A project for CGT 256 - Principles of User Experience Design, taught by Dr. Vorvoreanu, my team was tasked with designing a way for Purdue graduate students to connect with professors and find openings for teaching assistantships.

Team Members: Blake Rice, Eira Topé, Joe Rapier, Nick Gould

The Research

Problem statement: Professors & graduate students need a unified system to post and find graduate assisstantships.

Research Goal: Our goal was to research the difficulties that graduate students are having in finding assistantships.

  • > Interviews

    Lead: All team members

    Objective: We interviewed 4 graduate students about their experiences with finding graduate assistantships. We interviewed 1 math student and 3 CGT students.

  • > Surveys

    Lead: Nick

    Objective: We also created a survey to collect information from graduate students about how they find graduate assistantships. This survey collected responses from 10 students and 8 professors.

  • > Contextual inquiry

    Lead: Joe & Eira

    Objective: 3 of the students who were interviewed also participated in contextual inquiries. 2 of these students could not find any assistantships, the third could only find a print application he could submit. All subjects agreed it was easier to talk to professors personally and ask about assistantships than searching online.

  • > Data analysis

    Lead: All team members

    Objective: Using affinity diagramming to analyze the data we collected from the interviews, surveys, and contextual inquiries, we discovered some trends among the subjects.

    • Most students would like a website to find assistantships, but some still would prefer to use direct contact with professors.
    • Most professors and students in CGT currently use direct contact to find an assistantship.
    • Both professors and students who do not have large networks of contacts have a much more difficult time than those who do.
    • Finding an assistantship is a slow process.
  • > Personas of Ananya (graduate student) and Adam Phillips (professor)

    Lead: Eira

    Objective: By creating personas of our target audience, we can develop an understanding of their needs, wants, motivations, and processes. Knowing this, we can design an interface that fulfills all their needs and wants with an easy-to-use UI.

  • > Scenario

    Lead: Eira

    Objective: We developed a scenario that illustrated how both our personas interacted using our new website. Knowing the process our personas are going through, we can understand how they would interact with the site.

  • > Restating requirements

    Lead: All team members

    Objective: Understanding our personas and scenario, we developed a new list of requirements for the new website.

    Ananya's Requirements

    • Informational requirements
      • List all available positions
      • List professors, their research topics, and emails
    • Functional requirements
      • Upload resume
      • Open positions are sortable and searchable
    • Technical requirements
      • Show relevant results in searches

    Adam Phillip's Requirements

    • Informational requirements
      • List qualified students
      • Can see applicants' experience and qualifications
    • Functional requirements
      • Download resume
      • Can search students to directly recruit for positions
    • Technical requirements
      • Simple, easy-to-use interface
Affinity Diagramming
Sketches Wireframes

The Design

  • > Sketching

    Lead: All team members

    Each team member developed sketches of their ideas for the site. After everyone had developed some idea of the looks and functionality of the site, we came together and compared ideas, then chose the best features of each sketch and refined them.

  • > Storyboarding

    Lead: Eira

    Having an idea of how the website would look like and work, we developed a storyboard illustrating the process the user would go through to find an assistantship. This further solidified our concepts of the functionality of the new site.

  • > Wireframing

    Lead: Nick

    Taking our refined ideas, we used Google Drawings to design more high-fidelity versions.

  • > Prototyping

    Lead: Nick

    Further refining wireframes, we created extremely hi-fi versions of our designs with Adobe Illustrator. We then imported these into InVision to create a functional prototype of the site and its functionality.

  • > Informal usability testing

    Lead: All team members

    We individually found subjects in our audience to participate in informal usability testing. This testing was task oriented, and gave us some great initial insight on the pain points of our site and how to immediately improve its design.

Mockups Mockups

The Testing

We then conducted formal usability testing to further refine our design and make it easier to use for our target audience.

  • > Process

    We had the participants complete a series of tasks. We timed each task and recorded their feedback about their experience. We had the participants use the think-out-loud process. We informed them that it was ok if they could not complete a task. Also, we had them inform us when they believed each task was complete, that way we could assess if the site was giving them proper feedback. We recorded the computer screen and used a webcam to record each user.

  • > Results

    • All tasks were completed be all users
    • One third of users had a hard time finding how to apply for an assistantship. The link to apply was on the detailed card for the position, however they could not find the link on the card.
    • Users had a hard time posting an assistantship opening. Users would visit the account page first, rather than the "Job Openings" page where the button was located.
    • Users had no trouble finding specific students
    • Users had no problems finding and editing their profiles
  • > Feedback


    • The home page was attractive
    • The tiles were a great way to organize the information
    • Once learned, the site was easy to navigate. However, there was a slight learning curve.
    • The profiles had more detail and were more useful than Purdue's own faculty profiles
    • Users liked how they could input skills
    • Users liked how professors could add portfolios. That way, grad students can see what professors' research are, which is normally hard to find.

    User recommendations:

    • Change the color of the main navigation links to have more contrast with the background
    • The account menu gives the impression it contains more than just profile information. Either rename it to "Profile" or add more content to the account menu. Possibly add "Create a Posting" to the account menu.
    • Change the skill search hint text. "Add skills" gives the impression you're adding skills to your profile, not searching for them. The subheading is also unnecessary.
    • Add concentrations within majors (Ex.: CGT - Animation)
  • > Recommendations

    • Replace the current banner containing job postings with an informative and engaging banner that quickly lets users know what the site is and how it helps them
    • Change navigation text color to increase contrast with background
    • Make cards larger and increase their font size
    • Conduct more usability testing

The Conclusions

Professors and graduate students have a problem: they have a hard time connecting with each other to fill assistantship positions.

We set out to solve that problem through research and testing of our user group.

We went through several sketches and iterations of our design to come up with an interactive prototype for our target audience to test, and collected data of them using the site through formal usability testing methods including screen capturing, video recording, and timing.

We created a product which professors and graduate students were able to use to fill and find assistantship openings and connect with each other. More design and usability research needs done to make the product pleasant to use.

Lessons learned:

  • During our user research, doing interviews and talking to graduate students and professors provided significantly more helpful feedback than we got with regular students
  • Listening to our users gave us a lot of insight into problems and possible issues that we didn’t even consider
  • The feedback we got from our target audience was never the same; everyone always mentioned something to change that the others didn’t. This allowed us to get a very good idea of what kind of things each kind of demographic wanted to see