Students in the HCI Master's program at Georgia Tech, have very diverse and dense informational needs right from the time they consider applying to the program and until and after their graduation. We took a closer look at this space to identify and address any issues, based on the following prompt.
In order to investigate this problem space, we first sought the help of existing literature in the area of informational needs. After getting a little bit more familiar with the domain of information seeking and gathering behaviors, we wanted to get the users involved. For this purpose we conducted 11 semi-structured interviews. The interviews each lasted about half an hour and notes were taken during the interviews. Interview participants were from both the first and second year MS-HCI student pool. In order to understand and analyze the data that we collected, we resorted to 3 rounds of affinity mapping. Based on what we learnt from the interviews, we designed a 11-question survey that was hosted online and made available to the MS-HCI student pool. We collected 27 responses which we later analyzed and assimilated as insights informing the design of a solution.
Through our user research, we actually found that students do not actually need a new one-stop shop solution to address all their information needs. What we did find, on the other hand, was that a good majority
of students did have difficulty with finding information about courses being offered and keeping track of their degree progress.
So, we took this finding forward and proposed a solution comprising of some core functionality that would directly address the gaps that we found through our research.
Following are a couple of low-fidelity paper sketches, to demonstrate the idea.
When we started working on this project, initially we simply went by the prompt and framed our initial interview questions roughly to reflect that. As we started hearing from more and more participants, we started questioning if at all there was a need for a "one-stop-shop" kind of solution. We wanted to confirm this in our next phase of research, and we were thankful that we did. Had we just gone with the prompt, we would have been mislead into designing a solution that would bring newer issues, insteadof fixing the pain points in existing solutions that our users have invested a significant amount of time learning. This project has definitely taught me that what really matters is keeping the bigger picture in mind and to avoid any preconceived notions about what the user needs.