UX Designer + Researcher

TEACH.org - Motivators


How can we help people get through a process that is tedious but important?
An app for TEACH.org that helps users through the process of applying to Teacher Prep Programs.


For this 4-week project for TEACH.org, I was the sole Designer.  I was responsible for all portions of the product's development from conception through high-fidelity prototyping with visual design and design presentation.  All of the artifacts in this case study were created by me. 

TEACH.org's internal and external stakeholders are very excited about this product/service – both its potential to help users, as well as its potential to generate revenue for the organization – and new staff has been hired to focus specifically on developing this product/service out.



How can we can help people get through a process that is important but tedious?

TEACH.org's mission is to increase the number of people becoming teachers in the U.S.  Previous research has identified that people may benefit from having a step-by-step guide to help them get through the application process.

Often, the application process for Teacher Prep Programs has a lot of steps to keep track of and can get complicated.  As we can see from the requirements on view at right, there are many steps.  

For this project, we aimed to design a tool that would help people get through the application process with minimal friction and drop-off, so they can enter the Teacher Prep Programs, and eventually become teachers. 



Minimize cognitive load to maximize usability.

1) Users are most successful in completing a task when they are given one thing to focus on at a time, and
2) the needed tool (and nothing that's excessive) for completing that step is right there where and when the user needs it.

Renowned UX researchers Nielsen Norman Group published a piece called "Minimize Cognitive Load to Maximize Usability".  These insights are derived from that line of thinking.  Users do best when their mind is not cluttered with too many steps.  And users don't like to go too far to complete the task (we risk losing them to one of many other possible distractions.   

People like to feel like they are being supported along the way by a real human being.

We conducted a best practices interview with a high-performing organization that has had great success with getting people to complete an application process.  This is one of the insights shared with us – people like to feel like they always have a real human being available, for handholding as needed.   

Today's users respond best to text messages, and are more likely to respond if a message contains an emoji. 

Today, many Americans have their mobile phones on them constantly, and text message is the most effective way to reach them.  In addition, email marketing studies, and A/B testing by organizations like Tinder, have shown that people respond more often when a message contains an emoji.



A friendly application checklist that provides the user with exactly what they need when they need it.

In the example below, we will see the app created for Texas Women's University.  At its base level, it is a checklist along the lines of Asana.  It contains additional details that are specifically designed to help a user get through an application process that is tedious, but for which the end goal (becoming a teacher) is meaningful.

InVision Clickable Prototype: http://bit.ly/2uGFgnt


What you need when you need it - your next action item.


Because of the finding that users can only focus on one thing at a time, this app focuses on "the next item on your checklist".  Whether its the "Application checklist" page (image above left), or the home screen, or text message reminders, "the next item on your checklist" is denoted by a little blue dot.  Users have the option to drag and drop so that they can choose what the next item on their checklist is (in order to decide what they will get reminders about).  Users are also able to tap a particular task and get more information on it (the "Submit transcripts" screen above right).  This additional information should provide them with exactly the information they need, when they need it, including links to directly to the relevant websites or forms so they can stay focused.


Visible reminders of human support and encouragement.


We can see in the both screens above that there is the visible presence of a human support.  In the screen to the left, the copy reads "Hope to see you in a classroom sometime!", reminding the user of their goal, and it is signed with the name of some from TEACH.org letting them know that they are being supported in this task.  On the screen to the right, we see the picture and a personal message directly from the Program Director of the program they are applying to.  There is also contact information to make it easy to contact that person.


Text messages and emojis that are suitable for all ages.

Clean Version of Visa - presentation (slt).png
Clean Version of Visa - presentation (slt) (1).png

In the screen above and to the left, we see that the user is provided with a text message reminder that is brief, concise, contains the needed information, and has emojis.  The emojis are chosen to be not too childish, in order to remain suitable for older users.  In the screen above and to the right, we see that the user has the option to get choose their frequency of reminder, to choose their method of reminder, or to opt out.  Text message reminders can be very powerful, but nothing is more annoying and off-putting than unwanted text messages.  By offering users the ability to customize, they are in control of their own application process.  



Rapid iteration based on research insights.

The design process for my projects will vary from project to project, and from team to team, but one framework that resonates with me is the Double Diamond from Design Council UK.  This model captures an openness to ideas that I value, as well as a practical turn towards a focused direction that allows me to design products and services that can be most impactful.


DISCOVER: Building off existing research I had conducted that determined a need for a step-by-step guide.

After I conducted my initial user research project with TEACH.org, they decided that a step-by-step guide for applicants to Teacher Preparation Programs could be very valuable.  The exact shape and form of that guide would be determined by me, in discussion with the Chief Program Officer. 


DEFINE: A checklist with elements to support users through the process.

After a review of possibilities, and discussions with TEACH.org's Chief Program Officer, we decided to move forward with a checklist tool for a specific tool, much like Asana.  The tool would contain elements to encourage users through the process (signs of human support, text message reminders).  


DEVELOP: Sketching, and refinement through feedback and testing.

After that, a round of sketching began in which I explored different possibilities.  I ran some quick feedback sessions and user testing to get more input on what parts of the app could be improved.  The feedback was very valuable and not only helped me to determine the look of the app, but also its overall feel (like getting the tone of the copywriting to a point where it could appeal to multiple audiences).


DELIVER: Higher-fidelity wireframes and visual design.

The final visual look of the app was informed by Asana's design, as well as best practices in mobile app design.  After I created higher-fidelity wireframes, I used InVision to create a clickable prototype.  I then tested that prototype with users and received another round of feedback.  I refined the prototype once more before presenting to internal and external stakeholders.



TEACH.org's and its external stakeholders are very excited to further develop this product, and have hired staff to focus on it. 

The product/service was very well-received during the final design presentation, and the client told me that the design had exceeded their expectations.  In discussions following the presentation, TEACH.org's leadership team decided that a dedicated team should focus on this product and building it out further.  During brainstorming sessions with TEACH.org's team, I had raised the possibility that this might one day turn into a Common Application for Teacher Prep Programs (where a student could upload their resume once, and have it submitted to all the programs they are applying to).  It remains to be seen where exactly this product goes, but internal and external stakeholders believe it already has tremendous value to help its users, and to generate revenue for TEACH.org.