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StartupTree Applications/Competitions

StartupTree, Product Design Intern

Summer 2017

Researched and designed a module for creating, managing, entering, and judging applications and competitions within the StartupTree platform.

During my summer at StartupTree, a platform for managing entrepreneurship on college campuses, my manager and the CEO sought to construct a module to 1) create an end-to-end competition judging platform and 2) develop a more consistent interface for StartupTree's platform. Applying to jobs and entering competitions is common for university entrepreneurship, and our platform had a primitive system for these processes, but it needed to evolve. I worked with a team of engineers and product managers and served as the sole product designer for this project.

Sketches and Notes

We had a meeting with a school that intended to use our platform and determined our target users' needs. We asked about their specific use cases and challenges, their pain points with existing platforms and systems, and "must haves" and wants.

Notes from our interview with a business school program director

From these notes, we identified 3 main users:

  1. the administrator
  2. the applicant
  3. the judge

We decided that our focus would primarily be the administrator and judge users. The applicant's interface would need to change minimally (a very rudimentary form of the module existed already); however, the administrator would gain a lot of functionality and freedom and there was no existing judge user.

I drafted some basic flows as well as a list of needs for each part of the competition flow, from creating the competition on the admin side to reviewing rubrics and judging. Because of time constraints, we tried to stick with existing, familiar UI components.

Some quick sketches, notes, needs, wants, flows, etc. ...

For the Administrator

The administrator's workflow was the most complicated to map out. There were many actions an admin could take, so we had to find a way that listed all the actions visibly and also showed important information at a glance. Thus, we adopted a dashboard for each application. We chose statistics that showed the most important information about the competition as well as some insightful information about the applicant breakdown. While designing this dashboard, I also redesigned the dashboards for the rest of the admin panel and graphs.

An administrator's dashboard for each competition

Creation of each application was broken down into multiple layers to allow for creating competitions without having to provide all the information upfront. Admins first add the most crucial information -- the details about time, deadline, etc. -- then create the application questions for applicants, and add rubrics for judging and judges last. Giving administrators flexibility (being able to add and remove judges, edit the application, etc.) is important for error recovery. Editing an application brings them through the same process.

Breaking up the creation process of an application

The final step for the administrator is the review of all the evaulations to choose winners (or applicants to advance to the next round). Evaluations can be shown by applicant or by judge and may also be downloaded as pdfs.

An administrator's view of an individual applicant

For the Judge

From the conversation with our school and our CEO's knowledge of the kinds of competitions that are run by university entrepreneurship, we identified the judge user to primarily be of an older demographic with industry experience. That being said, they likely would be less tech-savvy, so we chose to create as straightforward and narrow of a process as possible.

Log in, sign up... If I were a judge, which would I want?

An obstacle we ran into when designing the judging side is that judges may not be on the StartupTree platform -- and may not want to be. But some judges may already be on the platform!

We determined that judges would access their platform through a customized link. The link would bring them to a sign in that allowed them to either sign in with their StartupTree account. We wanted to encourage judges to sign up, but not enforce it, so the main CTA on the page is the Log In button. However, judges may also continue as a guest. There is a competition passcode (set by the admin) for each competition on top of having a customized link for a second level of security.

The judges' initial view is a list of applicants, with ranking (that changes as judges complete evaluations), the status of their evaluations, and personal notes to help the judge differentiate between individual applicants.

The judge's initial view of all applicants

As judges read through each application, they are also presented with an evaluation to complete. The evaluation section was designed to mimic a piece of paper or physical rubric to help improve the judge's mental model.

The judge's evaluation view for an individual applicant

One of our biggest pain points was determining how to incorporate force rankings. We asked questions like "Where does it fit in the flow?" and "How do we make it intuitive?" We did not want to bring judges away from their evaluations, but also did not necessarily want to add steps to the overall process. In the end, we chose to nest a modal with a table of rankings inside each evaluation (that would update globally); however, I believe this solution was not the best we could find. Because of the short timeline and limited resources, we could not user test and opted to implement it as best we could, but I would have liked to explore more options and test them with real users.

Force rankings for judges

Outcome and Reflection

As a result of building this module, StartupTree signed over a dozen of university and other entrepreneurship-related programs. Many university entrepreneurship programs host competitions and have applications for roles, and this structure is flexible enough to fulfill both needs.

If I were to revisit this project, I would reexplore the navigation for administrators, create a better onboarding system for judges with tutorial copy and interactive help, and redesign the third audience's, the applicant's, flow.