes in Adobe XD- below are basic ideas of what the home or discovery page might look like. This process- even of making wireframes I know for certain won’t work right- is incredibly helpful in figuring out all of your options and beginning to narrow down on concepts, rather than starting entirely with one concept and fleshing it out to high fidelity.





Medium Fidelity Prototyping



Below I’m showing a view medium/high-fidelity screens done in Adobe XD. Something I’ve been able to do with XD that’s been huge is design and prototype on the same application. In the past I’ve been designing (in Illustrator/Sketch) and then doing low-fidelity prototyping in something like InVision, so it’s crazy helpful to be able to have everything live in one home.

Home


Above shows (from left to right) how someone would go about seeing the day’s professional matches, checking on their profile, and scheduling a meet up with them (with an integrated calendar feature so times that are shown are those that work on the calendar of both the user and the user’s invitee).

Some of the comments I received in doing testing was that the mutual connections the user has with the match should be more obvious and have an opportunity to be called upon within the app. Another prototype-tester commented that everything felt too crammed and small and that they feared accidentally tapping something they didn’t entirely mean to.

Similarly, I put the word ‘matches’ as the title above the four professionals in your area the service’s algorithm would place a user with. However, everyone who began using the prototype in my tests associated the idea of ‘match’ with dating; it felt too intimate a word to describe a potential professional connection.


Above (from left to right) shows what would happen post time-scheduling; picking a location to meet at, typing a message (short and sweet- a huge observation I saw in my research that proved high results for professionals contacting the emailer back), and then sending the message.

Some of the comments I received in doing testing in this element was that there felt like too many option buttons- a back button near the ‘Schedule a meet up’ line, a forwards option to see different types of locations, a downward button to see more options of coffee shops/spots, and a review button to finalize. The users I spoke to felt like there were too many options- and I observed them hastily clicking around the screen, instead of seeing a clear, distinct option of reviewing their choices.

Calendar


Above (from left to right) shows what would happen after sending an invite, having that invite accepted (shown as a notification in the nav bar at the bottom), and what expanding that accepted invite would look like.

Some of the comments I received in doing testing in this element was that the hierarchy was confusing (I’m paraphrasing here). Users weren’t sure if the day itself was the most important part, the title of the meeting, who you were meeting, or the location. The date needed to be more obvious- especially if it was a section titled calendar.

This got me thinking- does the calendar element need to be within the app, or since it’s integrated should it just move its way over to the user’s home calendar?

Profile

Above (from left to right) shows what would happen if the user tried to edit the content in their profile.


Visual Identity 


With most of the user journey completed, I worked on creating a visual identity and system that complimented and added to the current features of the product. As I tested these prototypes with people, I found that many liked a visual identity that was lightweight, in both color and typography- as the act of networking can often be a little stressful, making the identity light with bold, black elements of typography felt new and maintained a sense of comfort and ease.




Final Deliverables













Viewing Profile and Sending an Invitation

Vit, here, allows people to connect with those they have mutual connections with by looking at their page, scheduling a meeting time and place, and sending out the invitation. 

Vit does not allow users to see where the connection works- just simply what they call themselves and what sort of work they do/want to do. This idea is in hopes that status is not the primary reason for meeting up; instead of sending out invitations to meet up with those who hold positions of “status” at “top-tier” organizations and companies, Vit encourages users to get to know each other based on passions and backgrounds in the work they do. 








Editing Your Information

Vit, here, allows the user to make edits and changes to their profile easily, so the information they would like to display to others is updated in real time. 

The format in which users edit and view their information is the same as the format in which they are able to see information from others; this will ensure that users feel as though the content throughout the app, no matter the user, is cohesive and similar, so no information feels too personal or unwarranted.