Shearwater. Breaking down the barrier to connect users on Mentor Collective.


Product Designer / 2016

The Project

Shearwater is set out to help students feel more at home in the world by connecting them with mentors who are young alumni from their school network.

Mentor Collective is Shearwater’s mentorship platform where students and mentors can connect, learn, and give feedback on their sessions. However, even though the mentorship sessions were going well and having a positive impact on students, Shearwater found that not enough people were taking advantage of the platform. My role here was to establish a clear purpose for Mentor Collective and enhance its experience such that it is no longer a barrier for mentors and students to connect.

The Journey

Through a session with the folks at Shearwater and some current mentor and student interviews, we developed a few personas to allow us to make clearer decisions with our users in mind. We were able to focus our efforts on the mentor experience as we learned through our interviews that a mentor’s engagement level is key to a student’s successful and satisfying experience.

(This engagement was focused on Mentor Collective, which is a platform for mentors and students. For business needs, Shearwater has a separate administrative dashboard for access to insights from Mentor Collective which is still in development stages so I will not be talking more about it here.)

Several mentor interviews were conducted throughout the entire process in order to validate decisions using MVP’s like sketches, wireframes, and visually designed mockups. Through this iterative design process, we were able to take risks and make faster decisions based on users’ reaction.

The Results

More Direction, Less Confusion

Key reasons why mentors and students weren’t taking advantage of the platform were due to (1) lack of direction and (2) the experience felt too academic, boring, and text-heavy. Organizing the site map and introducing a navigation system made users feel more familiar and confident. They felt like they were in control.

“I just want to immediately know what I have to do next.” - A common issue we found was that mentors and students weren’t filling out the post-lesson surveys simply because they didn’t know or forgot they had to. With this redesign, we’re making sure the first thing users see is their next task, whether that’s the upcoming lesson or a notice that they haven’t filled out the survey.

Consistency and Personality

A visual language with a bright and lively color palette was introduced to the platform. The added personality helped make the platform less school-work like. We wanted to enhance and capture users’ first impression and create a positive first experience such that they would want to return again.

We also focused our efforts on creating a consistent experience aligned with current design patterns. We added more features and organization to the lesson experience, such as: breaking down all lessons into clear and consistent sections, adding mentor tooltips for additional suggestions without disrupting the lesson flow, and allowing users to easily jump between sections.

For A Good Cause

We found that the core driver for engaged mentors in the program is the knowledge that they’re helping their younger selves. We brought forward the theme of connecting with a mentor/mentee in this new design as a way for mentors to be reminded of why they’re here.

Together with an baseline style guide, Shearwater is now able to efficiently move forward and shape the future of their platform, in order to keep connecting more students and allowing them to feel at home anywhere in the world.

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