1 Product Manager
2 UX Researchers
2 UX Designers
UX Design Lead
A Pittsburgh regional report forecasted a shortfall of 80,000 workers by 2025. They also found that K-12 career preparation is hampered by educators' lack of time and ability to infuse classroom curriculum with relevant workforce info. This gap is an opportunity to help current students and future employers to address future workforce shortages.
Through research, we identified that when high schoolers are considering career options they are less interested in workforce demand, and more interested in discovering careers that map to their interests. This led us to focus on helping high schoolers identify their interests, then exposure to careers that are interesting to them and relevant to the future workforce. FutureFinder aims to make high school career exploration effortless.
User Interface Design
Framer + Coffee Script
HTML + CSS
To kick off the project, our team ran a Discovery Workshop to align on high-level questions we had about the career prep space. Some questions were: What current standards are in place for career prep? How are students thinking about their future? What perceptions/feelings exist around career thinking?
Through secondary research, exploratory stakeholder interviews, and affinity mapping, we noticed a trend of commonly experienced problems that students, parents, and teachers faced when understanding career. These were potential areas of opportunity to design within.
Most students have limited access to meaningful career information. This makes it difficult for students to make informed decisions when trying to map their interests to potential careers.
Parents rely on the education system to guide their children's career paths. However, educators often have high caseloads and limited resources when trying to help students with career-thinking.
Pre-existing mental models of 'College First', 'Job Title' Hypnosis, and 'Later Career-Thinking' influence how major players think and act. They inhibit the process of starting career discovery earlier.
After consulting our client, we prioritized student career exposure due to feasibility and potential for immediate impact. To find some jumping-off points for design, we conducted detailed interviews to understand student's experiences around career-thinking. We also had the opportunity to visit a local high school and run student co-design sessions. We found common themes through affinity mapping, developed student archetypes, and started transitioning to design concepts through a walk the wall exercise.
Students have a lot going on that pulls at their attention – school, friends, extracurriculars. Many career tools in school take too much time and effort.
Students have limited resources that let them explore careers in a fun, engaging way. They have difficultly translating their interests to potential careers.
Careers-thinking is intangible, students struggle to translate a potential future with what they do now in their education and hobbies.
Our team ran multiple brainstorming exercises, including a Google Design Sprint, to rapidly generate many design concepts. To quickly assess each concept, we considered a few criteria: feasibility, impact, and potential end-user value. Eventually, we landed on four concepts, created storyboards, and conducted speed dating interviews with potential users.
We found that some high schoolers had a difficult time with storyboards. So for the next round of testing, we decided to create rough wireframe prototypes in Invision to better communicate the experience. This parallel prototyping helped us determine which concept landed more with users.
Students enjoyed being able to answer questions and learn more about themselves and their interests.
Students didn't want to invest a lot of time in exploring only one or two careers. Concepts exploring many careers were preferred.
numo and Allegheny Conference wanted a solution that could easily scale to multiple students. Some concepts required more manual labor than others.
This phase of the project was quite interesting because our FutureFinder concept evolved quite a bit as we went through three rounds of prototyping and testing. While refining our concept, we also developed a set of four design principles informed by our prior research and current user testing. These principles ultimately led us to our final concept.
In this early version, FutureFinder was a content aggregator aimed at serendipitous career exposure. It used interest assessments and user feedback as inputs to populate the newsfeed.
There's a need to expose students to a diverse array of careers, even ones they might not expect to enlighten students interesting and relevant careers they haven't yet considered.
Students often feel "too busy" with other extracurricular activities - so any tool they would use has to fit into their already busy schedule. Being succinct and action-oriented is helpful for students.
There needs to be a clear benefit to students using the app. By applying certain psych-theories like peak-end theory, we can keep the student intrigued to come back again.
Job Information must be displayed in a way that resonates with the students. By understanding what information they find most engaging and helpful, we can design the content to fit their needs.
Through multiple iterations, user feedback, and our design principles, we simplified the experience. In this close-to-final version, FutureFinder is a daily interest assessment, paired with a daily set of suggested job cards. Its goal is to help students map their interests to different careers.
FutureFinder's matching algorithm purposefully exposes students to a diverse array of careers. It finds matches using various degrees of connectedness to the student's career profile. This logic decenters what students might expect to be predictable matches. Additionally, the algorithm ensures that one of the five jobs is a high-demand job (HDJ). This addresses the business goal while exposing students in a way that is meaningful to their career exploration.
Through our concept prototypes, we tested out different looks and feel. Students responded best to the visual style that was fun and playful, but still professional and clean. To establish our final UI, we created a rough design system so that the visual style would be consistent throughout the entire experience.
Our design solution benefited from a high-fidelity prototype with more realistic functionality. We used Airtable as a database to store 25 careers and Framer to build out the front-end and logic. Using code, we were able to explore finer UI micro-interaction and animations.
When tackling a complex, ambiguous problem space, there will be many problems worth solving. Defining the project's scope early, backed by preliminary research, will lead to a more reliable final design.
Some of our high school users struggled with our storyboard prototypes, so we pivoted to rough wireframe prototypes. Finding the best prototyping method can lead to better feedback from users.
Although algorithms aren't visual, they can make or break the experience. When designing an algorithm's logic, approaching it with a user-first mindset can go a long way in making the end experience meaningful for the user.