Research   to  Design


September 2016 - October 2016


Research, Journey Mapping, Identifying Painpoints


Partner Class Project


September 2016 - October 2016


Research, Journey Mapping, Identifying Painpoints


Partner Class Project

The   Goal

Carnegie Mellon University's HCI program is rigorous and well respected. It has students complete a series of industry oriented courses and complete a capstone project with a real client at the end of three semesters (Masters students only). Our task was to find a way to improve the process CMU's HCI students go through from their acceptance to the program, to their arrival on campus.

We conducted three, sub-10 minute interviews in order to gather an overview of the student transition process. Through these interviews, we gathered insights on their feelings when accepted into the program, thoughts when accepting the offer, potential concerns when traveling to Pittsburgh, and more.

You can view notes from our three interviews here.

Customer   Journey   Maps

Using the insights from our interviews, we created a customer journey map of the present which plots the entirety of the student journey from the point of receiving the letter of acceptance, to the start of orientation and classes.

Customer Journey Map - Present

From this customer journey map, we identified the "Prep and Information Seeking" step to be a painpoint that we wanted to create a solution for. We decided to create a website that would offer informational and social discussion boards specifically geared towards CMU HCI students.

To show the impact of this proposed solution, we created a new 'Preferred Future' customer journey map that shows the same overview of the transition process, but with our solution aiding the identified painpoint.

Customer Journey Map - Preferred Future

Initial   Proposal

In our first customer journey map, we focused on the pain point of "Missing Open House". A Masters of Human-Computer Interaction (MHCI) student we interviewed who could not attend Open House due to cost and time constraints, was unhappy that she couldn't attend. Open House offers two benefits to newly admitted students: in-depth information about the program, and an early sense of community. They could answer questions like: "Who are the other students that have been admitted?" "Am I like them?" "Is this place a good fit for me?"

In this re-framing we set our goal to build an online community exclusive to newly admitted students where they could have focused discussions around the MHCI program and help each other through shared tasks such as finding housing and completing the enrollment process.

We created desktop and mobile wireframes for this initial idea:

Landing page with fellow classmates (credit: Mary-Beth Kery)

Message board for onboarding questions (credit: Mary-Beth Kery)

Profile page with bio, interests, and fun facts

Progress page with steps and progress counter

(credit: Mary-Beth Kery)

(credit: Mary-Beth Kery)

Class   Feedback

When we presented our design to a room of MHCI students, we got some criticism regarding the necessity of our solution. Much of the feedback we received questioned whether or not accepted HCI students would even use our site over existing solutions. It turns out that there were already dedicated Facebook groups for HCI students with questions about housing and financial aid which was something we hadn't caught in our interviews.

Re-evaluating Pain Points

One of the benefits of sitting in a design critique where other students were discussing their own experiences with their transition to CMU, was that we were able to gain new insights into what MHCI students care about. Through other MHCI students' presentations and casual conversations, we were able to identify a couple of major pain points that recurred across multiple groups.

1. Value: return on interest, salary after graduation, and financial aid came up frequently in conversation. Attending graduate school at CMU is very expensive, and some students were leaving stable jobs to do so. They really needed to be convinced this was worth it for their personal goals. Some students wanted more facts on value, many also wanted personalized letters from the university, describing exactly why the program wanted them.

2. Curriculum and Projects: questions about which courses to take and what the MHCI Capstone Project was like were more recurring themes that popped up during our design critiques. Students had to do a lot of research and preparation to find out what classes to take and what they could expect from their 'final project'.

New   Customer   Journey   Maps

We created two more customer journey maps to reflect the new painpoint area that we were reframing the problem around.

New Customer Journey Map - Present

This time, we identified the primary painpoint to be the stage at which students have already been accepted, but still need to make a decision about whether or not to accept their offer.

New Customer Journey Map - Preferred Future

In our new "preferred future" customer journey map, we honed in on the painpoint and had each step of the journey be an individual stage of the painpoint.

New   Proposal

Our solution to this new painpoint was a website that uses information from past MHCI alumni to help prospective students envision their journey and destination through CMU's HCI Program.

University pages always speak highly of the quality of themselves, but it can be hard for students to determine how much they can really get out of graduate school program. To gain an understanding of the value of the MHCI program, we can collect data from alumni performances to give accepted students a holistic view of the program's content and results. MHCI students want facts on value, more in-depth information about coursework, and reassurance that this program will give them the results they seek.

Class feedback was much better for this idea! Our classmates really liked the idea of being able to see the full overview of the Program and expressed that they would have liked see something like this when they were making their decision.


My partner and I split up the higher fidelity mockups by viewport for the final screens. I created the mobile viewport and she handled the desktop viewport.


Home page serves as navigation with lines to establish a linear progression theme.

Courses page shows popular classes in different disciplines within HCI with options to favorite certain classes.

Menu shows the same navigation as the home page and maintains the lines between each page.

Capstone Projects page showcases final projects from alumni including their client and a link to the project.

Jobs and Salaries page has a visualization showing all of the alumni and where they are working now.

Tapping a company expands a more detailed breakdown of how many people work as what role within that company.

Desktop (credit: Mary-Beth Kery)

Home Page

Courses Page

Capstone Projects Page

Jobs and Salaries Page

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