Georgia Tech Excel Program
UX Designer & Researcher, Fall 2021
In what I believe to be one of the most fulfilling works from my Masters program, my team and I probed into the difficulties of applying to jobs as a neurodiverse student. Our research resulted in an app prototype that makes it easier for them to apply to jobs independently, without much external help.
Eryue Xu, Sandeep Prasad, Xi Pang, Mudra Nagda
As a UX Researcher, I was the primary interviewer in our focus groups and user interviews. I also contributed in creating the script for our semi-structured interview and conducted background research.
As the only designer in the team, I led our visual design language, wireframing and prototyping process. Due to the semester's time constraints, we finished the project at a fidelity level I was not satisfied with, so I spent a weeks post our semester completion to work on one more iteration.
Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are disorders that uniquely affect the individual’s physical, intellectual and/or emotional development. They are usually present since birth and can affect multiple parts of the body.
Intellectual functioning: affecting the ability to learn, reason, problem solve
Adaptive behavior: affects everyday social and life skills.
The movement wishes to expand our definition of what is viewed as normal and acceptable rather than attempting to alter those behaviors as a matter of course. However, despite impact of the movement, these individuals still experience a disproportionately high level of job insecurity, underemployment, and unemployment compared to workers without disabilities
how might we
"How might we make the job search process easy & equitable for students with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities?"
01 - define
Understanding User Characteristics
Defining User Goals
Understanding the Socio-Technical Context
02 - research
Design Space Critique
03 - design
Defining Functional & Non-Funtional Requirements
Design Brainstorming (10)
04 - evaluate
"Research is important, because with neurodiverse population, if you have met one - you met just one."
User Interviews (4)
Focus Group (5)
80% Unemployment Rate
Despite research showing that when correctly matched based on skillset, they can prove hugely beneficial to their company.
Short Attention Span
Short clear sentences & minimal textual content is preferred. Actions must be simple, consisting of small number of steps, to ensure easy recall.
Highly Specific Interests & Hobbies
Students with IDD often have specialized interests. They may lack the ability to translate those interests into career oriented opportunities.
Users on this spectrum can be overwhelmed by certain warm colors or too many saturated colors. Pink, blue, green are safe to use.
Why did we conduct background research?
There is plenty of existing research about our user group. To ensure that our research covers more than Georgia Tech students, we conducted background research from publications, papers and online sources.
4 students, 2 Program Co-ordinators, 2 Career Advisors
5 freshmen from the Excel program
Why did we conduct interviews & focus groups?
Methods, like surveys, provide an overview of the targeted group, which could lead to the exclusion of an individual's specific needs. We conducted interviews to learn needs and detailed information about every student’s unique experience. Our interview included the program coordinators and career advisors, because neurodiverse students may find it difficult to organize their thoughts and express themselves to new people.
Focus groups help students feel more comfortable as they are with their classmates and friends, allowing us to learn multiple perspectives in one session. We also chose this research method because the participants were freshmen students - we hypothesized that they may have less to speak about their career and they have limited experience in working.
1. Students desire the ability to apply for all opportunities
Currently, students recieve opportunities via the careers team. Several students have passions that they wish to explore, but they did not know if that could be a possible career option. We found that this dependency isolates them from feeling socially equal to neurotypical people.
2. Students lack knowledge about career skills
Limited knowledge of career skills, like resume making or interview preparation. Some of them are unsure if they can make a resume on their own without the assistance from their career advisors. Others need more guidance on how to be present during interviews.
3. Difficulty in reading large amount of text
Some of them are unable to understand the meanings of job postings, which prevent them from judging their qualifications against the requirements listed. Other students find themselves prone to get distracted while reading long paragraphs of job postings.
From our research findings, we translated the potential design implications by defining our requirements. We defined functional and non-fuctional requirements. These would guide our design and also help us evaluate the design after our first design iteration.
For the design brainstorming phase, we created ten divergent design concepts - based on the research findings. Each concept addresses the problem in a unique way. Post this, the team voted on finalizing the top two concepts. We then created storyboards for these two concepts and then again voted to finalize the final design concept.
Storyboard 1: Job Post Transcriber
An app that transcribes the job description and requirements to a simplified version for students who have difficulty in reading to understand. The app supports text to speech features. It will also match the student’s skill set and give recommendations on students.
Storyboard 2: Daily Work Journal
An app that encourages students to self evaluate their learning outcomes regularly. It also allows advisors to evaluate the students and correct the student’s self judgement. This helps them recollect their skills and experience while preparing for interviews.
After completing the wireframes, I created the visual design language. The basis of the visual design language was the research findings from our background research, interviews and focus groups. I also designed keeping in mind finger dexterity, which resulted in large sized text fields & buttons (height 56px) and sufficient white space to act as a resting space for the eyes.
I enjoyed creating the typescale using the golden ratio 1.618, something I had not tried before. Further, I carefully chose our color pallete to avoid overstimulation for our users. Naming these colors was more fun than I expected.
Scan any job posting to get a succinct transcription.
Students can also use the speech feature to hear the text out loud, instead of reading.
Share a job posting from Linkedin onto the app to view simplified posting results
We performed the discount evaluation with 4 classmates who had no prior exposure to our project. We also sent this prototype to the Excel Careers team, in order to record their feedback as well.
Task 1: Transcribe a job post through camera or image
Task 2: Upload the resume
Task 3: Transcribe a job post through the web extension
Task 4: Add a job post to the application through clipboard
Task 5: Use the browser extension to transcribe a job posting page
We split the task flows amongst ourselves, and listed the findings and corresponding suggestions per flow. After analysing all the data tables, we were able to condense our feedback into the 6 broad points.
Off scripting interviews
These students require interviewers to establish a certain level of trust in order to open up about their struggles. I achieved this by going off script during the first half of the interview - talking about their hobbies, their commute, their day, vacation plans and online content recommendations. I learnt how to interview as a friend, than an acquantaince.
Simple solutions are difficult to build
Throughout this project, keeping in mind the characteristics of the user group we were building for, we had to prioritize simplicity - in our approach during the interviews as well as in our ideation & design process. In this journey, I realised how difficult it is to create solutions that are simple, because we had to question and break down every feature into it's own simpler form.
This is why I love what I do
It truly is in projects like this, where I feel the fulfilment of being a designer, where I can see the tangible result of exercising empathy. In knowing and understanding our users, their pains felt like mine. I am inspired by the tenacity and ambition in the students I spoke to and hope that this solution we built helps them get closer to where they wish to be.