Carl Sommer: Game Designer

Project Overview

V-STAR (Virtual Summer Transition, Advising & Registration) is a website designed to help incoming students at Purdue University transition into campus life successfully. V-STAR is mostly utilized by international students who are unable to attend the on-campus STAR events. I worked with a team of four UX designers to evaluate the old V-STAR website and overhaul it with a user-centered approach.

UX Goals

1. Determine the essential knowledge from STAR and translating that to VSTAR.
2. Determine the failures of the current VSTAR platform.
3. Present information in a way that is easy for international students to understand.

Tools: Paper Prototypes, Illustrator, Photoshop, Balsamiq.

Process: Heuristic Analysis, User Interviews, Affinity Diagram, Persona, Scenario, Information Architecture, Storyboard, Wireframe, Prototype, Uster Testing, Research Report.

Determine the essential knowledge from STAR and translating that to VSTAR.

    - Discover what STAR participants and staff considered to be the essential and most valuable information from the program.
    - Convey the key information in a digital format through VSTAR.

    - Account for imperfect memory of STAR participants regarding their experience.

Because STAR is an on site event that includes direct meetings with counselors and a tour of important campus locations, it is challenging to transfer every aspect of the STAR experience to a digital space.

Carl Sommer: Game Designer

We conducted interviews and surveys with people who had gone through the STAR program to determine what they deemed most significant and useful about the experience. We also interviewed guidance counselors who had been involved in both STAR and VSTAR to get their insight about what they thought was most important for students to gain from the experience as well as what they thought was not currently being shown well on the VSTAR platform. Finally, we interviewed international students who had only had experience with VSTAR to learn what they thought worked and didn't work about the platform.

Determine the failures of the current VSTAR platform.

    - Establish a set of usability heuristics based upon other e-learning platforms.
    - Pinpoint instances where the current VSTAR platform has usability issues.

    - Finding other virtual student transition program was not an option, because they are restricted to applicable students and personnel.

VSTAR had only been utilized for one year before we began our UX overhaul, and it was clear to everyone involved that the user experience needed to improve. Most noticeably, there was no consistency from page to page and the amount of information was overwhelming.

Carl Sommer: Game Designer

In addition to the user interviews we conducted, we also performed a heuristic analysis where we established 18 heuristics which were informed by research into other e-learning platforms.

Present information in a way that is easy for international students to understand.

    - Use wording and site structure that can be understood universally.

    - Avoid assumptions regarding what international students already know about U.S. higher education and lifestyle.

In addition to determining our UX goals for the site itself, we needed to ensure that everything we did was also communicated clearly to international students, given that the primary users of VSTAR are coming from outside of the U.S.

Carl Sommer: Game Designer

Once our UX goals were set, we created an affinity diagram to help us create a persona and scenario for our user. Once we used these methods to get a better understanding of our user, we applied that information as we determined an information architecture structure that we hoped would meet our UX goals in a way that was easy for international students to understand.

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