Joining Student Organizations


Earlier this year, I was challenged to design an experience for new college students to discover and engage in student organizations. Within 7 days, I designed and delivered a digital experience to help students browse, search, and propose student organizations.

Initial Thoughts

Joining student organizations is one of the most exciting things when new student steps into university, and it has many benefits like making new friends and developing soft skills. As a student, I had some personal experience joining student orgs in the past, so I started off with thinking about what I know and what I don’t know about this topic. image

Assumptions & Constraints:

  • I took Carnegie Mellon University as a reference for this exercise. I assumed different universities have similar experience and form of student organizations.
  • To narrow down the problem scope, I considered three stakeholders throughout the process: New students, organization officers, and the student government (which is responsible for reviewing and recognizing student organizations). Due to the scope of the prompt, I mainly focus on the new students user groups. However, for future development, the needs of other stakeholders should also be taken into consideration.

Understand the Problem

Interview & Secondary Research

I interviewed six students at CMU who had the experience of attending or managing student organizations to learn about their experience. I also conducted secondary research to get a better understanding of the process of searching and proposing student organizations online.

Main findings from research:


Synthesize the results:



After identifying the problems and getting a better understanding of the context, I built two personas based on the insights I gathered from the research. The personas helped me develop a clear picture of who I am designing for in this design exercise. image

Journey Maps

In order to empathize with the pain points students have when searching and proposing orgs, I sketched out the current journey maps of both two personas. Also I realized finding organizations is a much higher frequency action for new students compared to proposing a new organization, which is an important point that has guided my design in the following steps. image image


First, What Platform?

According to the journey map, students would like to get access to information on the go, thus a mobile solution would be more flexible and accessible for the target users. In order to figure out whether a native app or mobile web app is a better choice for this product, I made a chart to compare each platform in terms of context, experience, familiarity, development cost and etc.: image Since the experience of mobile native app is far better than a web app, and students are more familiar with the former one, I decided to design a native app. The development cycle of mobile app can be shortened by using Flutter or React Native to write once and run on both iOS and Android platforms.

Explore and Prioritize Ideas

Based on the opportunities I identified in Journey Maps, I came up with four potential ideas to help new students find organizations. Then I placed them on an impact/effort matrix to prioritize and evaluate these ideas. After asking for feedback and comparing the implementation effort and the potential value for students, I decided to use the form of concept A and combine the Activities Fair guidance concept of C to improve the offline experience as well.



I sketched a storyboard to visualize the journey of a new students finding and joining organizations with the app. Based on the storyboard, I extracted the potential tasks that students need to be able to complete to use the product successfully.



Structure Exploration

Then I started by sketching out to explore what the app might look like in order to meet students’ needs. I brainstormed and iterated on the structure of each feature. image



Rationales Behind Decisions:

  • Why no “join” buttons? From user research I learned that different students have different understanding of “join”. They either reach out to org officers or just participate in group activities. Since the definition of “join” is vague, and there is little friction found in “join” orgs, this solution is designed mainly to solve the problems in “finding” and “searching” orgs.
  • Why “favorite” feature? Favorite feature is provided to help students mark and filter interesting orgs before the activity fair, so that they can be more conscious of who they’d like to talk to at the fair and be more prepared beforehand.
  • Why no application process tracking? According to secondary research, the feedback of application are mostly given via email, which is efficient for students. If we want to standardize the interaction between officers who are in charge of the assessment and students who are proposing new orgs, further research needs to be conducted which involves the experience of more stakeholders.
  • Why a map for the activities fair? The map idea intends to solve the pain points where students can’t efficiently find their favorite orgs at the fair. If student marked their favorite orgs, they will be able to find the map where their favorite orgs are highlighted, so that they can save time in finding them.

High Fidelity prototypes

I used Material Design to create higher fidelity prototypes, because it can be universally applied across platforms and devices. Since the target users are students, I used vibrant color and bold aesthetic to reflect the excitement of finding and joining a new organization, immerse users in the experience. image

How to Measure Success

How do I know if my design solves the problem and where it can be improved after shipping? I defined key measurements to help evaluate the solution by using Google’s HEART framework. image

Next Steps

Due to time limit, many of my design decisions in this exercise were made based on some casual interviews and assumptions, so the concept and design still need to be iterated based on further user testing and feedback. If time allows, I would conduct more structured user research and user testing to understand these questions:

  • What kinds of filters would students need except for categories?
  • Are the wireframe flow and interfaces intuitive for new students?
  • Do new students find the activities fair map useful?
  • Which modules on org page are useful for students and which are not?
  • Is the application easy to complete?

After getting more solid insights and feedback from the field, I would do more iterations to polish the solution and interface design.