A submission the CHI2013 Student Design Competition, Blindspots is a system that fosters the sharing of career-oriented stories in an effort to broaden first-generation students' exposure to the career paths connected to majors. Users are presented with interconnected stories crowdsourced from alumni, that allow them to explore career spaces, broadening narrow perspectives and reshaping understanding to unknown obstacles.

This project was a collaboration with Ben Mullins and Phillip Tularak.

UX Research & Design

Team Project

Fall 2012

User Research

To gain the design perspectives needed, our research was broken into two phases, story elicitation from working professionals, and semi-structured interviews with first-generation college students at the University of Michigan.

A "story elicitation" was designed to better understand what type of data individuals would share about the journey to their career, and to determine what questions could inspire rich responses. Areas of focus included establishing a context for a professional's background, their unique story, and major incidents, both positive and negative. Experience-driven interviews were also conducted, providing information into the motivations of first-generation students and their selection of majors. We sought to identify what they felt contributed to their success, as well as what they regretted not knowing sooner.

Those interviewed repeatedly mentioned almost-missed opportunities, attributing much success to "luck." In the absence of a support structure, most of these instances of luck could be credited to being in the right place at the right time.

Early project brainstorming, looking at the different influences on career decisions, and attached aspects of self-efficacy.

Affinity Diagramming was used to build out and structure a story elicitation framework to alumni professionals. The goal was to clarify what type of questions would provide the most value, while being easy to answer.

Design Process

The Blindspots system creates an environment for student to explore a wide range of stories contributed by different alumni professionals.

Blindspots represents a simple contributor/consumer relationship, centering on the presentation of small stories to the student user (consumer) as written by professionals (contributors). Through iterative, low-fidelity design we attempted to pare down the system interactions, focusing on the relationship between the user and the story content.

The main living artifact of the design process became an integrated wireframe/user-flow, representing the entire system. It allows global and local interactions to be visualized and discussed, while emphasizing the desire to ease the cost of movement through the stories. This led to the decision to limit stories to a short, focused length, allowing engagement costs to decrease and encouraging movement through the system. The level of attention needed to invest in each story being enough to maintain interest and value, but not overwhelm the user.

One of the most difficult areas of design was the consumer's entry point. The current design provides the user a small sampling of stories to provoke potential starting points, while also including a user-input field for establishing a “starting point”. With a focus on exploration, the system needed to provide a structure to ignite an interest in movement without strongly filtering the knowledge within reach.

The main system user flow. Effort was taken to clearly articulate the relationship between consumers and contributors, and look at specific interactions that might alter the reciprocity between the two target audiences.

Iterating to User Feedback

Running users through a series of tasks on a paper prototype quickly revealed several design consideratios we had overlooked.

Feedback lead the team to redesign the interaction model of the local story navigation. The combination of large arrows and odd vocabulary confused users, leading them to mistake it with global navigational tools. This was remedied with more actionable phrasing and more relevant, detailed iconography. To lessen disorientation moving between stories while balancing the need for exploration, a secondary menu was adopted. The secondary menu presents users with the titles of three potential stories, offering an informed choice to the user.

Building the paper prototype.

A medium-fidelity design of the Blindspots story view. The layout centralizes the story itself, with the supporting controls and interactions flowing from the story.

From the two options ( Left and Right Turn), the user can select one of three potential next stories. This allows the user to maintain a certain level of control, without completely eschewing the intended benefit of semi-random exploration.