A skill-exchange network for students

Project domain

Social networks

Stakeholder

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

My role

UX/UI designer

Team

UX designers

Tools

Balsamiq, HTML, Bootstrap, Photoshop

Duration

2 months

The challenge: creating a fair exchange network for students

The goal of this project was designing a solution for students to help each other out with school assignments. The requirements for the solution were:

  1. It should connect students from different disciplines.
  2. It should not involve money.
  3. It should provide a fair exchange system.
Inspired by the sharing economy

Platforms like Airbnb or Uber have disrupted the market by allowing people to exchange services and goods without the need for a middleman. Inspired by the sharing economy and with the above requirements in mind, we had the idea of designing a social network for skill exchange amongst students, independently of their background or location.

Brainstorming

Brainstorm using MoSCoW method

Brainstorming

Brainstorm using MoSCoW method

Competitive analysis

We first analyzed existing platforms offering similar services. We were mainly inspired by Fiverr, Timebank, and Simbi.

Platform Strengths Weaknesses
Simbi allows for skill exchange has its own currency
very broad service offer
very broad user group
Fiverr only digital services involves money
Timebank uses time as currency very broad service offer
very broad user group
Platform Strengths Weaknesses
Simbi allows for skill exchange has its own currency
very broad service offer
very broad user group
Fiverr only digital services involves money
Timebank uses time as currency very broad service offer
very broad user group

We also researched other social web applications like Facebook and Airbnb.

Platform Strengths Weaknesses
Facebook user profiles
user can list multiple goods/services
owners can be contacted before exchange
very broad marketplace (goods and services)
very broad user group
involves money
Airbnb real state and travel experiences
very broad user group
involves money
Platform Strengths Weaknesses
Facebook user profiles
user can list multiple goods/services
owners can be contacted before exchange
very broad marketplace (goods and services)
very broad user group
involves money
Airbnb real state and travel experiences
very broad user group
involves money

Designing user personas

To better understand our users' needs, we defined two personas: Sandra and Peter. They are students from different universities in the Netherlands.

Sandra

Sandra, 21

  • English student at the University of Leiden
  • Speaks Greek, English and Dutch
  • Teaches Dutch to international students
  • Has a travel blog

Goals

  • Would like to make money with her blog
  • Wants to improve the design of her blog
  • Would love to learn programming

Frustrations

  • Struggles with programming online courses
  • Does not want to ask her brother every time she needs to change her blog
Peter

Peter, 22

  • Computer Science student at the Technical University of Delft.
  • Knows many programming languages
  • Has built a website for some of his friends
  • Loves gaming

Goals

  • Wants to start a game development company
  • Would like to have more time to invest in his idea

Frustrations

  • He spends too much time on school papers as he is not a very good writer

Defining the user flow

Sandra has heard about this new platform called assignment.com and she would like to know whether she can find somebody to help her with the design of a new template for her blog. She first decides to browse the homepage, where she can see other users' profiles and their skills. After a while, she is interested in joining the platform.

Signing up

To start using assignment.com, she first needs to create an account. Then she is requested to complete her profile (e.g. age, studies, institution...). Because assignment.com is an exchange network, she also needs to fill in the skills she would like to offer and set her availability. After completing the signup process, she automatically receives credit for the first assignment.

Sign up process flow chart

Sign up process

Sign up process flow chart

Sign up process

Fair exchange system based on levels and achievements

To establish a fair exchange system, assignment.com has three levels that are based on the number of assignments completed and/or the hours invested:

  • beginner (less than 3 assignments and/or less than 12 hours);
  • intermediate (3-8 assignments and/or 12-30 hours);
  • expert (more than 8 assignments and/or more than 30 hours).

Sandra's skills, like every other user's, start at the beginner's level. She can only reach the next skill level by investing time working for others.

Sandra would like to find somebody with good programming skills, so she uses the search bar to type "Programming".

Browse process flow chart

Finding an assignee

Browse process flow chart

Finding an assignee

Trust and reviews

Sandra has found Peter, a Computer Science student that seems to match her requirements. She clicks on the ASSIGNME button on Peter's user profile. A message window opens up so Sandra and Peter can have direct contact to discuss the assignment. They talk about expected deliverables and expected delivery time.

Users can contact each other to discuss assignments

Peter completes the assignment for Sandra. He then receives credit for a new assignment and at the same time, Sandra "pays" with her credit.

Like other exchange networks, assignment.com works when people trust each other. At the end of an assignment, both parties are asked to rate each other on different aspects (e.g fast reply, fast delivery, high quality...)

Assignment completed flow chart

Assignment completed

Assignment completed flow chart

Assignment completed

Prototyping and testing the concept

Due to time constraints, we only could test the lo-fi prototypes. Five students from the University of Amsterdam volunteered for the usability tests. We were interested in testing the information flow. We asked participants to perform two tasks:

  1. Task 1: creating a profile.
  2. Task 2: looking for a user with intermediate Dutch skills.

Most participants could find their way to the information and completed the tasks. Two participants had difficulties completing Task 2. The results showed that we needed to adjust the search filters. After the tests, we interviewed participants and found that they would all be interested in using the platform.

Assignment paper prototype

Lo-fi prototypes

Assignment paper prototype

Lo-fi prototypes

Testing the lo-fi prototypes allowed us to understand which parts of the user flow had to be improved before wireframing the interface on Balsamiq.

Assignment wireframe

Wireframes

Assignment wireframe

Wireframes

After wireframing the interface, we designed a working prototype that also included the visual elements.

Assignment UI

Working prototype

Assignment UI

Working prototype