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Case Study: Learnings from the Design of an Online-Education Platform

Business of Design

Learnings from design projects

A column by Manik Arora
January 4, 2021

With every project, there are new learnings. Because educational technology, or ed-tech, is one of the fastest growing product domains, I thought sharing my learnings and insights from designing a marketing Web site for Leverage Edu would be of interest to many UX designers.

Leverage Edu is not your typical commercial Web site. Its target users are students who need help making their career choices and university-admissions decisions. The Leverage Edu Web site uses simplified technology that drives streamlined access to the mentors and the leading global universities that best match a student’s particular needs.

Thus, Leverage Edu is transforming access to higher education and democratizing mentorship to accelerate exponential career growth by going beyond traditional systems and helping students to realize their academic ambitions.

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The Design Challenges

Leverage Edu asked us to solve specific user problems that we’d discovered and create an immersive online experience. These user problems included the following:

  • Users found it difficult at times to locate information—or even to know where to look for specific content. We needed to rethink the Web site’s information architecture to improve content discoverability.
  • As an extension of the previous issue, users also found the site’s navigation confusing and laborious to use. As we discovered better ways of structuring the content, we also needed to improve the ways in which users accessed or stumbled upon that content.
  • Leverage Edu is unique among many other ed-tech sites because of the diversity of its user personas. Everyone from a school student to an experienced professional could derive value from the site, making it difficult to pinpoint an ideal primary user persona for which to design the site.

We wanted to simplify the categorization of information and ensure that all users could find key details up front and with ease.

Since Leverage Edu is a platform that promises to get students closer to their career goals, it was also important for the site to demonstrate domain expertise in the education space. To boost reliability and user confidence, we decided to emphasize the values of honesty and transparency.

Through design, we wanted to ensure that Leverage Edu built the functionalities that would let users know what to expect from their product offering before making a purchase decision.

Insights from Our UX Research

We conducted extensive UX research to understand the user problems that we’d discovered. Because Leverage Edu had an existing Web site that they had asked us to redesign, we were able to conduct UX research with their current users, who provided our researchers with insights and feedback regarding the site.

Our research process entailed both face-to-face and online, video interviews, during which users shared what they felt about the Leverage Edu site. Their feedback illuminated our efforts to improve the site’s user experience. Plus, our UX research led us to create three distinct user personas, based on the Leverage Edu user base, which are shown in Figure 1. Their user journeys guided us throughout the process of redesigning site’s navigation.

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Figure 1—Personas for Leverage Edu
Personas for Leverage Edu

Our UX research revealed the following insights:

  • We conducted a heatmap analysis to understand the user’s search history and show engagement and drop-off points. We wanted to understand the users’ discoverability issues and what information they found engaging or that added the most value.
  • Through our research, we identified three unique user personas—specifically, school students, college students, and working professionals. We understood that the requirements for each of these three types of users were very different, and we wanted to create a unique value proposition for each of them.

Our Design Process

Once we had documented the users’ goals and painpoints and had benchmarked the Web site of Leverage Edu against those of its competitors, it became very clear that this competitive space was extremely crowded. Competitors were making many promises about sending students to universities abroad to enable them to achieve their career goals.

For our client Leverage Edu, their unique selling proposition (USP), shown in Figure 2, consisted of the company’s mentorship program, which connected students with renowned personalities in the field of education, and their artificial-intelligence (AI) capabilities, which helped students indicate their preferences and shortlist universities based on these specific parameters.

Figure 2—Leverage Edu’s unique selling proposition
Leverage Edu’s unique selling proposition

We wanted our design solution to highlight these strengths across the Web site and make it extremely useful to students. Therefore, we designed two online tools that let students get the information they needed instantly.

The Site’s Find Your University Tool

This tool employs our proprietary AI algorithm, which matches students’ user profiles and credentials against millions of data points, enabling them to find their Perfect University Fit in less than two minutes. Users provide details regarding their current academic status—that is, whether a student is currently attending school, enrolled in a university, or already working professionally. Depending on a user’s answer, the tool asks for a few more data points such as exam scores, transcripts of academic certifications, or details about the user’s former and current work experience. The user’s responses provide the basis for a cohesive user profile, enabling the tool to generate a list of universities that would be a good fit for the student. This tool proved to be a big hit among users, especially for those students who didn’t know the schools for which they were likely eligible.

The Cost of Living Calculator

This tool enables students get a ballpark figure regarding what their monthly expenses would be once they’ve been admitted to a university, including the cost of attending that university. To arrive at an amount, students must input information into the calculator about their current living situation, food habits, travel allowance, and so on. The cost of earning a university education is a leading concern among students, and this tool helps them make an informed decision about what they can afford.

To improve content discoverability, we decided to create three separate landing pages, targeting different user profiles, and populated these pages with relevant content.

We optimized each section on the home page to ensure that users could discover value within the minimum time possible. We wanted to reassure users that they were browsing a trustworthy platform, so we showcased students’ testimonials, awards, and other forms of recognition, as well as the site’s association with renowned mentors. We also highlighted a timeline of the brand’s accomplishments to assure users that they are in good hands. Our motive was to enable students to focus on their career—not on evaluating platforms—therefore, we added some social proofs.

Visual Design

The Web site’s most eye-catching design element is its header. We used a full-width video as the header’s background rather than a static image. This is a time-lapse video featuring some of the most renowned universities in the world. Our intent was to communicate to users that their dream university is more than just a dream.

We designed a unique icon for each user persona, which we replicated across the platform for increased familiarity. We used the simple sans serif font Montserrat in various font weights to achieve a distinct visual hierarchy. Since the Web site is text heavy, we used flat illustrations to break the monotony and reduce the complexity of the content. We used pastel colors in the illustrations to increase the contrast between the text and the visuals.

Conclusion

Designing a marketing Web site might not seem to be all that challenging, but we needed to discover how to serve and engage users and introduce an element of surprise as well. It’s always essential that you understand your clients’ key capabilities and USP so you can incorporate them into your design solutions. By taking this approach, you can create a win-win situation for all. 

Co-founder and Design Director at Onething Design Studio

Gurugram, Haryana, India

Manik AroraManik was introduced to design when he was building Placesso, a ride-sharing platform based on Facebook’s social graph. While they never launched the platform, the experience taught Manik a lot about design and development. Since then, he has stayed with design. He and his friends began spending a lot of time discussing the designs of newly launched apps, exploring ways to improve their user experience. They felt really badly about people using poor designs so, in 2014, launched Ketchup Designs Studio. In 2015, they changed the name to Onething Design. Since then, they’ve helped a lot of businesses design products people love to use.  Read More

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